Please oh please when you use my classroom show me the same respect I show you. The last thing I do when working in someone else’s room is have the kids clean up, put things back where they found them or where they belong. Sometimes the room is left looking better than when we came in. Show me the same courtesy and leave my room looking as neat as it was when you and your class walked in.
When given a directive from higher up (principal or district) please follow it, especially when it is in regards to students. If we’re all given the same directions we should all be on the same page this makes life easier for us and for our students. It is incredibly frustrating to have to spend time explaining why something is supposed to be done a certain way if you don’t do the same thing. I really don’t like feeling like the bad guy because I won’t let the kids do something they’re not supposed to.
Be flexible. I know how much it stinks to have to give up your room to someone else on your plan time. In my last classroom position my room was used by an encore/elective/ exploratory class at least half of the year, one year it was in use for three quarters. This meant that not only did I not have my room for my plan time, often if something happened and that teacher had to be elsewhere I subbed the class meaning I had NO plan time that day. I get that it’s easier when you can be in your room with your supplies but if it’s for one plan time in a week or just a few in the year please just go with the flow!
Be grateful. This is something I’ve discovered, no matter the school situation you are in there are things to be grateful for. In a small district I was able to get to know my students and their families better than in a large district as I was fortunate enough to have kids for three years and have siblings. I felt that I got to know my co-workers better as there were fewer of us. I got to have more of a say on what went on in the school and the district, participating in and co-chairing the district calendar committee, participating in the district salary committee. In a large district classroom teachers often don’t have to do lunch, recess, or bus duty. There is someone in my building now and the last two buildings I’ve worked in that does the copying and laminating for the teachers so they don’t have to take the time to do it. Little things like that can make a big difference. Also in a large district many times your substitutes are certified teachers, nearly guaranteed if you are going on long-term leave. This is a blessing, believe me (see my maternity leave sub experience post). So take a look at what you have no matter what it is and take time to be thankful for it!
Look for the positive in every student and if you talk to their next year teacher share that information not the negative or at the very least share that as well. Give every student that comes through your door a clean slate. Let them start fresh, don’t rely on the tales you’ve heard about them from other teachers. I have had students other teachers simply couldn’t get along with and I had absolutely no issues with those students. Then again I had students I struggled with and I found as I continued to try to find the positive, tried to identify their strengths our relationship improved.
Just like I ask parents, please don’t ever compare students to siblings of theirs you’ve had before. You know you don’t like it when kids whine and complain that Mrs. So and So never did it this way or Mr. Thus and Such wasn’t like that, so don’t do it to students. Each child is a unique individual treat them as such.
Please read your e-mails carefully and when you see something that regards your class schedule make a note of it in your plan book, on a post-it in clear site, tell your class so they can remind you, or a combination there of. It makes the day run so much smoother if you keep track of these things, I know I’ve written down the wrong time or misremembered it from an e-mail and lost class time due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Similarly if you have to make a change that effects another teacher let them know. I just made this mistake yesterday, there had been a change in my schedule and I forgot to pass that information on. My students lost class time as we had to switch locations. I quickly hopped on the computer to let everyone else know what the changes were.
Leave seating charts with your sub plans. I have heard more students called: you, um you in the pink shirt, yes you in the blue by subs because the teacher had no seating chart. I’m also guilty of having done this but after observing it happen and feeling bad because every child deserves to be called by their name I’ve tried to rectify this. Currently my classes do not have a seating chart written because they sit in alphabetical order around the room with their class number matching their seat number, well that and the wonderful gal that subs my classes knows the majority of the kids in the building already.
Similar to above if you’re changing what you’re planning to teach and that effects someone else let them know. I had spoken to a certain grade level earlier this year about a project they always do as I wanted to do something with the same information in my classes. I was told go ahead and do whatever I wanted because they weren’t doing that project this year, they were teaching the unit differently. Then came the day I planned to start the project and I found out from the students that they were indeed doing the project as they normally would. The teachers had apparently changed their minds and not let me know. This led to a scramble on my part to find something new to do. Fortunately I found something I really like, the kids really like, and something that will be in my teacher tool box from now on but it would have been easier if I had known ahead of time.
Be respectful of all staff, treat everyone as part of the same team. I have worked in buildings where the support staff was wholeheartedly accepted and treated as just part of the team. I’ve also been in buildings where it seemed that the support staff was treated as if they were lesser because they were not certified staff members. Care to guess which buildings had the higher staff morale and better overall sense of community? Pretty easy to figure out huh? The kids pick up on this as well and they will learn to treat others the same way. Keep that in mind.
Be on time to pick up your class from lunch or specials. These teachers/staff members have elsewhere to go. You might be cutting in to someone’s lunch or plan time if you are late, or maybe they’re supposed to be on duty elsewhere leaving kids under-supervised or causing other staff and teachers to lose lunch/plan time. I know sometimes meetings run long. Maybe send one teacher to pick all the kids up while the others stay in a meeting. Call the teacher and let them know you’re running late, call the office and see if someone can pick up your class. It’s the same as above be respectful of everyone.
Be open-minded when it comes to professional development. Something else of which I’ve been guilty. I was scheduled to attend a five day workshop and was dreading it. I had heard this was a great workshop that it would really change my classroom, my teaching, and my students’ performance but I still just knew I was going to go out of my head sitting in a room for six hours a day for five days. I was so wrong. The workshop really did change things for me, it was wonderful, dynamic, and one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended. I’ll write about my Kagan experience later. Still when the ladies I attended with and I took our info back to our staff we were met with some open and some closed minds. The open minds ended up attending a conference of their own on Kagan and loving it. The closed continued in their same old way and complaining about the kids that didn’t learn, didn’t listen, didn’t pay attention. Keep that open mind and you just may be surprised.