6 Rules to Follow as a First-Year Teacher

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Okay, there really are significantly more rules to follow than just 6, but I’m here to tell you the ones that I feel are the most important. These will make your life easier as your year continues.

Rule 1: Never pretend to know something that you don’t. Kids will catch you pretending, and it will haunt you forever. If you don’t know, simply tell them you don’t know but you will find out and give them the answer tomorrow. Just make sure you follow up on finding the answer. I did this once. Once. And I still remember how being caught made me feel even though it was back in 2002.

Rule 2: Consistency is key. Follows the rules you set for the class. Don’t give exceptions because there will always be 10 more exceptions that follow. This goes with rules, homework, threatening to call home or talk to an administrator. You can’t make a threat that you can’t back up. Being consistent will help students see that you are honest and fair and you mean what you say.

Rule 3: Keep a homework blog. Some districts require this, but it’s really important to have information about your classroom available to parents and students at all times. While it’s extremely helpful to parents, it also covers your ass. I once told a class of honors students that there was a potential snow storm coming and that they needed to take home their reading books since I was still going to be following the reading schedule. I even posted a link to the PDF of the book in case kids forgot the book. It was close to the end of the semester, and I didn’t have time to catch up. We were out of school for three days. This was Wednesday’s, Thursday’s, Friday’s, and weekend’s reading schedule that students had to follow. All but one student listened, and he and his parents agreed that he should have followed the directions. It allowed all the students to stay on the same page, it covered my butt, and it allowed us to stay on track without having to assign a bunch a pages of reading in one night that would have been impossible for the kids to accomplish.

Rule 4: Send mass parent emails regularly. Most districts have a way for you to send emails to every parent in a class. Doing this will show parents that you are in a partnership to help their kids succeed. It also lets parents know that you expect them to be doing their job as parents while you’re doing your job as a teacher. I regularly sent out emails to parents about larger quizzes, tests, speeches, and projects. It works well for reminders for conferences or simply to let them know that the class was working on a large project so there were no grades posted that week. Parents don’t always contact you when they have a problem. Sometimes they go straight to your administrator. Cut them off before they have any questions. You didn’t update grades this week because the kids spent time in the lab working? Let them know. If the administrator comes to you about it, you have proof that you sent the email to parents about it.

Rule 5: Find one person that you can confide in and stop there. Every district is going to have its problems. They are too big to please everyone. The key is to find a district that upholds your big beliefs about education. You are going to have those days when you need to vent. Do NOT vent to every person you see. Find a private place and vent to that one person you trust implicitly. And don’t assume all teachers will agree with you. There will be someone you speak to who will violate your trust and possibly get you into a lot of trouble. Be careful about what you say in regard to your school, other teachers, students, and administration. Say anything you want that is positive, and repeat it multiple times. But watch the venting.

Rule 6: Be active in your school. Be a part of as much as you can without spreading yourself too thin. (I will be writing a post on this topic in detail later.) You can’t complain about a school and its issues if you’re not willing to be a part of the solution. You can’t be a part of it while still remaining separated. If kids ask you to go watch their wrestling matches or football games, do it. You don’t have to go to every one, but you need to show that you care about them as more than just a name in a grade book. Be a part of the curriculum committee or the school improvement team so administrators see that you want to make the school a better place. Sponsor a club to see kids outside of the classroom. Trust me. It’s worth it.

These are all really important. I will be writing future posts that go into detail on some of them.

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