Not only do advanced degrees move you up on the pay scale, but in virtually every school district, continuing education is required. There are tons of conventions and conferences that offer credits for attendance. Not only can these help with your continuing education, but they can often provide you with new tools to improve your teaching skills and classroom environment.
2. There are about a million ways to get sued.
As a teacher, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility. We often read about teachers who have been caught in inappropriate relationships with students. That’s an obvious rule, but less obvious is the trouble that social media can create. Don’t friend any students on social media platforms until you or they have left the school, maybe even the district. Even better, don’t friend anyone under 18 either. Also, be careful about what you post. Social media is often a venting place for many people, but be aware that if you post about specific students, or if your posts are disparaging to them or your school, you run the risk of disciplinary action.
Additionally, the internet is often the best friend of the beginning teacher. When we start teaching, we’re looking anywhere and everywhere for teaching tools, worksheets, lesson plans, etc. Be aware of the copyright and usage laws for the materials you want to use. There are many sites where you can download and print great resources. These sites often have their copyright information posted for your convenience. Even daycares have been met with lawsuits from Disney for showing their movies. Don’t steal or misuse the intellectual property of others, or you may put yourself, your school, and your district in the target of major legal issues.
3. Your students are about as perfect as you were at their age.
Have you ever read back through your writings ten or more years ago? I have. It was a nightmare. We like to remember ourselves the way we think we were, as opposed to what we actually were. While discussing with my parents issues I was having with students not turning in work, they only laughed at me and reminded me that I had been guilty of that very transgression as a student in high school. Elementary and secondary education are opportunities for children to learn. They are not yet perfect and will get a lot wrong. They will talk and disrupt on occasion. They need direction to become better. Cut them a little slack, but don’t become a doormat. You need to set the tone for your class, and reward only the behavior you want to see repeated.
4. Get on the good side of the important people.
Your principal and superintendent are important, but quite frankly, they are not the most important people. Get to know and show appreciation for your secretaries and custodial staff. They do far more to make your school run efficiently than you realize. Find out what they like, call them by name, and help them know how important they are. You will find that with them on your side, you have powerful allies in getting what your classroom needs.
5. Let your personality show.
In your Bachelor’s degree, you probably had a few effective teachers, some ineffective teachers, and at least one that you truly want to be like. You don’t necessarily have to copy everything they did well, or avoid everything they did which you didn’t like. You personal teaching style is just that: yours. You students may still be learning, but they are savvy. They know when someone is being less than honest about themselves. If you’re a geek, let it show; if you like sports, root for the team. Ultimately being a teacher is not a profession for an introvert. You need to be comfortable enough in your own skin to be proud of your interests, achievements, and even flaws and shortcomings. They make you who you are. That doesn’t mean you can’t improve those flaws or shortcomings, only that you should be honest with yourself about them.
We could probably go on for another 50 things your education degree didn’t teach you. So teachers, what were some things you found out during your first year that college failed to teach you?