The personal learning network for educators
As a new crop of teachers are slowly being introduced via email by my principal, I thought about what I was told in college about what to do
as a new teacher. And then I thought about how horrible some of that
advice was. So here is my top ten of new teacher myths - feel free to
add more, I know they are out there!
Myth 1: Children are only learning when they are quiet and focused on the teacher.
Reality: So we all know this one isn't true, right? Well, maybe not at first. I thought if students were too noisy
they couldn't hear the most important person; me. Come to find out that
often it is through these "disruptive" student conversations that
deeper learning takes place. So of course you must talk, but be brief
and get to the point; simply put, get out of the way of the learning.
Myth 2: As a new teacher, you should never send a student to the principal's office. because it shows weakness.
Reality: Your principal is your liaison so use them if needed, trust me, they do
not keep a tally of which teacher sends more students to their office
(I hope). Realize though, that when you do send a student to the
office, the outcome of the situation is no longer your choice, so if you
want to have a hand in it, then engage the principal in a conversation
with the student, rather than just a referral to the office. My first
year I had a very temperamental student that scared the other children,
when things got heated both of us needed a moment to breathe and gather
our emotions; the principal helped us with that.
Myth 3: Never ask for help but if you must, do so in private.
Reality: Always ask for help, big or small! My first year, I was so petrified
that people would think my hiring was a mistake because I did not have
all the answers. Well, guess what? No one has all the answers and
hopefully they never will. When you approach someone and ask for help
you are showing trust and through trust you build community. And that
sense of community can carry you through many years of teaching.
Myth 4: Listen, but do not talk, during staff meetings.
Reality: I am a perpetually hand raiser, there, I admit it. And I am also
one of those people that always has an opinion. While I don't recommend
turning staff meetings into your one-person show, if you have a
question or god forbid, an opinion, then share it. You might be
surprised the discussion that ensues because of something you said.
Successful staff meetings rely on discussion so become a partner in
that, not just a fly on the wall.
Myth 5: Take a break from school/professional development your first year since you will be so busy.
Reality: I know college is hard, I worked all the way through while going to
school full-time, it was tough! And the first year of teaching is even
tougher but that does not mean you should stop learning. Check out what
professional development your district offers or better yet create a PLN so that whenever you have time
you can be engaged in conversation with educators from all over the
world. Model for your students what a true lifelong learner looks like
by becoming one yourself.
Myth 6: Show up at all extracurriculur activities your students participate in.
Reality: I know students love to see us outside of school and I love to see my students as well but
it is okay to say no once in a while. Between piano recitals, dance
performances, football games and basketball events, my first year I
hardly ever saw my husband, my family, or my friends. I was so busy
seeing everybody else, even though I already saw the kids in school all
day. So pick a couple of events; I always go to whatever my school puts
on and see almost all of my kids in one swoop. Besides, if you pick
one student's event then you have to go to as many as possible and that
can be exhausting if you have 27 students. So yes, they love to
see you out in the real world but don't forget to keep your own life,
after all, that's what makes you interesting!
Myth 7: Work through your breaks to show you are serious.
Reality: There is nothing more serious than a first year teacher, always rushing
about, eating lunch in the hallway while helping their students with
that extra bit of work. I did it, and I still do it, but give up your
breaks in moderation. Going to the teacher's lounge may seem like a
silly event but it is where I have had some of my most meaningful
conversations and also developed actual friendships with other
teachers. I always have frequent flyers, kids that do not turn in their
homework so they want to stay in and do it during recess with you.
Imagine the shock on their face if you tell them, "No, today that is not
an option." It might even help them realize that homework is work we
do at home. And who says teachers don't also need a break once
in a while?
Myth 8: Don't try too many new things.
Reality: I am an idea person. I see inspiration in random places and get so
excited to do/share/tell them that I am about to burst. Yet I was told
repeatedly to not put too much on my plate, after all this was my first
year of teaching. So I was bored and uninspiring. Busy, well sure, we
all are but it wasn't necessarily with stuff I wanted to be involved
in. If you have dreams or crazy ideas, do it, get involved with the
school and get others involved too.
Myth 9: Model/scaffold/show everything you will expect students to do.
Reality: I am not against modeling, scaffolding or showing, but have found that often students like a
challenge. So instead of showing them the whole process, tell them the
goal, give them a beginning and let them discover. Learning is after
all a long journey into discovery.
Myth 10: You must be/act happy at all times or go in there an earn an Oscar.
Reality: Students respond to human beings, and in particular genuine human
beings. While I do not recommend teaching in a foul mood it is okay to
be mellow, as long as you explain why this is. The explanation, of
course, depends on the grade level you teach. So if you are having a
sad day or you are really excited about something - share it! This is
how meaningful connections are made because you show them that you care
enough to trust them with your real life. Maybe they will trust you