- Education and Science
FOUR THINGS THAT EVERY NEW TEACHER SHOULD REMEMBER
A description of what to watch out for
Teaching. There's nothing like it.
Standing in front of a group of impressionable young minds and sharing your knowledge with them, you are perhaps the most influential person a child will have in his formative years.
Outside of his (or her) parents, of course.
Having a kid learn long division or how to spell four-syllable words because of you is indeed a great feeling. I should know - I was a physical education coach, an after school teacher, and a tutor for over fifteen years. BUT...
If you are new to the education field, there are a few things to know that your credential program may not have told you. These are the things that you should remember as you embark on your career as an educator of young people:
1. THERE IS ABOUT A 95% CHANCE THAT YOU ARE GOING TO END UP AT THE WORST SCHOOLS.
It is the schools in the inner city, in neighborhoods infested with crime, drugs, gangs, poverty, and blight, that always have the most openings and the highest turnover rate because most veteran teachers would rather work elsewhere.
Unless they particularly feel a connection and a dedication to the children of those low-income areas, educators tend to run from these schools.
These are the schools where unless the administration is real hard-core on discipline, many of the students are often either defiant, deviant, or big-mouthed back talkers (or a combination of the three).
And on top of all that, these schools are the ones whose students are usually farther behind academically than their suburban counterparts. I was an after school teacher in one of these places where most of the kids I had, 4th and 5th graders, were reading from 1st grade books and struggled with simple addition and subtraction. One fourth grade girl I had didn't even know how to tell time! At ten years old!
If you are a new teacher in this situation, it will certainly be a challenge to connect and be effective with this population. Many teachers have been successful in this environment, it all depends on how far you are willing to go.
2. YOU ARE LIKELY TO GET THE WORST STUDENTS.
Being a new teacher, this will be the case whether the school is in Beverly Hills or the South Bronx.
Your classes will likely consist of the kids that no one else wants to teach - the thugs, smart-mouths, druggies and gang-bangers; these are the kids with oftentimes extreme behavior problems that have little or no interest in learning, at least outwardly.
This is particularly the case for those who teach upper-grade elementary through high school, because by around 4th grade people know who the kids with behavior and learning problems are.
Along with being at the worst schools, this is a significant factor as to why the majority of new teachers leave the profession within five years. Those who have the patience and ability to connect with this population will survive and likely have a long career in education.
Support from the administration is also essential in being effective with any group of kids, especially the "problem" kids. Unfortunately, new teachers sometimes don't get that support.
I can speak from personal experience; there have been quite a few times when I have been cursed at, called bad names, been physically threatened, and have had things stolen from me, and I felt that the administration didn't give me enough support.
That's something that you may have to face.
3. THE VETERAN TEACHERS MAY RESENT YOU.
New teachers are often resented by the veterans if they arrive at school "throwing their weight around", especially if said veteran teachers have 15 to 20 years or more in the profession. Admittedly, I felt resentment to certain new teachers during my latter years working at schools.
It is best if you keep a low profile, your nose to the grindstone, and just do your thing in the classroom during your first year or two, as well as not trying to contribute too much during faculty meetings unless asked to.
At most schools, particularly at the secondary level (though it can happen at the K-5 level, too), new teachers are expected to "pay their dues" before they are fully accepted as part of the school community. Acceptance usually comes upon receiving tenure, which takes a number of years depending on which state you're teaching in - it takes two years in California, where I live.
Which brings us to the fourth thing to remember as a new teacher...
4. YOU ARE AT THE MERCY OF MANY PEOPLE.
And not just the principal or the administration either, who can fire you at any time for any reason the first year or so you are in the classroom.
Department heads, veteran teachers, and the office secretary can also make life tough for you if they find something about you that they don't like.
I once taught P.E. at a school where the the teachers constantly got reprimanding memos for the most minor things, like not wearing hard-sole shoes. And I coached one year at a school where 20-year veteran teachers have gotten fired for one bad review.
Parents? Teachers - good teachers - have been dumped from a school because of parent dislike many times. All it takes is one "concerned" mom or dad, and your life becomes a hell.
As a new teacher, you will find yourself walking on eggshells trying to please everyone, ultimately trying to keep your job. It was a prominent factor in the education profession not working out for me; I got fed up with trying to please everybody.
Hopefully these points will serve as a heads-up to all you newly-credentialed educators out there.
If you can deal with and survive these minefields that you will likely face at a school, then you will have a successful and effective career.
I certainly wish all of you new teachers the best of luck.