Jen Weber is a middle school teacher in New Jersey. She is never bored at school because teachers don't actually have time to have the luxury of being bored at work. She may have once ripped her pants while teaching a class of seventh graders.
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The teaching profession can be both exciting and scary. You have your college degree, your teaching certifications, and your classroom supplies purchased, but is that all you need? Here are 8 expert tips to help you avoid some the inevitable “bumps in the road” of teaching.
1. Make friends with the secretary.
The secretary is the most important person in the school. Need a quick copy made? Need to send something to another school? She could either help you out or brush you off. You definitely want to be on her good side.
2. Pack a lunch.
Remember rubbery school cafeteria pizza from when you were a kid? Yeah, it's still like that. No matter how much spotlight Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver put on making school lunches healthier, the majority of food served is still pretty questionable. Lukewarm, gray chicken patty sandwiches are the staple in school cafeterias. Do yourself a favor and pack something that will give you energy to make it through another teaching day.
3. Be ready to train your bladder.
Long gone are the days when you could use the bathroom at your leisure. Unless you are fortunate enough to be a camel or have a co-teacher, you are likely the sole adult in the classroom for the majority of the day. Figure out a bathroom “schedule” that works for you. If worse comes to worse, have a neighbor teacher on call to watch your class if an emergency arises, but remember never leave the students alone!
4. Be ready for anything... and I mean ANYTHING!
You can plan your heart out for the best lessons: a “hook" to get the students interested, a fun collaborative activity, a science demonstration to knock the students’ socks off... but even the best lessons can be hijacked by a surprise assembly, lock down drill or student throwing up in your trash can. Don't let it get you down. One of the most important qualities of a teacher is flexibility. So, call the custodian to clean up the vomit and keep right on going!
5. Take your lunch break.
One of the hardest things about being a teacher is trying to do too much in too little time. Teachers can fall into the trap of using their lunch break to catch up on lesson plans, grading and emails. While this might sound like a great, time saving idea, it is usually not worth the 30 minutes. Taking a break to get out of your classroom, talk to other adults and enjoy a meal will help refresh you for the rest of your teaching day.
6. Don't take things personally.
This is much easier said than done. An early morning email from a frustrated parent can easily throw your whole day off. The best way to get out of this trap is to find a colleague who can empathize with you. There is no better listener than another teacher who has been in the same situation. Sometimes just talking it out can make a world of difference.
7. Borrow as much as possible.
Of course you have amazing ideas for lessons, activities, and assessments, but a teacher’s planning time is precious. Don't waste your time creating beautiful tests that have already been made thousands of times by other equally smart and creative teachers. Use the resources available to you. Have a colleague that teaches the same material? Ask for a copy of the test. Found a blog that has a great lesson idea? Download the materials and try it out!
8. Keep a change of clothes in your car.
Working with kids can get messy. A paint craft, science experiment or even snack time can be an opportunity for an embarrassing spill. Keeping a spare change of clothes in case of emergencies is an easy way to avoid walking around all day with raw egg on your pants. (A story for another day.)
No matter how exhausting and unpredictable, teaching can be rewarding and also fun if you’re prepared and have the right attitude.