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Passport to Success
Two Part Series: Lessons Learned and Advice for the First Year and Veteran Teacher
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Part One: Do you remember the excitement of student teaching? 

After 28 years of being an educator, I started to forget that nervous thrill I felt before I embarked on my teaching profession until the first week of this summer! As I was cleaning out my closet today, I came across my student teaching journal! The following lessons learned still hold true as I embark on my 29th year of teaching reading!

Here are my top five lessons learned from 1989. 

Lesson #1: Don't get caught up in teacher gossip and complaining.  It can sour you and the people around you!

Here are the first few lines of my journal: "January 23, 1989, finally arrived! I had been anxiously awaiting this day for many years. On the twenty minute drive to school, I reflected on all my English and education classes trying to convince myself I was qualified to teach." By January 25, I had learned to stay clear of the teachers' lounge, ..." it's easy to get caught up in all of the complaining and gossiping." Also, a lesson well learned from Ms. Burns that I wrote in my journal was, "During the conference period the majority of her work can get completed, so she won't have a lot to do for homework." My main lesson on this third day of student teaching has held true today, 28 years later.  "Many teachers gossip and sit in the teachers' lounge during this valuable time when classroom work can be completed. If a teacher uses his/her time wisely during the free conference period, it can cut down on the work time at home." 

The teachers' lounge is still a melting pot of criticism and a place that keeps you from getting your real work accomplished.

Lesson #2: Remember the thrill you had when you first began your career. 

"These past six weeks have made me realize how much I want to be a junior high English teacher. I know some days the kids act obnoxious and rude, but days like today make me ponder how special these junior high students can be!" How true this stands out even after a career of teaching middle and high school students. Each new year I need to remember the feeling I had so many years ago on my first day of student teaching! My students might be silly and misbehaving at times, but I chose this career because I wanted to help them become the best human beings possible!

Lesson #3: Never lose sight of where your students are coming from. They act the way that they do for a number of reasons---don't take everything personally.

Another great lesson I learned in student teaching was in my seventh week at Tom Moore Junior High. The principal drove me around different residential areas of Ingram, Texas. He encouraged me to know the backgrounds and the areas where my students are coming from. On our drive, "I could hardly believe my eyes. Many homes had boards missing, trash all over the yards, and windows broken." Dr. Kopec suggested that at the beginning of every year I should drive by each of my students' homes so I would be able to better relate to my students on a more personal note and to help me to understand their classroom behavior. "I am going to use Dr. Kopec's advice every year!" It was a very valuable lesson because it made me understand that not everyone was coming from a background like me, each student was an individual and acted the way that they did because of who they were, not because of who I was!  

Lesson #4: If you participate and show the importance of a lesson, they will follow your lead!

March 6, 1989 began my six weeks of student teaching physical education.  I had already been teaching a 5th period physical education class during my English student teaching time. My professors had said that if you want students to follow you, you needed to set the example and do the activities and be positive. Well, I had been doing this, and it wasn't always working in my English and P.E. classes. My goal today was for 100% participation! Here's how it went: "We are going to do jumping jacks, and if one person is out of sync we will do twenty more!" Well, what do you know!  Everybody performed together! On to running. "When we run our first lap, we will run together. On the second lap, the students could jog the straights and walk the curves. Just like I was taught.  "I ran the first lap and on my second lap a student  asked if they could run with me. This was surprising because on Monday this student didn't want to participate in any of the activities!"

To this day I complete all of the assignments I ask my students to do. If they have to write a book report, I do too! The students see that I value the assignment enough to complete it with them!

Lesson #5: Everybody needs encouragement and somebody to pay attention to them!

March 10, another great lesson learned.  A positive encouraging attitude can go a long way! My parents, educators, and professors told me this, but today I saw it first hand. During seventh period girls athletics we played kickball. "A ball was kicked into left field, right beside a girl, and she didn't even try to recover it. I ran into left field, retrieved the ball, and threw it to the pitcher. I told the girls to continue playing as I talked to this young girl. I encouraged her to hustle after every ball!  Even if she couldn't tag the player out, she should still run after the ball. The young lady started talking about herself negatively, about being overweight, and not a good athlete. I finally said, 'Stop talking negatively! You need to believe in yourself if you want to succeed! You need to give 110% in everything you do!' She agreed and rejoined the team. A ball was soon kicked her direction and she hustled full speed, even though there was no way she could have tagged the runner. I yelled, "Great job!" and a smile spread across her face. After the game we lined up to run and everybody ran their hardest! The young lady ran full speed because she wanted to give 110%! 

We, as READ 180 teachers, hear negative comments from our students throughout the year, about their reading skills and hatred of books! We have to continuously encourage all of them to give 110%! They will find a book that they enjoy reading, their skills will improve with our instruction and the READ 180 rotations, and most importantly their self-esteem will improve because classes become easier because their readability level has vastly improved!

Remember these 5 lessons and you too will be in for an amazing school year!

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Stage C READ 180 Educator
Houston

Philosophy of Teaching All of my life, I have enjoyed working with children and have always desired to teach. It is my belief that no matter what socio-economic background, everyone deserves to achieve his/her educational goals. It is my ambition to facilitate this process.Growing up in the Houston area, I have always been aware of the Cypress-Fairbanks School District. The district's reputation of excellence is well known, not only in the Houston metroplex, but throughout the state of Texas. As a professional educator, it is important to be associated with a school district whose goals for its students are aligned with my philosophy of teaching.

2 Comments
  • Christine-Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    Great lessons to remember! Thank you so much for sharing this personal journal with us!