Ten things every new teacher should know

9. Make friends with custodians and secretaries.

“Your ‘best friends’ in running your department or school are the custodians and the secretaries. Without a good relationship with both of these important groups, you are doomed to failure. As a former math department chairperson, my teachers were always in need of more chalk and graph paper. I could meet our custodian, Ed, in the hallway and ask for either or both—and by the time I got back to my office, the request had been filled! A simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ always went a long way. Among many other ‘hints’ I share with my current teacher candidates, this is one of the first.” —Dr. Susan A. Smith, associate professor, Division of Education, Molloy College, New York

8. Teaching is often political.

“No college professor [of mine] ever addressed all the politics involved in teaching, or that parents would not properly guide or care for their children, or the amount of governmental influence. Professors prepared us in our subject area and … teaching techniques, but they never provided information on all the possible dilemmas with parents, students, and political mandates that are never supported with matching funding. They never told us how much of our own money we would actually spend to be sure students had lunch money, clothes, books, and materials to do our job in the classroom. Never did they tell us that our lessons would need to parallel other teachers’, rather than address the needs of our students. Never did they tell us that our school board would sell out for money from the government or that taxpayers would refuse a penny tax to support education. You have to truly believe you can make a difference, have a strong will, be prepared to be a substitute parent, nurse, adviser, counselor, and be flexible enough to make changes every year, or you will not succeed in education today. Oh, and one last thing—have a positive attitude and be a team player at the same time!” —Peggy Mitchell, Choctawhatchee High School, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Meris Stansbury

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