What I’ve Learned Throughout My Years in Public Education

10 of the Most Important Things I’ve learned in my years in education.

When I started working in schools I was about 21 years old and my first job was as a day to day substitute teacher.  Today, I am a school counselor, and have been so for over ten years.  Whether in the classroom or in the counseling office there are some things that have been consistent throughout my years in education.

  1. Everyone Knows What Needs to be done.  Most of teacher trainings seem very repetitive and recycled information, yet keeping motivation to put it into practice daily and consistently proves challenging. Helping teachers stay motivated should be offered as a training to administrators and district heads.
  2. Engaging Students Works.  Students may moan and groan about a teacher that makes them work but they appreciate it. A teacher trying different approaches to make learning fun will make it more likely for the student to put more effort in class.
  3. Students Do Not Take Well to Sarcasm.  Even elementary school kids can tell when an educator is being sarcastic.  As a counselor, this is one of most frequent complaints I’ve ever gotten from students.  Using sarcasm to correct a behavior will lead students to lose respect.
  4. Technology is a Great Tool in the Classroom.  Tech is not the future, is the present and it makes a great tool in the classroom when used appropriately. However, just giving an electronic device to a student does not make it an effective lesson.
  5. Every Student Can Learn.  While students all learn in different ways and they will not all reach the same levels, getting them just one step ahead will make them feel empowered. Preparing a lesson with the mindset that they students are not going to get it will sets the bar low for the educator and the student.
  6. Demonstrating Personal Interest Opens the Doors to Learning.  Something as simple as greeting or noticing a student’s’ absence and letting them know they were missed will make them more likely to keep coming back to your class/school.  Everyone likes to feel liked.
  7. Respect is a Two Way Street.  “Do as I say Not as I do” is ineffective.  While showing respect towards students will not always be immediately reciprocated (particularly with challenging students), they do expect more from educated adults.  And believe it or not, eventually they will begin showing you respect. Keep in mind, many may not know what respect is supposed to look like, so be an example.
  8. Most Days Educators Exclaim While Shaking Their Heads, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!”  The things that we encounter while working in schools would make a popular reality TV show, some sad some unbelievably ironic, yet we come back.
  9. Words Can Hurt As Much as Sticks and Stones.  The things educators say to students make a lasting impact.  We often say, if we don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But silence, as well as negative body language can also be hurtful.  Finding something positive about every student is very important, you don’t need to like them the same way they don’t have to like you, but respect and appreciation has to be evident in our actions.
  10.  “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business” The Godfather, 1972.   We are in the business of educating students, taking their misbehaviors/mistakes as an attack to your person will make you ineffective, and will make your job dreadful.  Remember to tell yourself, “Today Is  New Day!” and act like it.

And of course, if you’re an educator you already know all this.  But at least you didn’t have to go out of your way to attend a lame professional development meeting administered by folks that may not have any actual school experience to tell you something you already knew. Anyway, more of this another time 😉