Guest Post: Letter to a First Year Teacher from Tom
*I had a few friends submit letters that do not have blogs, and I couldn’t figure out a great way to include them other than just making a post on my blog with their awesome advice.*
This is from Tom H, a friend from college who teaches middle school in China. His advice isn’t written out in prose, but the way he organized I thought was really interesting – problems he was initially having, how he addressed it, and what happened from there.
Student Actions (initial):
1. Seldom engaged in class. Misbehavior negatively affects other students in a serious way.
2. Misbehavior spreads throughout the classroom. Other teachers become involved and punish students.
3. Students act like little kids.
Teacher Actions (my reaction):
1. Consistently maintain high standards, both behaviorally and academically. At the same time, differentiate work and goals for students that really struggle.
2. Emphasize student successes/improvements over student failures/shortcomings – both publically and privately, both in terms of behavior and academics
3. You can’t force change in your students – be a positive influence and then be there for them once they show a willingness to improve
Student Actions (after above teacher actions):
1. Students begin to quiet down in class and engage in the material. Students that were previously misbehaving misbehave less. Students that were distracted now have a healthier classroom environment and can concentrate better (and for those that were influenced to misbehave, they became more interested in the content and began to do better in class).
2. Instead of students talking, randomly switching seats or throwing things to get attention, they sit quietly and do their work to get your attention. Students who do well see that their success, whether behavioral or academic, has positive outcomes. Seeking recognition, students work harder.
3. Students naturally mature throughout the year. It’s our job as teachers to be patient with students, be a good model for them to look up to, and eventually help them to change when they feel they’re ready. We can influence them in small ways and encourage them to change, but I haven’t had much success with any method other than ones that require patience. We have to be there for our students when they’re ready to change.