photo cred: deesays.com

First Two Weeks of Teaching

The first two weeks flew by on light speed status. Those first two weeks of teaching are a time for backing your ideal classroom environment. This is the easiest time to build culture. My pedagogy, or teaching philosophy, is super simple. Everyone has the capacity to be great. Simple as that. I encourage my students to find shortcuts in their assignments, while maintaining that we’re here to provide quality, not quantity. I’m still waiting for that day when I pose an open-ended question on the board (part of my English program to encourage students to just write, about whatever – because communication is key and a major reason why Language Arts is so disengaging is because of the limited ways it is utilized) and a student answers with one sentence, or with one word. That’s thinking outside the box. That’s different. That’s being unique.

 

The first two weeks are spent establishing routines and refurbishing dusty brains. Getting back into routine is something that students and teachers both need in order to build for another ten months of learning and growing. This year, I came in with the mentality that I would make a more conscious effort to allow my students to teach me. This means that I would attempt to stimulate conversations that went beyond curriculum and delved into dialogue about ourselves. I went into my first day, and effectively first week, with no lesson or day plan. I went in hoping that my students would create the environment that would be most comfortable and beneficial to them. It is still early but I think that we arrived at this.

 

After two weeks, a teacher should establish one major standard. That is the idea that the teacher, in whatever capacity she comes into the classroom, should, “say what they mean, and mean what they say.” What you want in your students should be communicated, modeled, and established in these first two weeks. If you are concerned with something as simple as keeping a clean classroom, instill this during those first 10 days. If you want your students to learn from you, and only you, you can establish that as well.

 

There is also one staple you have probably heard that you should immediately discard. This is the idea that “you shouldn’t smile until November” Please get rid of this. This is not authentic and it does nothing but make your class easier to manage. Classroom management should be the least of your worries. Real teachers choose this profession because they want to impact the next generation. Where does classroom management fit into this ideal? If it does, it is long down the line of things that you should be concerned about.

 

Two weeks is a good standard of establishing your role as the lead learner but also the environment you envision for your classroom. Hopefully you used these two weeks productively. If you didn’t, you still have until the end of September to re-brand your baseline philosophies.

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Comments 2

  1. Steve Lashbrook

    I’m glad I discovered your blog Matthew. I’m quite enjoying it. Now I hazard to put thoughts to print – dangerous because I haven’t taken a lot of time to clarify my thoughts and thus risk being misunderstood in print. So, please, whoever reads this, please cut me some slack. This is intended as a casual personal reflection … not a treatise.

    I believe the expression is, “Don’t smile until Christmas.”

    I think it’s a matter of interpretation. LOL I doubt many took the expression too seriously and went about frowning and/or being mean for four months. But the sentiment is perhaps a good one.

    As a new teacher (and, actually, throughout my career) I needed to be liked by my students. I don’t suggest that this is your situation, or anyone else’s, but for me it was probably a function of my own insecurity as a teacher – and as a person. There are surely other reasons.

    What the statement ‘don’t smile…’ means to me is that it is important to establish the kind of relationship you are going to have with your student(s) from the beginning (hard to change this in the middle of the year). This is something that I personally struggled with throughout my career. That fine line between being a ‘friend’ and being a ‘mentor’ can be a difficult one to walk but it is one that we, as participants in the education of children, must navigate.

    The word ‘relationship’ in the context of student/teacher interaction is fraught with interpretation depending on perspective … ie. the view of the parent, the student, colleagues, administration and the public. So, again, at the risk of being misinterpreted (perhaps less risky in retirement ;-) I continue…

    In my view, good teaching is all about relationships (well, it’s about a lot of things but this is the topic at hand). That that relationship is nourishing to all is important.

    There will come a time however (and these are just examples of what might come up), when the teacher will have to correct a student for behaviour or attitude or hygiene or … There will come a time when the class is ‘off the wall’ (it’s Halloween!) and the teacher is charged with the task of pulling it together. The student/teacher relationship that has been established will determine to a great extent how the dynamic of these play out.

    For example, the way you would encourage a friend to drive sensibly will be different than the way a police officer might do the same thing. The way you tell your father to eat properly is different than the way his doctor would. The way you tell your daughter… and so on… Relationships have different dynamics.

    Teaching is an art … and I believe that ‘teaching style’ and the kind of relationship a teacher has with her students can and should be as varied as the individual – (within the context of the classroom and community). But in the end, (and I don’t doubt that you agree) there must be what is understood (by all stakeholders) to be (here’s another historical phrase) ‘a professional student/teacher relationship’.

    So yeah, go ahead, smile … laugh it up. Doesn’t matter, so long as from the start everyone knows the game plan. Whatever works within the context of ‘good teaching’. For many of us however, it is necessary to ‘act’ like ‘teachers-in-charge’ for a while until we get total buy-in from everyone. Then, when the time is right, allowing a little more of our own personalities to come to the fore … again (I feel like a politician) within the context of professionalism. ie. Nothing wrong with ‘faking it until you make it’.

    My view anyway.

    Steve

    Next topic. What is professionalism? ;-)

    1. Post
      Author
      Matthew R. Morris

      Thank you for the well-written feedback. I agree with you completely. The whole “don’t smile until December” thing completely depends upon context. It depends upon the teacher, his/her personality, and the student dynamic. And thank you for the topic suggestion (What is professionalism?) I may tackle that sometime soon.

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