Ask for help

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As noted in my previous post, new teachers often start in the roughest schools. If you are one of those teachers, please ask for help. New teachers are often afraid to appear unable to control their classes. Even experienced teachers may have this fear. During my first year teaching, my mentor ran into trouble when one of her classes flatly refused to change to a new seating chart. She was flummoxed, asking my advice. Needless to say, I had no clue what to do at that point. Today I’d tear the roof off that room. We’d have a loud discussion about the need to succeed in a demanding world and why behavior like that guaranteed failure in the long-run.

If you are struggling to manage your class or classes, please remember classroom management can be the toughest piece of the puzzle in many schools, and learning to manage classes will be your biggest challenge. It’s doable. There’s no disgrace in not walking onto the stage ready for the challenge. But don’t be afraid to admit you are in trouble. The sooner you get on top of classroom management issues, the easier your first year will be. You might start by asking nearby teachers whose classes seem to be going well. Call parents, enlist their help, and consider taking their advice. If mom says to keep Joey away from Bubba, move Bubba to the other side of the room. Moms and dads often know about social issues that may be complicating your life.

With luck, you have a good mentor. I suggest setting up a regular meeting time with that mentor if you don’t have a set time already. The many details of teaching can end up postponing meeting after meeting. Having a pre-established meeting time will prevent some or most of these cancelled meetings. If you are a baker, bake cookies for your mentor. Appreciate your mentor. Mentors can often arrange time to watch their mentees’ classes and another set of eyes can prove invaluable.

If administration walks in and offers advice, take that advice. If administrators criticize you, ask for advice. How can I manage this? What would you like to see? What do I do about students who cannot do the work? What do I do about students who are chronically tardy? We are all incremental learners and good administrators understand this. I recommend asking administrators for funds and time to attend professional development seminars on classroom management.

Eduhonesty: My best advice for any new teachers who are reading this post: Appreciate and communicate with your kids. Praise their praiseworthy efforts. Tell them why they have to stay in their seats and do their classwork. Many students will respond to explanations like, “I want you to be ready for high school and you will not succeed if you do not do your work.” Communicating that big picture — your desire for their success — goes a long way toward getting students to go with the program.