Wednesday, August 27, 2014

3 Teacher Survival Lessons

 After I handed the professor my Teaching Of English final exam, signaling the conclusion of my formal BS ED instruction, I literally sprinted toward my future.  I was so pumped up with visions of adolescents gobbling up my lessons culled from my Idea File and clamoring for, “More, please, Mrs. C,” in that perfect classroom of my imagination that Dr. Ryder’s last words failed to register.

“Remember,” he said, “we have been discussing theory.  The realities you all will be facing in the fall will probably be a bit different.” His words bounced off my ears like my mother’s urgings to, “Eat burnt toast so the boys will like you.” All too soon, I would learn that "...a bit" was a vast understatement.

Ninety-six days later, my lesson using lyrics from Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, the Beatles and other rockers to teach metaphor engaged the students. Other stresses, those of the non-teaching kind, though, made me grind my teeth in frustration. Only then did the irony of Dr. Ryder’s final words register in my frustrated brain.

Education professors would do the future teachers in their classes a huge favor by spending some time in a public school setting learning about who really runs the school and who can make teachers’ lives easy or difficult, and then revising their Teaching of courses.

Here are 3 teacher survival lessons that served me well for 30+ years in the classroom. Hopefully, they will cut some of the hassles that you will encounter this- and any- year.

Administrative Assistants run the school. A friendly, “Good morning,” and an occasional sincere chat about their families will:
  • garner you that last ream of copy paper when your colleagues are rifling through the recycled paper bins five minutes before the bell and you desperately need 50 copies of your Metamorphosis test.
  • guarantee you a meeting with the principal about the mouthy kid you want to hang by his thumbs when everyone else thinks the school's head honcho is,  “Lunching with the superintendent.”
  •  insure a heads up on Monday morning when the principal is checking out the “teaching going on” and you planned Reading Time while you unscrambled your weekend sleepy brain.

Custodians can make your life heaven or hell.  Always pick up the day’s detritus left by your students, make sure your trash cans are never the result of a “How Can we Pile the Junk before it Spills” contest, clean your own white boards and deliver home baked goods before holidays to their break room. This guarantees:
  • a bottle of white board cleaner when everyone else is told to, “Buy your own. The district hasn’t authorized us to hand out our supply to teachers.”
  • more desks from their secret stash when the counselors have blessed you with five more students than you have desks.
  • a comfortable, back-saving cushioned office chair fresh off the truck before they send out an All Staff email to, “Come and get one.”

Technology Personnel are to be showered with smiles. They will save your sanity more times than you can count by:
  • fixing the connection between your computer and television so you can show that PowerPoint you spent a gazillion hours designing.
  • finding the Editorial pages that magically disappeared twenty minutes before the newspaper has to be sent to the printer to make deadline.
  • showing you secrets to bypass the glitches in the online grading system an hour before grades are due.

Remember, college professors’ theories are similar to the nursery rhyme about girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: When they are good (reality-based) they are very good, but when they are bad (ivy tower-only based) they are, well... not horrid, but definitely not helpful.

Have an inspiring and exciting school year.

Happy Teaching,

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