This blog began the minute my youngest daughter Hannah sent a text to Rachel, Robert and me telling us that she was thinking of Rachel as she was in her college class listening to positive behavior intervention. I believe in positive behavior intervention,
rewards and encouragement. With every fiber of my teacher being, I believe that a teacher must reward and encourage those students, but if a class is out of control, well, all I can say is, good luck. Classroom control must come first.
I do not even mean to hint that I know everything or that in college I learned nothing of any value in the classroom. I had a wonderful supervising teacher during my student teaching experience. I gleaned some words of wisdom and ways to write lesson plans while in college, but all the practical, day-to-day survival strategies came from fellow colleagues and trial and error.
After Hannah told me about this class, I thought about all the things that I want her to know as she is going through her early years as a teacher which seem tougher. My oldest daughter Rachel is going through her first year as a first grade teacher, and things are going well. So, this is an open letter to my two girls who have answered God’s calling on their lives to be educators. It is definitely a calling. None of us are in it for the money. I also believe that those who are in it for the holidays and good hours will seriously question that decision after one day, no, five minutes in the classroom with his/her first class. There must be a calling on your life from God to enter this noble profession.
So, to my two favorite educators, one future and one present, and to all of you who feel God led you right here to read this as well…
Rachel and Hannah,
I am first so proud that you felt God’s calling on your life and made the decision to follow when, since you are becoming and are teachers, you could have done something else for a living that would be easier. Many jobs are tough, but in my opinion, there is not one in which you can change a little life everyday, even in a small way. This means the enemy has your number. You are Christ followers so the enemy will try anything and everything to discourage you. I will be honest: teaching will never be easy. As you get older and gain more experience, it seems to come easier, but it has never, I repeat never been easy. There are no easy days when you are changing the world. So, Hannah and Rachel, remember these things when you enter the profession Hannah, and as it changes every year, Rachel. Nothing ever stays the same, but some things do.
These all tie in to discipline, rewards and life saver tips in the classroom:
- Some kids will demand your every minute. They get no attention at home, and they are coming to you empty. They will act bad because people will do anything for attention, good or bad. Solution: Give them the attention they need. This will not solve all the discipline problems with that child, but it will make a big difference with some. Everyone needs a caring adult in their life, and everyone needs a hero. Be one child’s hero, and you have done all you ever need to do for a lifetime. You of course will be many children’s heroes.
- Listen as much as you talk. We teachers do not know everything. The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. Never stop listening.
- Change with the times. Techniques that I used when I first started teaching do not work now. But…some do. Reading is always the core of our educational problems. The more we get away from reading as a society, the worse test scores will become.
- You will not love all your principals. I want to. It’s the “everything should be right in the world” mentality that I possess. Remember as I tell you all the time that you are not working for man, but you are working for the Lord. Some principals will support you in the classroom; some will not. When you have one that does not support you, as far as discipline, you are on your own. Handle things in your classroom or in your hallway outside your door. Eventually when students realize that you are not supported at the office level, this is going to make discipline problems escalate. Try to avoid that completely by handling things yourself. You can be just as tough as that principal can.
- Some teachers will not like you. Try to be at peace with everyone at all times. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18. You are Christ’s representative to your students, your principal and your fellow teachers. It’s not easy. Some women teachers get territorial. If you are the new kid on the block, they feel threatened. Give them time to get to know you, and that will fade. They will like you with time, and if they don’t, you don’t need anymore friends. You’ve got plenty.
- Along those same lines, pray for your principal and those fellow teachers. God can change anyone’s heart and mind.
- If you think a class is getting out of control, it is never too late to “reel them back in”. If what you are doing is not working, change. Try something new. Dr. James Dobson taught me many lessons on discipline in his books on discipline, and those carry over to the classroom. One of the most valuable nuggets is that you must make the reward enough that a child will choose the reward over the bad behavior. This takes some thinking and trying different things. What worked one week may not work the next week, unfortunately, but don’t give up. Some rewards that have worked for me for a season: tickets earned to equal rewards, candy, a movie day…there was even a time when if a student did what I wanted, I would tell the entire class about things that I really liked about that student–no lying, all honesty. I was amazed at how many students went for that. I do love my kids, so it was actually easy for me to do this. Beg, borrow and steal ideas from educators.
- Back to that movie day thing…some days, you need a break. With the pressure of standards, common core and all other manner of stupidity that people who don’t teach want us to do, a good movie day can go a long way–you and your kids can relax. You can get some things done, and they can enjoy a movie on a huge screen which is not something that they get very often. I am as goal and time line oriented teacher as any you will meet, but we all need a breather. This shouldn’t happen very often, but many of the students I have taught in recent years come from lower income, stressed homes. They don’t go to the movies. They can’t afford to nor do parents have time for that. When it comes to administrators, a good one will understand this. A bad one will push and push until you finally look for another job. And there are always other teaching jobs.
- When it comes to grading, another leg of this that will make you crazy, consider how it will be graded before you give it. Grade parts of an assignment, grade in class, use student graders…don’t make yourself crazy over this. Remember that you can tell if a student knows the material in 10 questions as well as if you had given 25. When it comes to grading in class, students can have a class symbol or number known only to you and keep his/her privacy. Always watch out for your struggling students. Be their best helper and defense.
- Some days, you need to get angry, especially in those crucial first days. You must be very businesslike and establish discipline. Don’t be their friend. If some of them hate you in those first weeks, you are probably doing this right. They will not hate you long. Have a little pep talk with yourself before class, reminding yourself that someone will control that classroom, and that someone will be you. When I knew I was in those first days of getting to know each other, it is like breaking a horse. There are some angels who will never need you to correct them ever, but we’ve all been in Walmart. We have seen children screaming horrible things in their parents’ faces, and they are ready to do that to you also. This is how they have learned to respond to a parental/authority figure, and you must show them that this will not fly with you. You will not be mean in return (no excuses for rudeness), but your “No” will mean “No”. You will show them how to be a productive member of society, and this involves respect for themselves and others. It may start with you.
You have chosen to teach. Thank God for your job that He gives you. Whether it is a good one or a bad one, He strategically placed you there. One of those children comes from a verbally or physically abusive household. One has an alcoholic part. One has a parent in jail or prison. One who has never his/her father and never will. One has parents who are there, but not really. They need unconditional love that only comes from God and can only be shown by a follower of Christ.
A good person will be patient with his/her students for a season, but if the God is not in them, it will not last. You are not the teacher. God is. Pray for Him to show up everyday and do something only He can do.
Glad I haven’t scared you away from teaching all these years…
(or Kathy McBroom)
Now go change the world.