60 Very Practical Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Teaching General by Joel Wagner - June 7, 2016June 15, 20162 While I’ve had my ups and downs over the years as a teacher, my first two years were extremely challenging. ManyÂ of these pitfallsÂ were avoidable.Â If I were going into a middle school band class as a first year teacher today, knowing what I know now, I would approach things differently. Here is an unsorted list that I have brainstormed of things I would like to have known before the first day of school. Begin class on time, every time Even thoughÂ attendance is computerized, come up with a simple written system of checking role and do it consistently Run through each class period in your mind and take notes of questions you have; address those before the first day The more procedures you develop, the easier your life will be Use “we” way more than normal to get better results;Â consider the following I need you to stop doing that! That’s not how we do things here! Don’t do that! Kids complain about structure and rules Kids test the limits of structure and rules Kids needÂ structure and rules 90% of the discipline issues involveÂ 10% of the students When behavior problems begin to show themselves, address the student privately to work out a plan to prevent them from escalating Stay in control of your reactions Study body language Move slowly Ask yourselfÂ why questions constantly Realize that with behavior of other people,Â why questions sometimes neverÂ have understandable answers Realize that with behavior of yourself,Â why questionsÂ alwaysÂ have understandable answers, but often not ones you want to understand Return phone calls Reply to personalÂ emails When the office asks for volunteers to sponsor the yearbook andÂ you reply asking for further details, do not be surprised when boxes of student pictures and glossy yearbook brochuresÂ begin showing up in your room It is often easy to learn 90% of the names very quickly, work hard to learn the last 10% so you don’t get to Christmas still confusing the two quiet boys in the back When teaching new concepts, drill the concept to about 80% mastery andÂ move on When teaching new concepts, revisit the new concept frequently Teach something new every single day Begin each day where you are, not where you feel you should be Recognize progress Recognize effort “High expectations are the key to everything.” — Sam Walton Nobody cares what you know unless they know that you care Sometimes we make the right decisions, other times we make our decisions right Ask questions that students can successfully answer Ask deep questions When students don’t answer a question, guide them to the answer instead of just answering it flat out Silence and calm body language will often get the right answer out of someone Getting paid more does no good if you spend it all Drive a used car If you couldn’t afford it before the paycheck, you can’t afford it after Things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay Even the best teachers have bad days from time to time An unannounced fire drill might happen on the last day of the school year When theÂ superintendent, district curriculum director, and your principal walk in unannounced to a class of 50 7th grade mostly boys on the last day of a four-day week five minutes after returning from a fire drill, you better be teaching Encouragement is way more motivating than “motivation” or catchy sayings The more time you spend planning, the easier your life will be Share your struggles privately Share your successes Surround yourself with positive people If you have a problem with someone, address it to them directly Avoid gossip Talk about teaching rather than gossiping about students Stay in contact with college friends Keep a running list of questions/problems you encounter about teaching and ask other teachers when you get a chance “Not bad” sounds like “not good” to some students Don’t assign detention unlessÂ it fits your schedule Make audio recordings of your classes from time to time and take notes of what you hear Observe other teachers teaching as often as you can Exercise Plan out the year beforehand so you know where you’re going and know where the benchmarks are Blog through your difficulties Don’t complain Don’t compare yourself to others Don’t compare your students to others Joel WagnerJoel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.