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10 Things My Professors Never Taught Me About Teaching

I’m almost finished with my first year of teaching and I have to say, it’s been pretty good so far. During college, I heard horror stories from most of the teachers I observed, saying that the first year of teaching is basically hell on earth and you are just trying to survive… Great. I know they were just trying to prepare me, but come on. Someone should have mentioned that before junior and senior year when I already had tens of thousands of dollars invested in my education.

Needless to say, my first year has had its ups and downs, but by far more ups than downs. I have a wonderful team that I teach with, wonderful administrators, a wonderful, technology-filled classroom to work in and wonderful kiddos (on most days). Sure, I was prepared for various disabilities that my students might have to overcome. I was prepared to teach my subject matter. I was prepared in how to manage a classroom. I was prepared on how to conduct myself during an observation. However, there are plenty of things my professors/college in general didn’t prepare me for. Some examples, you might ask?

1. How do you grade a mountain of essays 2 days before grades are due for the 9 weeks?

Someone should have really told me that essays were not the way to go when it comes to assessment. Yes, they are great to let kids answer more freely. Yes, they offer a better assessment because it’s not just black and white. Yes, it prepares students for future classes. But man, are they a pain in the butt. My solution: Coffee.

2. How do you deal with students’ low self esteem?

If you read my “Be Lovely” post, which was featured here on HelloGiggles, then you know that I had a little girl who constantly wrote “I’m Ugly” on her wrist and would cry when she looked in the mirror. She is one of the most beautiful little girls inside and out, and it broke my heart to see this. I made it my personal mission to make her realize that she was, indeed, beautiful. The next day, I marched into school, grabbed my marker and wrote “I’m Beautiful” on my wrist. Then when I saw her, I wrote it on her wrist too. By the end of the day, five other girls asked me to write it on them.

I went home that day, thinking that I would do the same the next day and the next day. By day three, the girls started showing up at my classroom before school requesting that I write it on their wrists as a little reminder throughout the day. The other day, the same little girl who wrote that she was ugly wrote herself a letter about all the good things about her and let me read it. There were tears, hugs and smiles. Positive self esteem is something kids need, but I know that none of my professors ever addressed how to handle negative self-esteem in kids. My solution: Try my best, even on the hard days, to lead by example.

3. How do you handle awkward comments that students say in class with… well, class?

I teach middle school kids. Let me repeat that. Middle school kids. Ages 10-13. They have ABSOLUTELY NO FILTER. The things I hear would shock and appall you. They would make you laugh ’til your couldn’t breathe any longer and cry while you head to a church to pray for their souls. My solution: Turn to face the board and try to stifle my giggles.

4. How do you deal when a student is facing a tragedy?

Whether it’s houses catching on fire, abuse at home, parent’s committing suicide, lack of finances, bullying, loss of a family member or a pet or so many other things, how do I make a child care about learning when their whole world has been completely shattered? I don’t. Sometimes there are more important things than grades or tests or projects. My solution: A hug, a hand to hold, a piece of chocolate every now and then and a whole lot of love.

5. How do you handle late nights, and early mornings, and meeting after meeting, and various duties?

Sometimes if feels like I have more meetings than I do hours in a day. My solution: More coffee.

6. How do you handle parents who don’t care?

Or parents who care too much and stress their child out? If you are a teacher, you know exactly what I mean. My solution: Patience, more coffee and someone to vent to.

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  • Olivia Lonon

    Thank you for this! I am just about to graduate (this May!) with a Bachelors in Elementary Education…. and I totally agree with you. Not to undermine your job, but being an elementary school teacher includes a much fuller plate… (I will be teaching all subjects to the same kids all day).

    So I have a strong feeling my first year really will be ‘trying to survive’ but what you wrote shows that many variables play a part in how your first year will be. (school environment, population of students, administration, the teachers you work with, ect.) Always on the lookout for more teacher friends! It really is my life right now….

  • Pua RF

    I loved how you changed that young girl’s attitude with such a simple step. I taught middle school right after college and, WOW! Talk about an eye-opening experience! I wish I had read this eight years ago. Now I teach at a college and it’s such a different experience, but there are definitely tips in your post that I need to remember… especially #10. Still trying to figure that one out myself. :-)

  • Jessica Richie

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m only a sophomore, almost junior, in my pursuit of an Elementary Ed. degree. And I’m a little scared, a little excited. I loved what you did with the little girl with low self esteem! (:

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