Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Our Comments on 100 Tips for New Teachers
Thursday, August 6, 2009

Alright, it's time for us to make our opinions known. I'm going to look at Jamie Huston's first 50 tips, and Jon's going to examine the last 50 (mainly because I know he quite enjoys the opening quip).

Before I start though, I wanted to address our habit of encouraging comments even though most of the people who visit our blog prefer to remain solely readers. We don't want anyone to feel like they're being pressured to comment-- we're just as happy for our blog to be a source of information or further discussion with friends as we are to have our comment section as a forum for discussion. So we are going to keep writing posts that allow for outside input, but we'll never take it personally if you'd rather keep your thoughts to yourselves! (that being said... we do love comments if you choose to make them, so don't be shy!)

Since it would be way too time-consuming to mention all 50 of Jamie's tips, we're both going to choose a few of our personal favourites (or least favourites) to comment on. Feel free to mention ones we miss!

50 Things New Teachers Need to Know: Courtney's Two Cents

4. Keep any positive notes from parents. This is such a great way to build your portfolio. And if you've having a particularly bad day, you can open up this file and remind yourself that you're a fantastic teacher.

8. Provide written directions for assignments. I know I preferred to have written directions to an assignment, so this is a good tip. To take it one step further, consider creating a class website where you can post homework, instruction for assignments, and even host a forum to discuss issues relevant to your class outside of school. You might want to try using a resource for creating a class website, like

10. Don't ignore your smartest students. I could not agree more. I hated this when I was in school, and though I was pretty much the definition of a goody-goody, I did act out on occasion if I wasn't being challenged. Instead of having to devote more time to the students who are more advanced, take a quick moment to assign them a specific task or provide them with extra materials. They'll appreciate it and your class won't be disrupted.

12. Inspirational posters are worthless. Ok, this is where Jamie's no-nonsense teaching style clashes a bit with my own more upbeat approach. You should absolutely leave lots of room for student work on your walls, but it is my firm belief that the aesthetics of your classroom can play a supporting role in your efforts to provide a safe, engaging, challenging learning experience for your students. I also think grade twelves should be allowed to indulge their kindergartner side once in awhile. Anyone else agree? Disagree?

16. Hold students accountable to higher standards. I do, however, agree in principle that students should be held to a high standard. I won't necessarily implement this in the same way Jamie has (for example, I do think students should be comfortable in their environment), but I really do think that high school prepares kids for the real world. A corporate executive would never accept a sloppily-written report, and a contractor is going to lose clients if they don't complete the work in a reasonable amount of time. I'd rather my students get penalized for these types of mistakes in high school and avoid risking their careers in whatever field they may choose to work.

18. Whenever possible, segregate boys and girls. To borrow a word from Jamie, this seems like "horsefeathers." Unless you have a specific academic purpose in separating by gender (i.e., you're doing a simulation on the contrasting roles of men and women in 17th-century Quebec), this is unnecessary and ill-advised. Separate kids by interest, ability, or at random, but not by race, gender, or any similar category. That's not to say girls don't work well in an all-female environment, but if that's what you prefer, look into teaching at an all-boys or all-girls school. If you're in a co-ed school, you should be teaching a co-ed class.

20. Every subject should require a lot of memorizing. I disagree. It's fun and useful to have a few poems or facts to trot out 10 years from now at a party, but in the grand scheme of things, it's far, far more important that your students can analyze complex situations and think critically than that they can correctly recite the exact dates of every battle in the War of 1812.

22. Keep blank greeting cards on hand to encourage students. Positive feedback for students? Spectacular idea and something they'll really appreciate. However-- Thomas Kinkade? Surely you can be more creative than that. What kind of 16-year old thrills at the sight of a rustic country cottage? Instead, go for something really cool, like Roadside Diner Greeting Cards or, if you're an English teacher, Jane Austen Note Cards!

25. Avoid group work. I think this is all up to the teacher. I plan to become certified in the Tribes method of teaching, so personally I think group work can be incredibly beneficial. It also goes back to my point about #16, learning to function as an adult in society. We'll agree to disagree.

41. Students don't have to relate to content to learn. Another fundamental teaching style difference for the esteemed Mr. Huston and myself. I guess I fall into the category of "PC" teachers he has little respect for, but I think it makes learning more fun if a kid can make a connection between something he or she might see as stupid or pointless and their own life, which one assumes he or she considers neither stupid nor pointless. I'll still make my students study things they claim not to relate to if it's part of the curriculum and my lesson plan, but I'll make an effort to present things in a way that makes learning fun as often as I can.

47. If you have problems with a student, confer with his/her other teachers. This is smart, and something I might not have thought of myself. You're not alone in your classroom-- the other teachers are there to help you out. Even if a problem student's math teacher doesn't have the answers to your questions, you'll be able to collaborate to find a way to improve the situation and present a united front if parents and administrators become involved.

49. Collect homework as soon as the day starts. I could not agree more. I've pulled the old "I handed it in, you must have lost it" before (very long ago), and I'm not going to fall for that with my students. In my classroom, students will hand in their assignments when they walk in the door and I will make note of who has submitted work within 15 minutes of the class starting. Anyone who has failed to hand something in will be spoken to quietly before the period has ended to inform them of the consequences of their late assignment.

50. Never, ever take any work home with you. I just don't think this is realistic. I'll still have to take work home with me, it's the nature of the job. I'll be volunteering with extra-curriculars and planning lessons for the first several years, so I'll need some time outside of school to do marking. That being said, I'll be very careful to separate my work and home life. If you're stressed at school, the worst possible thing to do is to bring that stress into your only relaxing hours. Do anything you can to preserve your sanity!

I must say, having read through Jamie's tips again, I found more things that I disagreed with than I remembered from the first time around. I appreciate that though, because I really do feel like I have a coherent view of myself as an educator; I know what works for me and what doesn't. Did you have any especially positive or negative reactions to Jamie's first list? Let us know!

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Courtney posted at 7:22 PM - Comments (5)


In grade twelve we decorated our English teacher's classroom without his approval. Specifically, we put up mutliple paper cut-outs of rabbits, and then pretended there weren't any rabbits. It was awesome.

That was supposed to relate to the poster point.

By Blogger Christian H, at August 6, 2009 at 11:15 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Ashley, at August 8, 2009 at 7:39 PM  

I read through the tips, but didn't have time to comment before. I agree with most of your reactions (and I loved learning what I have about the Tribes method of teaching, it's such a great idea).

Some of this stuff is covered in the book I am reading for Prof 191, Impact Teaching (the book definitely promotes keeping your students engaged in the material). For the comfort question I believe the book says that it is important for your students to be comfortable to a degree (if they are too comfortable they can get bored so its a good idea to change their surroundings once and a while).

For number 50, I have actually heard of teachers that prefer not to take their work home with them (they go to school early and leave a little later than the end of the school day). I might consider trying this one and seeing how it works out (if it can't be avoided then I will set a specific area at home to do my work).

By Blogger Ashley, at August 8, 2009 at 7:43 PM  

I might have to borrow that book from you in the fall!

The first month of practicum will definitely be a trial-and-error period in a lot of different ways. I'm going to try to get all my work done on the bus, but there's a good chance I might have to use some of my Saturday to plan lessons. I don't mind working a bit at home or in the library, so it's not a big deal for me. To each their own, I guess!

I can't wait to learn more about Tribes teaching. I went to a really great seminar on it during the last Education conference at Queen's and it seems like the ideal teaching method for me.

By Blogger Courtney, at August 10, 2009 at 10:04 AM  

And Christian, that sounds hilarious. I always preferred the classrooms with a bit of character to the ones that had plain beige walls. It's just sort of demoralizing not to have something to brighten up the space.

By Blogger Courtney, at August 10, 2009 at 10:05 AM  

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