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

“Don’t hit the kids and don’t hit on the kids.”

That is brilliant. It's apt, concise, and clever. While Jamie Huston posted his first set of tips right before the beginning of the school year, his second set comes at the end of that school year. So it's interesting just to note that these are 50 more tips he's learned simply by teaching for a year.

One thing I do want to note about this list is that while Courtney and I don't agree with everything, Jamie has at least made it clear that these are his personal opinions and that we should take everything with a grain of salt. So the fact that he is open-minded enough to acknowledge this instantly strikes me favorably and I would like to make a similar reminder to anyone who reads our blog. That being said...

A Response to 50 More Things New Teachers Need To Know

3. Always remember: administrators are politicians. Many, perhaps most, are personable and caring, and try to support you and help students, but nobody ever became an administrator for those reasons. No, people get office jobs because it offers more salary and authority, and any administrator’s first priority will always be protecting their own career. If you ever end up having a serious problem with a parent or student, your administrators might defend you…but don’t count on it. You can like your leaders, but don’t ever trust them. The risk to yourself is too great.

I found this interesting because it's the first time I had ever really heard this kind of comment. I don't have enough knowledge to agree or disagree either way (maybe some of you do) but I think it's something we should keep an eye on during our upcoming year of prac. Or at least think about.

5. Make copies of good and bad examples of student writing (anonymously, of course–scratch out any visible names) that you’ve corrected, and use them in class to show how papers should be edited. Students love this, and it’s a powerful, practical lesson (also, a good routine). Make transparency copies, or see if your school has those new projectors that display normal papers.

This I also find to be a point that could either way. I had a university prof do this once and I do agree, it was helpful. But I wasn't the poor sod whose essay got ripped apart (albeit anonymously). I suppose, even if I was, I'd be ok with it. But I would be. I don't know how other students would respond to seeing their essay on a transparancy and then hearing "Now this... whoo boy... this is how NOT to write an essay!" (<-- don't say this).

8. Be careful about missing days of work. Any plans you leave for a sub will probably be ruined, and if you purposely leave busy work to avoid that problem, it’s still a wasted day for the class.

This I agree with - and I'm sure anyone who's ever experienced having a substitute teacher, either as a student, or a student-teacher, will agree. There have been times when I have simply volunteered to cover my host teacher with an actual lesson during her absence and this has worked just fine. But I have also, in earlier pracs, experienced a class in which the teacher simply left busy work... that did not go over well. This is not to say that you should never take sick days. You know, you gotta do what you gotta do. But the point remains; your absence is not good for the class.

17. Don’t volunteer to be an adviser for any clubs, activities, or teams your first year. These are a lot of work. Schools like to take advantage of new teachers and sell them on running things, but you need to focus on your classroom before investing time in other stuff. I knew one guy who went to a bad school his first year and was given the yearbook and the student newspaper to do. That was a ton of work, and it nearly smothered him. If you have an activity or sport you love, feel free to throw your hat in the ring to run it…your second year teaching.

Eh... I don't know about this one. We've spoken about this before. No, it's not good to overload yourself with work your first year. But I mean, if you really enjoy something, I don't see why you shouldn't go for it. It'll give you a chance to do something with your students that you both enjoy, it might give them a chance to know you as someone other than their heinous English (or Math or Science or whatever) teacher who won't stop trying to get them to write in the active voice.

18. When students come into your room before or after school, the first thing you need to do is prop the door open.

Fact. Let's not forget this one.

24. When a male teacher sees a female student obnoxiously out of dress code, he needs to ask a female colleague to talk to her and take the appropriate action. Men, do not approach this yourself and open yourself up to potential problems or accusations by “noticing” a tube top or short shorts or whatever. Women, please don’t resent having to pick up the slack on this. Actually, you’ll have a better chance of impressing better choices for appearance on these girls than any man would, anyway.

This one is also interesting. I have never been told this before but when I think about it, it's actually probably a good idea. Teaching is one of the only professions I know that can be a lot more difficult for men - and it's because of this kind of stuff. I remember someone coming to talk to us in prof class and she was like "Statistics show that 33% of male teachers get accused/charged with a sexual offense in their lifetime". The guys in the class (all 6 of us) look at each other and we were all like "Hmm... I wonder which 2 of us it'll be". The advice I have always been given, no matter who I talk to, is always better to be safe than sorry.

27. If your room has an intercom or speakers for the school to ring bells or make announcements, see if you can muffle them by taping some foam or padding over them. Those things get loud and they’re irritating.

So I'm supposed to muffle important announcements and the bell that indicates when the class begins and ends. Seriously, how irritating can that actually get? I don't know if I'll be doing this. I... simply see no reason why it's necessary.

32. Don’t be a gum Nazi. It isn’t worth it. Yes, this means there’s a slightly higher chance that some will end up under desks or even on the floor, but that risk just doesn’t justify constant vigilance on your part. You have too much else to do. Yes, get on their case if they blow bubbles or play with it, but the vast majority of kids never will.

There was one time, when I was in high school, where I was "caught" chewing gum. I wasn't chewing it obnoxiously, I wasn't talking with it in my mouth, I wasn't blowing bubbles or anything, I wasn't even chewing with my mouth open. It was the period after lunch and I simply forgot it was there. My teacher (who happened to be a gum nazi), gave me a lecture and I had to clean his boards after school. Before this incident, I always considered him a pretty good teacher. I lost all respect for him. He asked me the next year (grade 12) why I wasn't taking any of his courses (since I was probably one of his best students). I told him I couldn't fit it into my schedule. The real reason? Yeah, the gum incident. Moral of the story. DON'T BE A GUM NAZI. The bad kids do it anyway and the good kids hate the fact that you're an anal retentive. But by all means, if your students are being obnoxious with their gum, hammer down.

35. PC Myth #6: “Multiculturalism is important.” No it isn’t. Maybe minority cultures play an important role in your subject, or a certain part of it, and maybe not. Whichever way happens to be the truth, your subject is what it is. Don’t warp it to suit anyone’s agenda.

Yeah it is. Why? Because when he says "your subject is what it is," what he's really saying is "your subject has been written by the dominant culture/ethnicity that claims to be objective when it really isn't". The agenda has been warped. We are merely unwarping it. Definition of multiculturalism: making sure that each culture gets credit where credit is due. Just because they haven't historically been given credit for the part they play doesn't mean that's how your "subject is".

44. Trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and bottled water are your friends. Keep a stash in your desk.

Every year when I teach, I always forget to bring a bottle of water with me into my first class. I always regret it. Ms. V. says that when you do it for long enough, your body naturally produces a saliva surplus that you automatically use to quench your thirst. I personally prefer a bottle of water. But that's up to you; if you want to salivate into a mug and use it as a fluid reserve... whatever floats your boat.

46. Avoid or be very strict about student presentations using PowerPoint. I know “technology is the wave of the future,” but most of these presentations are mind numbingly dull. Students come to rely on clip art animation and just read text from the screen.

Disclaimer for using Powerpoint in my class: your marks are not based on the number of times your text rolls around the screen before finally coming to a stop.

50. Take all advice with a grain of salt. Though there are simple, established things that are more effective than others (read Marzano’s Classroom Instruction That Works), teaching is still more of an art than a science. Everybody thinks they’re a good teacher, but not everybody’s right. Be skeptical about all experts and even “research” (which is rarely as objective as proponents would like you to think). Yes, this includes my lists. All fifty (or 100 total) of these things will not work for everybody. But many will. Your only two sure guides are common sense and experience. Take good notes, always be open to change, be flexible to responding to the needs of specific classes, and pay attention to everything. You’ll do great.

See, he even includes this in his list.

So in the end, I do have to say that he's less... crotchety after a year of teaching. Either that or he got all his crochety tips out of the way first and these are more learning experiences. But the point is, like he says, we're all going to encouter things that work for us and things that don't. Courtney is right, though. It's only by examining other people's teaching styles do you really understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own.

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Jonathan posted at 8:12 PM - Comments (8)


I read through his archive and he describes an actual experience in which he sent a girl to the office for her inappropriately plunging neckline, only to be confronted with the kid and her screeching mother at the end of the day because he apparently had no business even setting eyes below her neck. So very good advice.

By Blogger Courtney, at August 6, 2009 at 9:35 PM  

Also, I'm so glad you made the point about multi-culturalism. That's my main beef with him, he's completely wrong about diversity.

By Blogger Courtney, at August 6, 2009 at 9:37 PM  

Ok, I've already commented a zillion times; I promise this is the last time!

My favourite teacher ever had us do a lot of Powerpoint presentations, but he had strict guidelines for them. We weren't allowed to read off the screen and we had to follow the 6x6, 24 rule: No more that six lines per slide, with no more than six words per line, in 24-pt font. It worked pretty well, but I do still remember being bored after the 5th presentation in a row. I learned a ton about doing presentations and speaking publicly though, so it was worth it.

By Blogger Courtney, at August 6, 2009 at 9:41 PM  

Trail mix, granola bars, and nuts are an awful idea, actually. Killing allergic kids is not advocated in schools, last time I checked.

By Blogger Christian H, at August 6, 2009 at 11:10 PM  

I'm hoping that my allergic kids in high school are at least smart enough to carry around epi-pens. And I'm pretty sure that schools aren't nut-free environments so I mean, they survive somehow don't they? And IF it was an issue, I'm sure it would be on the kid's IEP or health report. I'm going to assume that Jamie Huston's habit of keeping nuts in his desk hasn't landed him in trouble yet or else he wouldn't be recommending it to us.

By Blogger Jonathan, at August 7, 2009 at 1:39 AM  

Jon: I agree with most of what you have to say here. I had a similar assignment to number 5 in one of the Music Education courses, though there were differences that I feel worked well. We were all given an assignment written by a different student with instructions on how to edit it (we also had to write a critical response to the paper). These papers did not have the students name on them, nor did we receive the peer edited paper back (we did receive the copy that the professor marked). It's really amazing what you can find wrong in someone's writing that you would miss in your own. However, I agree that it would not be a nice experience to see your own paper being edited in front of the entire class (even if it is anonymous).
As for the gum thing, I wouldn't go as far as giving a student detention, but I will ask them to spit it out (particularly in a music class where gum might cause damage to certain wind instruments).

By Blogger Ashley, at August 8, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

Oh definitely, music class is a different thing. No one chews gum in my music class. Are they insane? That's like wearing dress shoes for gym class.

By Blogger Jonathan, at August 9, 2009 at 12:31 AM  

I wish I had these when I trained...

No. 24 is a real problem for us male teachers, it can be a very uncomfortable situation.

Cheers for checking out my blog.

By Blogger Duke Fandango, at August 10, 2009 at 11:02 AM  

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