Monday, August 28, 2017

10 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Teacher (via Movie Quotes)


Being a new teacher is as terrifying as it is thrilling. Nothing can quite prepare you for the moment you are left standing in a room full of young people as the sole adult. Let's be honest, here...THAT moment is absolutely terrifying. If you can survive those precious few seconds of sheer terror, a challenging and exceedingly rewarding career awaits you.

As a new teacher, one moment there's action, the next you're embroiled in a drama of epic proportions. The classroom can sometimes feel like the Wild West while at other times be as picture-perfect as a Hallmark movie. Continuing the movie analogies, here are 10 things I wish I knew as a new teacher:

I think we can all relate to the Tin Man. His face is exactly how we all felt inside on the first day as a new teacher!
Image from The Wizard of Oz motion picture
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Learning how to be a teacher and actually, well, being a teacher are two very different things. No matter how much I had learned in college, it was still a steep learning curve when I had 20 faces staring up at me. That first year made me realize that the theoretical approach to lesson planning was very different from  the reality of the situation. Ideas I thought would work sometimes flopped and meeting the needs of each individual student was quite challenging that year. Sometimes I felt like Dorothy - transported to a beautiful new world with wonderful new friends but thinking about how it was different than what I had expected, in some ways. I wish I knew that these feelings were normal and that despite all the challenges, it would be the start of the most amazing adventure.

PSA: Don't smoke. Just get a bigger boat.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."
- Jaws (1975)

You are a new teacher and you can't go it alone! I think the one mistake we all initially make as new teachers is that we think we can solve all problems ourselves. Sometimes we even feel embarrassed to ask for help for fear that it will make us look inadequate. Being a teacher isn't about driving a boat through treacherous waters all by yourself. You're going to need help, so don't be afraid to ask for it. Imagine that your little boat is actually a cruise ship. You're surrounded by colleagues who are ready and willing to help you! Your floating village is working together to navigate those treacherous waters. You're never alone.
His face is all of our faces when we realize we're in the midst of a miscommunication fiasco. IT'S THE WORST.

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate."
- Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Miscommunication happens. It's never, EVER fun, but at some point during your first year or two, signals will get crossed between yourself and a parent, colleague or administrator. Deep breaths. The best course of action is to schedule a conference or meeting and clear the air. Work towards finding a solution and carefully, thoughtfully express yourself. The goal of educators, parents and administrators is to provide the best care and instruction to our students as possible. Open the lines of communication again by focusing on that goal and thinking and acting in the best interest of the students.

*Sunglasses are optional
"Alrighty then."
- Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994)

Sometimes things don't go according to plan. You're going to spend hours on a lesson only to find that it flops. There will be times when you do everything in your power to help a student and a parent says you're still not doing enough. The moment will come when your lesson runs 20 minutes faster than you anticipated and you have to come up with something engaging and instructional to fill the gap. In those moments, I always here Jim Carey's voice in my head saying, "Alrighty then" before jumping in to find a solution. As a new teacher, you're going to get lots of practice finding solutions on a moment's notice. As time goes on, you'll learn from your experiences and you'll become adept at creating a Plan A, B, C, D and E for every situation. 

Lighten up!

- Dark Knight (2008)

When I started teaching, someone passed along this age-old advice: "Don't smile until Christmas." I think they were joking (I hope they were joking) because I've found that to be one of the worst pieces of advice I have ever received. Classroom management can be very difficult for new teachers, but the answer isn't to stop smiling. The key to classroom management is establishing a routine, setting high (but achievable) expectations for your students and cultivating a positive atmosphere where students feel safe. Try greeting students with a smile instead of a frown and you're probably off to a good start. :) 

Cutest movie EVER.
"Just keep swimming!"
- Finding Nemo (2003)

These three words are just what a new teacher needs to hear as the school year gets into full swing. Between teaching, lesson planning, grading and meetings, days can be long and tiring. During those first few years you might feel as if the weekend is a million years away. Just remember what Dory said: "Just keep swimming!" Push through those challenging times and reflect frequently on the ways you are growing as an educator. I get it. Some days and weeks are rough but there are always calm seas ahead. Just keep swimming!

Just look at the hope in her eyes...and the tears.

"After all, tomorrow is another day!"
- Gone with the Wind (1939)

This is similar to a phrase I tell my students all the time: "Tomorrow is a new, fresh day!". We all make mistakes sometimes and I always let my students know that I treat each day as a fresh opportunity to make good choices. As a new teacher, you'll make mistakes, too. Learn from your errors and remember that with each day comes a fresh chance to improve your teaching practices, classroom management plan or interactions with students. Go home, relax and come back ready to get the day started on the right foot. 

Every movie with Leo in it is 10x better, am I right?
"Don't tell me I can't do it;
don't tell me it can't be done!"
- The Aviator

I love visiting with new teachers at my school because they are so full of ambition and promise! I wish more veteran teachers had this mentality. As a new teacher, this "can do" attitude will be one of your biggest assets. Believe in yourself and your students. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you have faith in yourself and your abilities. Always be willing to try new lesson ideas in order to make your subject matter engaging and exciting. Your students will grow in ways you can't imagine.

Cameron's face is how I feel as the school year winds down. Everything moves so quickly!

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

This quote reminds me of the importance of reflection. My first year as a teacher was a blur. I forgot to stop and reflect on my experiences and it wasn't until my second year that I learned the importance of scheduling time to reflect on my instructional practices and classroom management style. The more I reflected, the more growth I was able to make. As a new teacher, remember to stop and look around once in a while. See how much your students have grown and consider the ways you have grown as well!

He looks like a guy who just spotted the Back to School dollar section at Target! So much excitement!

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!"
- The Jazz Singer (1927)
The last thing I wish I knew as a new teacher was that the first year was the start of an amazing adventure. It's easy to get wrapped up in the challenges and celebrations of that first year. It's hard to imagine what kind of teacher you'll grow to be in 2, 5 or 10 years. Although I have many years ahead of me, I can tell you with absolute surety that if you have passion, dedication, an open mind and a willing heart, you will be a greater teacher than you can possibly imagine. 

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