See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, by Roxanna Elden, is so refreshing and real! Elden is practical about the reality of teaching which makes you feel like you’re not the only who had a lesson plan fail or a student misbehave. She gives several pieces of advice related to classroom management, parent involvement, testing, time management, observations, student motivation, and more! Below are pieces of advice I often need to be reminded of!
Advice # 1: “Your classroom is your first responsibility” (Elden, 2011, p. 8).
Elden (2011) states, “To prove myself, I signed up to teach night school, tutored on Saturdays, and sponsored the volleyball team. I was at school for 12 hours on a short day and still had to bring papers home. I spread myself so thin I was ineffective in everything” (p. 8). Through my own experience as a beginning teacher and through the mentorship and observation of new teachers, I have seen how easy it is to walk into a school with the expectation and drive to make changes, start new programs, and get involved. It can also be challenging to apply and adapt the great ideas and teaching approaches learned about in college education courses to the context of an actual classroom. Although it’s important to not let your excitement dwindle, it is crucial that the classroom is your first priority. This means understanding the needs of your learners, establishing a positive learning community with high expectations, having a deep understanding of the grade level standards, designing instruction that directly connects with specific learning targets and using assessments to improve student learning. I think this type of structure really sets the tone for learning and keeps the focus on student learning. This part of teaching is challenging in itself and needs 100% of a teacher’s attention. Although diving into other responsibilities and extracurricular activities are important and valuable, I think it is very easy to spread yourself too thin.
Advice #2: “A well-run classroom is a process, not a starting point. Keep reaching for that goal even if you lose ground some days” (Elden, 2011, p. 73).
This quote is a good reminder that managing a classroom takes effort every single day. Just because rules have been reinforced the day before, does not mean they don’t need to be reinforced today. The key is consistency, which is always challenging! The most challenging part for me is being fair and providing consistent consequences. Elden (2011) states, “Kids have super- sharp “fairness” radar. Threats and promises work best when they are backed up by action and when rules apply to everyone” (p. 66). The reason this is difficult is because kids don’t have consistent behavior. I do find it easier to ignore a student who is talking during a lesson that often demonstrates “good” behavior and I am quicker to respond with a student who frequently misbehaves. It’s important that I have consistent consequences so the “bad kids” don’t think I’m just picking on them. I have also found it’s equally important for showing the “good kids” that rules apply to them too. When I have not been consistent, I notice towards the end of the year that these students begin to push the boundaries. They begin to figure out that I will give them a pass, so their misbehavior becomes more frequent. Since these kids are normally such good kids and never get in trouble, they are extra sensitive to consequences. I know they will be upset or embarrassed if they lose their gold card for good behavior or hear their name called aloud (I was one of these kids! If the teacher called my name aloud in front of the class because I was talking, I felt horrible!). This sometimes prevents me from giving them a consequence. However, since they are such good kids providing a consequence just once will help turn their behavior around quickly. Being consistent will always make the days ahead much smoother!
Advice #3: “If you know they can do it, and they know you know they can do it, stop telling them you know they can do it, and make them do it” (Elden, 2011, p. 118).
This is advice I often forget when students do not turn in quality work when I know they can do better. It is easy to say “I know you can do better and I expect that from you the next time.” However, it’s important that students get immediate feedback and are held to the expectation that they will complete an assignment until it is their best. Waiting until the next assignment does not motivate students to perform their best the next time around.
Advice #4: “If a student refuses to work despite your best efforts, let him fail. Life doesn’t give grades based on potential. Either should you” (Elden, 2011, p. 119).
I think this is effective as long as students are given feedback and an opportunity to improve along the way. “Does this count towards our grade?” is a question that I often hear when an assignment is given. The problem with this is that grades have become the motivation to achieve. If a grade isn’t attached to the assignment the motivation to perform well decreases. Similarly, after a grade has been given, motivation to make improvements decreases. While it is important students do not receive high grades based on potential, it’s also important that the grade reflects their levels of understanding. As a teacher I may need to adjust my practice in order to adjust my students view of assessment. Students may need more opportunities to use feedback and make improvements before a grade is given.
I will definitely keep this book close by along my educational journey! It will remind me that I’m not alone and to continue to strive to do my best teaching each day despite the challenges I face.
Elden, R. (2011). See me after class: Advice for teachers by teachers. New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing.