I’ll take a break from my relentless critique of TFA to offer some teaching advice to the new corps members. Having written two books of teaching advice, I was invited, a few months ago, to write a short article for Educational Leadership Magazine with the best advice I’d give to new teachers.
I decided to focus on common rookie mistakes which you want to avoid. Here is the beginning of the article ‘The Don’ts and Don’ts of Teaching.’ You can click on the link to read the rest. Also, teachers are welcome to add their own mistakes to avoid in the comments.
The Don’ts and Don’ts of Teaching
One piece of advice that I’ve seen in numerous books about teaching is to always phrase classroom rules positively. Instead of phrasing a rule as “no talking,” for instance, teachers should phrase it as “talk in turn.” The theory, I suppose, is that when students are told not to do one thing without being told what they should do instead, they may not know their options. Proponents also argue that phrasing rules in the positive is less confrontational; rebellious students will be less apt to break a positively stated procedure than a negatively worded rule.
I don’t buy this. For new teachers, especially, classroom rules need to be rules, and a rule should be stated in the clearest way possible. Many of the most important rules adults have to abide by are written in the negative: No parking. No dogs allowed. Do not disturb. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. Thou shalt not kill.
The same books that suggest this positive approach to rule making often take a similar approach to the rules they suggest new teachers should abide by. But just as it’s wrong to be too subtle when instructing children, it’s wrong to be too subtle when instructing new teachers. This is particularly true when the teachers are trained through a crash-course alternative certification program.