10 Things They Should Teach You in Teacher Training But Totally Don’t

Saturday, October 24, 2015



This week I had a bad day at my new school. I was embarrassed because I wasn’t following a certain grading policy I didn’t know was there (which is my fault for not having read the district handbook closely). I cried at school, which is always a terribly feeling. Then, when I got in my car, as if I activated some magic switch with my butt, I realized these things:
  •  During the last five years, I never once made it until late October without crying. In fact, in past years, I would have cried several times by now from school-related frustration.
  •   The administrator who pointed it out to me was so unbelievably kind. She took full responsibility (even though she shouldn’t have) for not reminding me, and she followed it up with like five minutes about how much students and parents love me and how much she values me.
  •  This “bad day” was nothing near like what my bad days used to be like, when something would break me that was out of my control.
  •   Even at the end of this “bad day,” I still felt happy, valued, and hopeful. I never felt that on my bad days before.

And then I went home and went to the gym, which I also wouldn't have done before (or, let's be real, even on my good days before).

In many ways I feel like it’s my first year all over again at my new school, but with nowhere near the level or kind of negative feelings I experienced before. Which got me thinking:

Why back then did I have to learn so many things on my own?

It's partly because I didn’t major in education in college. I majored in English because all my teachers from K-12 said FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS! THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO!, and I wanted to be a writer, so I majored in English. I knew all I needed to do was graduate and start cranking out bestsellers and live off the profit from all the movies and theme parks based on my novels!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hahaha. Ahahaha. Haha. Ha.

(That didn’t happen.)

I ended up getting my alternative certification through a program in my area. Apparently, as alt-cert programs go it was one of the more reputable ones (there are programs that give out teaching certification in as little as 6 weeks), but even so, my first year felt like a complete and total learning curve.  

I’ve heard it said that nothing can prepare you for teaching except for teaching, but I don’t think that’s true. Here are some of the things I really needed to know that the teaching books left out that would have made my first few years not entirely un-horrible, but a little less horrible.

1. How to perform copier machine surgery. I will estimate that approximately 50% of my tears during my first year were due to the copier jamming and me not being able to fix it. I can’t tell you how many total hours I wasted trying to fix jams or trekking over to another part of the school to find a non-jammed copier. Now, I’m like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman or Cesar Milan with the copy machine. “Yeah, I think it doesn’t like Tray 1,” I found myself saying to a newbie the other day, as if it were a wild mustang I was taming.

2. Expo Marker Management. Store them upright, cap-end down. Game-changer.

3. What to do when your administration is the worst. I remember reading a chapter in a professional development book about conflict with the administration. Looking back, the examples in the book were laughable, like what to say if the principal wanted to trim the budget for a club you sponsor or get rid of the bulletin board outside your door. Did the writers of these books teach in Disneyland or something?
Where was my class on what to do when your principal tells you to forge application essays for an Ivy League principal program for her? Or when your assistant principal threatens your colleagues and students on a regular basis? Or when your principal refers to the history department as “a bunch of skinny white bitches” in an unintentionally forwarded email and goes on to win district awards for outstanding leadership? When your principal is best friends with her boss, so there’s actually nothing you can do?
I think I’ve toughened up enough since then that I would be better at handling those administrators than I was my first two years. But still, a course in What To Do When Your Administration is the Worst should be requisite for teacher training.

4. How to give a serious, stern talk without beginning to ramble, stumble, or spout nonsense. The worst is when a colleague or administrator walks up while you’re giving a serious talk and you mess up just a little part, which then makes you hyperaware of the fact that you’re speaking words, and then you find yourself talking about a documentary about an Irish mafia leader.

5. De-escalation techniques.

Teacher training: Here’s a tiny chapter on how to deal with a student who is disrespectful or even (*gasp*) refuses to do work.

Reality: Here, deal with this student who is crossing the room to literally rip out the hair of another student. Oh, and you can’t send the student to the office because your administration said nobody was allowed to write an office referral for the rest of the year. And students aren’t allowed to leave your class. Good luck!

6. Medical care. No Band-Aids unless you’re bleeding, the nurse can’t fix your headache, if your stomach still hurts in 15 minutes let me know, OR you can go to the nurse, but after you’ve turned in your test.

7. How to teach a class of 30 in which half of your students are Special Ed or Emotionally Disturbed, you have no co-teacher, and an administrator who expects you to advance all students 2-3 grade levels in 9 months.

Still beats me.

8. What DEVOLSON is and how to cope with it. If I’d known about the Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November before I started teaching, it might not have been easier, but having a diagnosis would have made life way more manageable.

9. How to redo an entire lesson plan in your head and on the spot. In teacher training, they made it sound like you might have to modify part of a lesson as you’re teaching it if you see it’s not working. But what about when your school’s electricity goes off in the middle of class and you’re given specific instructions over the intercom to keep teaching? Or when you realize on book preview day that ALL the students have read the novel you just spent five weeks planning? Or when you reserve the one computer cart for 75 classrooms in your school and find that none of the laptops are charged, or that another teacher took the laptops and TOTALLY DIDN’T EVEN USE THE GOOGLE DOC TO RESERVE IT.

Sorry. Touchy subject.

It took me years to be able to quickly transition over to a new activity confidently and without a student saying, “Uh, did you just make that up right now?”

10. Managing your budget on a teacher salary while having a savings account with actual dollars in it.  Um. I still need someone to teach me this.


When I start my Love Teach Teacher Training Program To Teach Teachers How To Teach Good And To Do Other Stuff Good Too, all of these will be courses. Or maybe we should crowd-source-write a book or something (but only if it could be made into a theme park).

What have you learned from teaching that your teacher training could have never prepared you for?*

Love,

Teach


*What’s the grammatically correct version of this sentence? “For what could your teaching training have never prepared you?” Dumb. Can we just agree to dangle certain prepositions?

63 comments:

  1. Now in my 20th DEVOLSON, you have hit "what they don't teach you in teacher traing" in most eery topic. One thing I would add is this:: No matter school, what year or what level you are teaching, be sure to make friends with the following 'support staff' at your school! #1 head custodian (and let's be honest here: every custodian!), #2 the front office secretaries, and #3 the cafeteria manager. Note: I mean via respect!! If you respect these folks and let them KNOW you respet and appreciate all they do for your school, your life will be less difficult in your school. I might add the Media Specialist as a reserve. Love you, LOVE, TEACH!

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  2. Thank you for coining a phrase for the emotionally and physically horrible stretch of time between October 1 & December 1! DEVOLSON is very real, "IT IS NOT JUST ME!!

    Thanks for spinning the crazy things that happen in teaching in a way that makes me laugh. I need to laugh more often :)

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  3. Never, never, NEVER show a video a without previewing. Otherwise, you'll show a Myth Busters video during a little free time about wether or not bigger boobs gets bigger tips.

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    Replies
    1. And always download youtube videos so you don't accidentally show ads for liquor to kindergartners before watching that cute video on colors.

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    2. Or failing that then learn how to mute both the sound and turn off the projector in half a second so that the kiddos don't realize it's an ad for liquor. (I got really good at this - sometimes from across the room where the computer was - before learning that there are sites you can download the videos without the ads.)

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    3. And remember to lock your computer so the night staff aren't using it to look at naughty websites, thus getting a virus on your computer which subsequently pops up an image of a topless woman while you are loading the online science lesson the following day for your class of 2nd graders. Still astounded that I didn't have angry calls and emails to deal with, and thank goodness for the IT staff that fixed the issue quickly!

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    4. @SraKennedySouthern: Get AdBlock for Google Chrome. Then none of your youtube videos will show ads!

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  4. In my first year in UK - fresh out of my training and coming in as a career changer. Don't sweat the small stuff, find the short cuts and you are not expected to be perfect straight away! Put in the hours, but not to the detriment of a life - and if it doesn't get done and keeps dropping to the bottom of the list, chances are it is really not that important (unless you are hopeless at prioritising, in which case ignore this last one!). x

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  5. In my day, you used to be able to say, "Yes, sir," and then close the door and continue doing what you knew was best for your students. These days there needs to be a class in How to Teach While the Administration Watches your Every Move. I so appreciate and respect the teachers of today. You have so much to overcome and so many obstacles to deal with. Keep on keeping on! You are making a difference. Put it all on the table, both feet in. Our children need you!

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  6. I heart DEVOLSON. Well, I don't actually heart DEVOLSON itself, but the fact that someone else struggles with it enough to come up with a term that adequately describes it.

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    Replies
    1. There is a chart that demonstrates this...it's been around at least since the mid 90's. It's called the Phases of First-Year Teacher's Attitudes. I found it particularly helpful during my second year.

      http://www.newteachercenter.org/blog/phases-first-year-teaching

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  7. Stop worrying about ending your sentences with prepositions, especially "from". It's a Latin rule, not a modern English rule.

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  8. I would include relay races/obstacle courses:
    1. Put together a 5-page packet when the copier didn't collate and/or staple them for you. You must have 50 done to hand out in 10 minutes.

    2. Carry a full cup of coffee down a crowded hallway - be sure there is an altercation to dodge/deal with! You can't spill any, b/c then you'd have to clean it up, leaving your classroom unsupervised while you go and hunt down the one source of paper towels in the school.

    3. Grade 30 exit slips in 5 minutes so that you can give out differentiated homework to each kid in your class.

    4. Spot the 5 concerns in a lunchroom of 150+ kids: A. child who is a chronic non-eater, b/c of body issues. B. food fight about to start. C. child who is sitting alone on purpose but needs someone to talk to him/her D. group who has moved another student's stuff while they are getting food, guaranteeing a conflict when that child returns E. child who isn't eating b/c they don't have enough money in their account (and what to do about it).

    5. Carry on 3 simultaneous conversations - 2 with kids, and one with colleagues - while also monitoring the hallway during a class change.

    6. Your principal has dropped by for an observation - how fast can you recognize and articulate the higher-level learning opportunities of some throw-away activity that you are just filling time with (for once, b/c DEVOLSON)?

    You know, we really are superheroes!

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    Replies
    1. This is perfection. And totally something useful to do in college courses! Forget "Make a bulletin board that is Pinterest-worthy," and replace that with all these. I haven't once made a Pinterest-worthy bulliten board in 3 years of teaching. But your list of activities is something I do at least once a week!!

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    2. Number 5! The Ultimate Challenge. :-)

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    3. Nicely done. And the good teacher award goes to....

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    4. add to #2 If you spill the coffee, YOU WON'T HAVE ANY COFFFEEEEE!!!! aagghhh

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  9. I'm in year 11, and would TOTALLY sign up for your teacher training program!!! If nothing else, so I could meet this totally awesome person I feel so connected to! I'm glad to know that my struggle is not just me, but sad to know this struggle is so prevalent in our education system. I think it is absolutely crazy. I just want to scream, "JUST LET ME TEACH!!!!" And I'd also like to scream, "Can we NOT be a bunch of yellow bellied wussies when it comes to behavior problems and problem parents???" But, I digress.....:)

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  10. We were just celebrating this week that we have a teacher work day on Monday, holiday November 11th then two weeks to Thanksgiving and we will have made it through DEVOLSON!! We threw a mini party in the hall!

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. How to handle a (high school) student who is silently crying, but doesn't want to tell you why, and at first refuses the option to go to the bathroom/counselor. Then, when they do leave the classroom, they are gone for 20 minutes or more, making you wonder if they flushed themselves into the Ministry of Magic (aka wandering the halls or left school grounds), but you can't leave the other 20-some people in your room to find out.
    How to handle two students who swear they didn't plagiarize their summer reading even though they chose the same book, project, and the description is the same down to the incorrect punctuation, compounded by parents who refuse to believe their children did anything wrong. (My admins dealt with most of this and came up with a compromise to redo a different project to prove they read the book. It still wasn't fair to someone, but it was probably the best option available.)
    (Nervous about posting under any username that might be searchable via the internet because teenage students apparently don't have time for homework but do have time to Google me.)

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  13. Another course needs to be how to deal with parents. I still struggle with this one. The helicopter parents, the absent parents, the my-child-is-identified-so-excuse-him-from-this-project parents, the parents to blame teachers for everything because there is no way their little angel could possibly have used the f-word/pulled someone's hair/not done homework/punched a kid at recess. We need to get a handbook for each set of new parents/kids we get at the start of the new year.

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  14. Another course needs to be how to deal with parents. I still struggle with this one. The helicopter parents, the absent parents, the my-child-is-identified-so-excuse-him-from-this-project parents, the parents to blame teachers for everything because there is no way their little angel could possibly have used the f-word/pulled someone's hair/not done homework/punched a kid at recess. We need to get a handbook for each set of new parents/kids we get at the start of the new year.

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  15. 1. How to prevent a fight between students...version 1--males. version 2--females. version 3--females who have removed jewelry, especially earrings.
    2. What to do when you colleagues are back-stabbing, self-serving yet totally worthless teachers
    3. How to stand up to administration when policy does more harm than good
    4. What to do when a class is full of the "I HATE (this subject)" brigade
    5. How to have the administration's child in your class

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  16. You'd have had to learn these things the hard way whether or not you majored in education in college.

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  17. Perhaps a course on "Necessary Non-Academic Things to Keep in Your School Desk" would be in order. . . Deodorant, a needle and thread, Shoe Goo, a lint roller, some form of breath freshener, clear nail polish, safety pins, a granola bar you actually like, paper towels, resolve (if your classroom has a carpet like mine), tampons (If you use them), lotion, Clorox wipes, bandaids, and an air freshener. Also learning the many uses of ALL these items. Because they have each saved me on MORE than one occasion.

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  18. Perhaps a course on "Necessary Non-Academic Things to Keep in Your School Desk" would be in order. . . Deodorant, a needle and thread, Shoe Goo, a lint roller, some form of breath freshener, clear nail polish, safety pins, a granola bar you actually like, paper towels, resolve (if your classroom has a carpet like mine), tampons (If you use them), lotion, Clorox wipes, bandaids, and an air freshener. Also learning the many uses of ALL these items. Because they have each saved me on MORE than one occasion.

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    Replies
    1. I also would suggest keeping one of those tiny little eye glass repair kits (the kind with the very small screwdriver) because someone's glasses are always falling apart. I've taught for 22 years and fixed several.

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  19. "It's partly because I didn’t major in education in college. I majored in English because all my teachers from K-12 said FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS! THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO!, and I wanted to be a writer, so I majored in English. I knew all I needed to do was graduate and start cranking out bestsellers and live off the profit from all the movies and theme parks based on my novels!!!!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hahaha. Ahahaha. Haha. Ha.

    (That didn’t happen.)"

    AMEN

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  20. I have been teaching for eleven years. Number Two just rocked my world. Thanks for being you!

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  21. How to continue teaching through a lockdown. It starts at "yes, you still have to finish your quiz" and "Your education is too important to me to pause our lesson!" And then a few hours later, sure we can watch Netflix to distract you from your full bladders.

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  22. I think the biggest thing I wish I'd learned was how to teach around bad and/or conflicting policies/programs. I spent so much of my first year weeping about what to do when my coach, observer and administrator were telling me different things... Or when our guided reading, phonics and writing programs were teaching three completely different approaches. The difference in my quality of life once I decided to believe in my judgement (and more importantly, my ability to back my decisions up) was truly incredible!

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  23. I agree that education is supposed to be clear and extra informative. But it isn’t! Some information is hidden deliberately in order to be used for ‘appropriate’ people. I have recently read the article titled: “Current Education is Failing our Would-Be Writers” and I agree with that.

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  24. I'd totally buy that book and I've taught for 7 years! Hilarious.

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  25. Needed to really feel the experience of me being seen as NOT a half-empty cup in my new school. The more I get demotivated to perform my best. With all the external factors trying to sabotage my career I still move on and seek for alternative ways to teach the unteachables and move forward the cooperative ones.

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  26. Blech. It would be terrific if you all quit immediately and actually helped hurry the radical changes that "education" is going through right now. Don't know about it? That's because the master was never able to listen to or understand the slave.

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  27. What is DEVOLSON?

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    Replies
    1. Dark Evil Vortex of Late Sept Oct and Nov

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  28. In my 3rd year of teaching an SAT prep course I was in no way prepared to teach or even knew anything about.... How about a lesson on how to teach that random new subject that your headmaster gave you. You know the one that you have never taken a class on or in the case of test prep never even took the test.

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  29. Hey, it's not just short certification programs that miss the important stuff. I was an English Education major, and spent two years studying Piaget or whatever the hell his name is, and the first thing I was told during student teaching was, "Whatever your professors told you in college is crap." Ten years later, and now I hand down that sage wisdom to my student teachers. If Ed programs had your helpful classes, my first three years would have been awesome. Except for DEVLSON. There's no escaping that.

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  30. A course on how to write out the referral admin demands you complete immediately (a separate one for each student) while still teaching and managing behavior. Also, related to admin issues, what to do when a student tries to assault you, admin doesn't issue consequences and parents cannot be reached.

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  31. In 25 years I have only had 2 bad administrators and wow they were bad. Bullies both of them and sucked the life right out of some of the best teachers i have ever known. So, my suggestion of courses are:1 dealing with Admin you don't respect. 2. Dealing with colleagues you don't respect.3. knowing your rights as a teacher. Every state is very different. Know your rights. and really I think there needs to be a course on the integrity of teaching. It's a hard and tedious job and while it comes with long holidays they are rarely, ever, what you believe them to be (carefree). Too many people go into this field thinking winter and summer breaks. I'd like to see our profession be a bit more stringent in the engagement of students. You can have an awesome lesson plan but understanding the psychology of students is pretty important. I think that might be more than one class in that last statement. It's so easy to see the Real teachers from the ones collecting a sad little paycheck. I love where I teach now but wow , over the years i have met some crazy mean spirited people that give us all a bad name.

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  32. I've been doing some research into what teachers WISH they had been told or found out themselves when starting a new job in the hopes of helping those newly qualified. If you'd like to contribute please follow the padlet link! Also, if you havent come across padlet before its an excellent tool to use in the classroom.

    http://padlet.com/rebecca_jamie_h/6swa51rij774

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  33. I still want to know how I can teleport. That way I won't be late for field duty at break time, directly following the end of period 2. Also, I can be back in my class, welcoming students to my lesson at the start of period 3. I may even fit in a trip to the toilet or a cup of coffee, (but not both).

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  34. I can honestly say, the best day ever in my teacher ed program was when our professor hosted a field trip to the "Learning Resource Center." She gave us a scavenger hunt/to do list that involved using a copier, an overhead projector, an Eillison machine. etc. In the book, the "First 100 Days" they did tell us to make friends with support staff ;) Even feeling totally prepared by a top-notch teacher college, those first few years are hard. I would add making friends with a veteran teacher you respect who can lend you hand and emotional support. NOT your mentor.

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  35. Also ... watch out for the full moon. I thought that was hokum as Sheldon Cooper would say, but trust me, those kids act like demons when there's a full moon!!!

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  36. What to do when you are provided no curriculum resources, you have no mentor to help you, and you're not familiar with that period of history - that was my first year of teaching at a private school. I was just told the topics of what to teach - that's it!

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  37. Pupils' tears in classroom. Yes, did not see that one coming. I was never taught mum consolation skills... BTW, you write wonderfully. Thanks.

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  38. Pupils' tears in classroom. Yes, did not see that one coming. I was never taught mum consolation skills... BTW, you write wonderfully. Thanks.

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