4 Crucial Lessons New Teachers Never Learned

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what you know about classroom management is wrong

If you are a new teacher, these four lessons just might impact your teaching career more than anything you ever learned in college or in your pre-service days. If you are a veteran teacher or administrator, you owe it to your new teacher colleagues to share this with them and challenge them to seriously consider these lessons, as they represent the kind of reform that education sorely needs.

Because it’s a tradition as old as education itself, grading has stood the test of time; numbers, percentages and letters are simply the only modes of assessment the average educator comprehends.

1–Rethink discipline. Almost everything you’ve learned about classroom management is wrong. In methods courses and pre-service work, you were most likely taught some kind of assertive discipline technique or, worse, zero tolerance policies. Maybe you were told that one size fits all, when it comes to rules. As a new teacher, you must build rapport with students, and you’ll never do this by writing names on the board, handing out detentions or demerits, or sending students to the office the first time they talk back.

The best plan is to talk to your students about building a learning community built on mutual respect. Tell them there are no rules and consequences and that everyone should expect to be treated properly and fairly at all times. When issues arise, deal with them individually and privately. Never embarrass any student. Stick to the plan of kindness and mutual respect, and you’ll never need Do’s and Don’ts.

2–Find great material. If you teach in a public school district, it’s conceivable that you’ll be given textbooks and workbooks for your students. They may even be aligned with the Common Core, so you can put your class on autopilot. Many new teachers will follow the Teacher’s Edition textbook line by line; students will hate every minute, and chaos will ensue. Avoid this bleak scenario by sidestepping these materials and injecting your own engaging activities. There are plenty of exciting web tools and mobile applications that make any subject come to life, and many are easy to apply to Common Core Standards. Remember, just because you distribute those textbooks doesn’t mean that you’re anchored to them.

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3–Never assign traditional homework. In spite of the deluge of research against traditional homework, it remains a practice that pre-service educators are taught to use. These are the facts:

  1. traditional homework does not teach responsibility
  2. homework does not contribute to achievement
  3. homework does hurt students’ grades
  4. homework does take time from valuable family activities
  5. homework does make students hate learning.

Teachers assign homework so they can put something in a grade book. Do not get caught in this bad teacher trap. If you create engaging projects that students are excited to build, they will choose to work on them outside of class. In this case, everyone wins.

4–Grades are punitive. Sadly, not many veteran teachers have learned this lesson, so if education reform has a legitimate chance, it’s important for new teachers to learn it. Because it’s a tradition as old as education itself, grading has stood the test of time; numbers, percentages and letters are simply the only modes of assessment the average educator comprehends. As a new teacher, you must understand that measuring your students’ learning is not only ineffective, it is punitive and, potentially, dangerous.

Yes, you read right; grades are dangerous. Similar to homework, grades are not connected in any way to achievement and they make students hate learning. As a new teacher, you have a wonderful opportunity to make real change in your class and in your building by eliminating grades. Even if you have to supply a report card grade, you can still assess learning with feedback and conversation throughout the marking period. If you want to learn more about eliminating grades (the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do as a teacher), check out the Facebook group, Teachers Throwing out Grades.

After years of training for the most challenging profession in the world, you have just learned what are quite possibly the most valuable four lessons for any new teacher.

Share them with colleagues. Put them into practice. And change the world.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 115,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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