From Mr. S., 8th grade Social Studies:
Here are some tips on my approach to teaching. First, students do not care what you know until they know that you care. This one huge! Students can have fun and learn at the same time, provide as many opportunities for fun as you can. Laughter always works. Make yourself the target and show them you have good self esteem. Take time to find out what they do outside of school. Ask them to share weekend highlights.
Always keep in mind that people learn in different ways (visual, auditory, by doing, puzzles/mysteries, reading, music, working in groups/pairs, etc.). Keep mixing these up each lesson. History provides you opportunities to work in stories, video, music, food, role-playing art, primary sources, etc. Use it all. For instance, when we discuss Triangular Trade and the shipping of molasses, I bring in Archway molasses cookies for everyone to sample. For many, it's the first time they've tried them. You can never have a bad day when there is food involved.
Call on kids who do not raise their hand so that all are paying attention and participating. Go to their activities and promote those activities in class (plays, sports, band stuff, science fairs, etc.).
Try to make each kid a winner or a hero. I had a student who asked me if he could show me a magic trick last week. It was a great one! We stopped the last 5 minutes of class, everyone gathered around and he did it for all to see. I'm going to take part of day before X-mas and he's going to do a small magic show for the class as a "Christmas gift" for me. Anytime you can find reasons to give out positive reinforcement (treats, pencils, positive notes, etc.) . . . do it! Look for ways to reinforce the especially needy kids.
Let them see how much you love and enjoy what you do. I tell them I'm so lucky I get paid to do my hobby (history)! Each day you get a new chance to make a difference in kid's lives.
From Mrs. C., 12th grade English:
So...how do we do it? Sometimes, I honestly don't know. I was talking to another teacher the morning before the first day of school and we were discussing how we were nervous. I know that seems silly--17 years at this and I still get nervous. Nonetheless, it's true. When I'm having a hard time, I pray--a lot!
I also try to remember that I am interacting with someone who is precious to their family and unique. I always try to look for the good in kids, no matter how hard that may seem. I always ask myself--how would I want someone else treating my own kids.
In terms of planning lessons for class, if I'm bored with my teaching, students are surely bored. I look for lessons everywhere, and I try to keep things fresh. Sometimes easier said than done.
My hardest times teaching are when I am facing personal trials. In some way, teaching can really be an escape for me. I can lose myself in Macbeth, but sometimes, if a class isn't cooperative, it makes things even worse. So there's the long answer. I think you need to see teaching as a calling and not a career.
I do remember being so exhausted while I was student teaching that it was sometimes hard to make sense of everything or anything. Often the rewards are waaaaaay down the road so to speak when you see what a difference you’ve made for the children. Sometimes finding that special perk - for me it was coaching and being an advisor to clubs etc. that helped make a difference. Everyday was something new - sometimes good, sometimes not so good, but rarely boring. Okay, reading the same story 5 times a day or grading 125 horrendous book reports was a bit of a bummer but you do make a difference. I ran into a former student from my first year not too long ago. She is grown, married, has kids, etc and she told me I had made a difference just by telling her she really should go to college if it was at all possible yada yada yada and she did and has done really well in her business and professional life. Truthfully, I don’t remember telling her anything specific way back then but she seems to think I made a difference and I am very thankful for that. It seems these last couple years I have had more and more children of former students and it is always amazing to hear their recollections.
I remember always being a little bit "out there" trying new things, (I actually wore a gorilla mask for Halloween and read a scary story to 6th graders.) I found if I really liked what we were doing it seemed to carry over with the kids - I've always loved Romeo and Juliet / West Side Story and I think I made Shakespeare okay for a lot of the kids just because of my own enthusiasm for it. Find what you like best, be dramatic about it, the kids will catch it. Go outside the box. And share. While older teachers may have the experience to deal with a variety of situations they still are looking for new and meaningful ways to get to the students. We are all looking at this new generation of kids and wishing we had more answers for how to reach them.
It is always amazing to see how even the tough kids react to their former teachers. You will have a special bond with this class you have now that will carry on for years and years.