Monday, August 23, 2010

Advice for new teachers...

This list comes from the blog of Josie Holford, Head of Poughkeepsie Day School . She is a wonderfully thoughtful educator, with great opinions and experience in independent schools. Though most of you are not new teachers, I like to think we all begin anew each year.
Advice (random and very incomplete) for new teachers:
1. Sign on to Twitter. Follow the smartest people you can find in your areas of interest. Build a great PLN – personal learning network – of the wisest and most helpful people you can find. Follow people with whom you agree and those who challenge your assumptions. Follow people like you; follow people not like you. One place to start looking: Twitter for Teachers wiki.
2. Expand your PLN with colleagues in your school, in other schools and elsewhere from whom you know you can learn.
3. Assume that your older colleagues want to be helpful and see you succeed. This includes administrators. Invite them to your classroom. Ask their opinion. Ask to see them teach – or whatever it is they do. See if you can find a project of theirs in which you can participate.
4. Understand that you are going to fail. Don’t be afraid of failing. The ratio of success to failure is about equal so fail fast and frequently and try again.
5. Read and understand the mission of your school. Talk about it with colleagues. Find out what it means to people and how they strive to live by it.
6. Keep working on your own educational philosophy. How do children learn? What does that mean for how you conduct yourself in the classroom and your routines, policies and practices? Which educational theorists make the most sense? Learning is serious stuff so take it seriously and have fun doing it.
7. The hardest part about working with children can be keeping your face straight. Laugh with your students and at yourself. Learning is disorderly and messy and is taking place whether it’s what you planned or not.
8. Think about the forces of change and disruptive innovation. What do they mean now and what might they mean for the world your students will inherit as they move out into the world? What do they need most to be educated citizens and thrive in that world? How can the tools of technology help you collaborate with other learners to do creative good work?
9. Remember that every child is a learner, deserves a great education and to be respected and cherished and that very few of them are like you. Saving face is the number one priority for most children in school – so work to preserve the sense of self worth and dignity however trying the circumstances.
10. Seek out colleagues and learn with them and from them. Appreciate the wisdom of veteran teachers. Avoid at all costs those who are cynical about children, have stopping learning and are nodes of negativity about the school. This may means avoiding the faculty room. Seek out colleagues who share your commitment to learning. Hang out with them and do something fun.
11. If you and the school are not a good match, work to contribute and stay mission consistent and positive but be prepared to change schools. One size does not fit all goes for shoes, lesson planning and finding the school that is a place where you can be a positive contributor to the lives of children.
12. Take advantage of professional development opportunities
13. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with students outside the classroom – clubs, teams, school trips.
14. Learn from failure, learn from practice, learn from collaboration with colleagues, learn from theory. Most of all – stay a learner. (And staying a learner is the number one reason for being active on Twitter.) And here is Cybrary Man’s website of resources for new teachers. He is Jerry Blumengarten and twitters @cybraryman1
15. Eat well, don’t live and breathe school, wash your hands and get lots of sleep

1 comment:

JH said...

Hi Jim:
Thanks for the kind words. Sounds like your summer has been amazing. And there's still a few days left. Hope you enjoy them to the full.
@JonathanEMartin - fellow head (St Gregory's in Tucson) and great blogger (
made some good additions to the list
and i bet you and your teachers can too.
All the best for a great start to the year,
- Josie