I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of great advice over the years. I’ve asked for some of it, and some of it has come my way unsolicited. The unsolicited advice is usually the most annoying, and frustratingly, the most helpful.
Many times (at least in my experience), I’ve found that some of the older, wiser teachers are full of useful advice. I’ve sought it out, but I’ve also been the target of unwanted criticism. I’ve found that when I sweep aside my bruised ego, the advice and criticism have generally worked together to make me a better teacher.
So, here, in no particular order, are the five best pieces of advice and criticism that I’ve received from those who know better than I do.
Don’t let your personality get in the way. I’m laid back. Very laid back. Deadlines? Punctuality? These things have never been a part of my vocabulary. Part of teaching (for me) has to be acting because my laid-back ways are not conducive for a well-managed classroom. This wasn’t pleasant for me to hear, but I needed to.
Don’t be so confrontational. As laid back as I can be, I can be just as stubborn. I do not appreciate disrespectful behavior. My first year teaching, I had a class of eighth graders who were in out and out revolt. I went home and cried. But I way wanted to get even. I showed up early one morning and turned all of their desks to face the wall. We were going to have in class suspension.
Fortunately, my much wiser mentor teacher stopped by my classroom before class and saw what I had planned. She told me flat out that I was asking for trouble by creating a “me vs. them” environment. My ego was bruised. This was my payback, and it would be sweet. I’m grateful that she was candid with me, though, and even more grateful that I listened. I have a video blog about what I came up with instead–same message, less confrontational–you can watch it HERE.
Smile and keep a “Jenius Journal.” You can read about mine HERE. It really helps when you don’t take everything so seriously–my own antics have even made the journal from time to time. Laugh and smile. Smile and laugh.
Find time to socialize with adults during the day. I tend to want to sit in my room with the door closed and plow through my work. But a little peer socialization throughout the day adds perspective and prevents feelings of isolation. So whether it’s over your 10 minute lunch or in the hallway during class change, talk to the grown-ups everyday. Feeling connected helps.
Don’t bad mouth the kids. So many teachers fall into this trap, and it’s easy to do when you’re having a bad day and so are your colleagues. It can be quite a bonding experience. But making a habit of bad-mouthing students makes everything worse in the long run. You are dehumanizing the students when you do this and the more you do it, the worse your own attitude gets. Just remember, that’s somebody’s baby. A professor in grad school told me that many moons ago, and I really think it has helped keep me positive.
For better or for worse–that’s advice that has really helped me over the years. Yes, some of it is contradictory, but that’s to be expected–it all comes from different sources. Some of it was given to me kindly–some of it wasn’t. But it has all helped me to improve. And that should always be our goal as educators–to keep learning and by extension, improving.
And finally, my advice to you–listen to the advice of others and never stop learning.
How about you? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Leave a comment below and let me know!
And check out the other blogs below that are all about great advice given to teachers. Thanks a million to Darlene Anne and Pamela for hosting the link-up!