Herding Cattle is a Transferable Skill

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 25 2013

Things I’ve Learned…

  • Never, under any circumstances, give a middle schooler a piece of paper without knowing a)where they should put it RIGHT NOW, b) where they should return it.
  • Ask parents if they receive texts.


  • Be obsessive about formatting. If you don’t put a space for student names, they will develop a secret code, nicknames, or a system of cryptic hieroglyphics to mark their paper.


  • Formatting is 80% of the battle. The other 20% is reading level issues-like vocabulary, sentence length, etc.


  • Dress in removable layers.


  • Strategically placed candle warmers, air fresheners, etc. can make even middle schoolers post-gym less offensive to be around.


  • Print 3 extra copies. Always.


  • Develop student jobs or you will spend every afternoon straightening desks, sharpening pencils, and pulling your hair out. Make sure to never EVER to give jobs to only boys, girls, one race, or one creed-middle schoolers see discrimination everywhere, including where only teacher stupidity exists.


  • It is worth the effort to get music into your classroom-CDs, iPods, your phone, whatever. I spend roughly 2.5 hours before and after school alone in my classroom every day; it’s boring, lonely, and creepy without music.


  • Eat 3 meals a day. Assume you will spill your lunch in your lap at least once; plan accordingly.


  • There will never be a perfect day. Get over it.


  • Document everything-take pictures with your phone, put sticky notes in a journal, whatever.


  • Figure out how to make the last 5 minutes of the day productive/less crazy-play music, complete classroom jobs, read a book, but always have a plan.


  • Get a watch with a stopwatch feature.


  • If you have a water bottle, have time built in for your bathroom break.


  • It’s awesome to be inspired by other teachers, but it’s not worth it to be jealous. They have different struggles, talents, and experiences than you, even if you can just see the awards and accolades.


  • If you don’t want an item stolen or damaged, do what you can to leave it out of your classroom. Everything else needs to be locked or carried at all times.


  • My personal hell looks like an elementary school party.


  • Second year is better; but that doesn’t mean I don’t still sometimes cry, forget stuff, get flustered, and generally screw up.


  • There isn’t a ‘right’ way to execute a lesson, manage behavior, or any other teacher skill-if there was, every teacher would be doing it now. You just have to find the right way for you and your students.


  • It’s okay to sleep with a stuffed animal at 24 years old.

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    Cows and children have a lot in common…

    Mississippi Delta
    Elementary School
    Elementary Education

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