Advise to the Teaching Class of 07: Yes … the Future of the Nation Does Rest on Your Shoulders!

On Wednesday, August 22nd, 3000 or so new teachers will crowd into the Jacob Javits Center and hear pearls of wisdom from Joel Klein, and some other DOE types … I keep waiting for my invite to speak … must be caught up in that pre-Xmas mail rush … but … I’m ready!

My advise to the class of 2007:

1. Jog! Ride your bike! Go to the Gym! Meditate! Yoga!

Do something to relieve the mental and physical wear and tear. The first days/weeks/months will be a roller coaster: exhalation, despair, frustration, hope, and, maybe all in the same day. New teachers “wear down,” get sick, drag themselves to work … a formula for disaster. Take care of yourself!

2. Find Some Friends!

Locked away with kids all day, day after day is isolating … you begin to feel lonely, misunderstood, with no one to bitch with and complain to … lunch with your “posse,” exchange ideas, successes, failures, and, yes, find a local “watering place” to drown those sorrows on Fridays.

3. Experienced Teachers Can Be Helpful …

Colleagues can helpful, or incredibly cruel, especially when they shout, “you’ll never make it,” after your first week! On the other hand there are kind and generous colleagues who will share ideas, materials, lesson plans, and, provide a shoulder to cry on.

4. The Kids Don’t Only Hate You, Just Everyone Over the Age of Twelve!

To Sunni, Shiite, Taliban add early adolescence to the list of sects and tribes. You are not their friend or their parent … be strict, consistent and fair … you don’t negotiate with eleven year olds! They don’t have to like you, they have to respect you.

5. How Much Do You Know About the Hip-Hop Star of the Moment? Learn!

The Tribe called adolescents has it’s own vocabulary, heroes, dress code, code of conduct and “street cred.” The more you understand the more you’ll find those “teachable moments.”

6. I’m the Principal, I’m Here to Help you … (and all that jive ..)

Your Principal has an enormously complx and difficult job … listen to him/her, accept ideas that you find helpful, don’t tell him/her how they should do their job … some Principals are wonderful leaders and guides, others crass and spiteful … and most fall somewhere in the middle … check out the “grapevine” on the UFT.Org website to see colleague comments.

7. Become An Active Union Member!

Who is your building union rep? Ask them: can I go with you to the Delegate Assembly? Volunteer for union committees, attend School Leadership Team meetings, the union is your organization … become part of a the union movement … read the union blogsite … … comment … get involved!

8. Have Patience … It Will Get Better (or, should get better)!

After a few weeks, months, a year, two or three it should begin to get better … you’ll never get rich, no stock options, but, meeting someone a few years later who bubbles, points to you, and shrieks, “Miss Smith changed my life …” There’s nothing better!


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