Saturday, January 5, 2013

Goals For The First Year Teacher - Part B

Student teachers practice teaching kindergarte...
Student teachers practice teaching kindergarten at the Toronto Normal School, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Richard D Boyce

This is the second and last article in this series. Here, I will explain what I mean about each goal.

Your first task is to examine your skills in relation to these goals and decide which need to be addressed first, i.e. which skills need the most development.

If you have a teaching mentor or teaching 'buddy', they may be able to help you prioritise these goals. You must have a written list of goals which are in a place where you see them often.

Now create an action plan along with dates to evaluate your progress. Get your teaching mentor/buddy to help with your evaluation and offer advice. Try to incorporate at least one goal in each lesson or in each day.

Below are the goals:

1. Learn the students' names quickly: This is important because it is the keystone for good teacher/student interaction, good class discipline and effective reporting on students' progress.

2. Know the content of your teaching material perfectly: If your subject knowledge is excellent, then all you need worry about is how you present that knowledge and how to create an effective learning environment.

3. Develop your voice to allow you to use it effectively in different contexts: Your voice is your greatest asset as a teacher. Therefore, you have to protect the health of your voice first. Then you need to develop a voice pattern for as many circumstances in the classroom as you can. You need a voice for asking questions; one which feigns anger; a serious voice; and a voice that issues instructions, to name a few.

4. Plan often and develop an organisational structure for all you do: What a planning and organisational structure suggests to your students is that you know what to do. Your planning always gives you a 'fall-back position'. Remember, in the everyday world of the classroom, 'Murphy's Law' reigns supreme, i.e. if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Good preparation is how good teachers cope with the unexpected.

5. Be flexible: This goal is related to goal 4 and is really a follow-on. Within your planning, have a 'get out of trouble plan - a Plan B'. If what you are doing is not working, then change what you are doing quickly.

6. Perfect the use of your board: Practise often. Even write what you want on the board before class. Stand at the back of the room to check that your writing is clear and large enough to be read in the far corners of the room.

7. Create simple class rules and enforce them firmly but fairly: Make sure they fit well with the school Behaviour Management Plan. Have a large written copy displayed on a notice board. Discuss these rules with the class to ensure that they understand what is meant by the rules and the consequences of breaking the rules. There is no harm in borrowing the rules of an experienced teacher as a start. As you get more experienced, you may be able to negotiate a set of rules with your class. Remember, it is easy to ease up on discipline from a firm position but difficult to go from being easy to being firm with discipline.

8. Create an efficient record keeping scheme and record all data ASAP: This is part of your management duties. This result recording will be onerous at exam and reporting times. This work can not be left until later. So there are times of the year when the 'job' demands your total time. "Do It Now" must be your motto at these times.

9. Use a variety of teaching strategies: Begin slowly, adding new one as you become confident with your class and with each strategy. Begin where you feel most comfortable. When you try a new strategy, make sure it suits the topic you are teaching. Remember, have a Plan B.

10. Be a great role model to your class in all you do: This goes without saying. Remember the students are with their teachers at least six hours a day. You may be the only good role model a student sees each day. You have an awesome responsibility, here. This is particularly so if you are a male teacher in a low socio-economic area.

11. Become a good listener: This is true not only in your classroom but also in discussions with other staff and parents. An effective listener learns more and gains the trust and confidence of those they teach and work with. Let this old saying be your guide. "God gave us two ears and only one mouth so that we might listen twice as much as we speak."

12. Be aware of what progress your students are making: Check books, ask questions and give short tests to know where the class is and what you need to do. Do this regularly in no fixed pattern to keep the class from getting complacent.

13. Evaluate all you do so that you can improve what you do the next time: All successful people evaluate what they do so they do not make the same mistake twice. Their goal is always excellence so they are always looking for ways to improve their performance. They are keen to learn 'new tricks', i.e. they are always in a learning mode.

14. Learn how to use the school Behaviour Management Plan: Class discipline is always the young teacher's greatest challenge. The school Behaviour Management Plan is the school's tried and tested way to work towards a disciplined environment. It will have advice for the young teacher first and foremost as well as the procedure to adopt in more serious cases of disobedience. In this time of litigation, teachers must follow the school policy exactly, to gain maximum benefit for the child, your class and themselves.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that you can't achieve all these goals at the same time. Work on the important ones for you first and tick them off in your diary as you achieve them. At year's end, look at your list. You'll be surprised at what you have achieved.

Over his long career, our author worked with many young teachers and supervised many trainee teachers. During the last sixteen years, as Head of Mathematics in a large school, he was often responsible for inducting first year teachers into his school. He has used that experience to write this article and his eBook, "The First Year Teacher's Book". It can be found on the website

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