When the bell rang at 3:12, I realized I hadn't sat down at my desk once today. Generally, I get a little bit of a break and I get to do a bit of grading. Today, that didn't happen. I have a pile of grading still on my desk, but I finally decided to leave at 5 pm because I needed to quit for the day. Here's hoping I manage to catch up before next week.
Days like this are frequent for a high school educator. I realized early on that I wouldn't be able to clear my desk every single day and sometimes it's necessary to leave a stack of papers for the next day. I really like my room to be organized and together so that has been a rough one for me. Of course, it's just one of a long list of things I wish I would've learned while in my core classes at the university. Here are a few more:
1. Develop thick skin--High school students aren't always the friendliest crowd. Likewise, their parents can be a formidable opponent. If you take everything personally, it's going to be a rough school year. I say this realizing that this is a big downfall of mine. I think everything is a personal attack on my character, and that's just not the case. If you can remove yourself from the situation, you'll be a lot better off.
2. Maintain accountability--This probably isn't a shocker, but students lie. Granted, not all of them are liars, but when it comes to trouble, many of them will tell a fib to save their own backside. If you don't hold them accountable for their actions, you aren't doing them any favors. If the policy states that the student receives a zero, it doesn't matter how much you like the kid. S/he gets a zero. End of story. Will that kid hate you for the moment? Absolutely. But, in the end, these students will realize that you were the same person with every single kid who walked through the door.
3. Love what you do--Nothing translates in the classroom like genuine excitement. Our math department makes that abundantly apparent. I hope that's what my students get from me.
4. Be yourself--Part of teaching them often means developing some sense of relationship with them. Don't be afraid to make yourself human.
5. Don't be petty--There is a difference in consistent discipline and bird-dogging a student. To quote Rebecca Nurse from The Crucible, "There's prodigious danger in seekin' loose spirits. I fear it." In other words, you tend to find what you're looking for. Constantly look for misbehavior out of particular kids, and you're likely to find it. Am I saying that giving them the benefit of the doubt is going to bring you two together? Not likely. But you'll be a lot less stressed.
Unfortunately, I've realized that doing all these things doesn't mean that every kid will love you. Some of them will despise you on principle. Some of them will just hate your subject. But some of those kids might actually like you. A few more of them might learn something...or discover a new talent.
And that makes it worthwhile.