How To Be A Teacher

This past Friday I finished summer school! I completed five classes in 7.5 weeks.  These will all go toward my teaching credential and M.Ed. And if you didn’t already know, I also did some “apprentice teaching” last semester.  It was basically tutoring.  Except the people your tutoring don’t really want your help.

This means I am now officially an expert and am qualified to give you advice on teaching and will ask you repeatedly if you are doing what I told you to do and how it working out for you because I know everything except how to not write run-on sentences because I got my degree in math and not English.

So here we go.

How To Be A Teacher:

  1. Always be eating an apple.
  2. And request them as gifts.
  3. Use words to convey information.
  4. Pictures are nice too.
  5. Learn to like people below the age of 18.
  6. Use fancy words like “differentiated learning” and “social curriculum” around other teachers.
  7. Use words like”swag” and “Snookie” around your students.
  8. If possible, relate every lesson to Harry Potter. (Example: Integers :: Proper Fractions as Muggle Platforms :: Wizard Platforms.)
  9. Stop shopping in the young adults section.
  10. What’s that? You don’t look like an 18 year old? You have a beard? Stop bragging.
  11. Don’t have a Facebook. Make your Facebook private/unsearchable.
  12. That’s all I got.

In all seriousness, I am starting student teaching in less than a month. You have all been students. Some of you are teachers. Give me your best advice. Go.

  1. Grandma said:

    Just be your irresistible self! You already know how to switch hats according to which group you are communicating with. If Snookie is a role model to the upcoming generation we are all lost! LOL

    • Brynn said:

      Thanks Grandma! Ha I will work to make sure they have better role models! 🙂

  2. As a teacher who is frequently lost among the sea of tall students, I feel I am an expert in this category! Here is my own list for you:

    1. Don’t just dress old, act old. Walk around with confidence. If you look intimidated by the students, they will walk all over you.
    2. Stay out of the teacher’s lounge (unless they’re talking about something really juicy). It’s a great way to make enemies (or allies, depending on how much you offer to the conversation!)
    3. Be prepared. I’m sure that one isn’t an issue for you, but make sure you have your lessons planned AND think of everything that could go wrong in case you need to make last minute changes. This one also relates to #1. The other teacher’s might tease you for being/looking young, but if you’re a great teacher, the teasing will stop there.
    4. Don’t just be a “student teacher”. Act like you’re getting paid and this is your full time job. Honestly, student teaching is the best connection you’ll have to get a job, so don’t take advantage of it. My last student teaching assignment ended up hiring me before my assignment was over because they didn’t want me to leave. You never know who is watching you!
    5. Learn as much as possible from your Master Teacher! Even if that teacher sucks, learn what NOT to do. Take advice from anyone who will give it…
    6. And most importantly, get to know the kids and have fun with them. However, don’t cross the teacher/student line (or you’ll be stuck with people thinking you’re a student again!) Kids keep you young and hip. We can all learn a thing or two from them.

    Hope these things help 🙂 You’ll love it!

    • Brynn said:

      This is a great list! Thank you so much! Great to hear from someone who has recently gone through this!

  3. Rachel said:

    Brynn!! you’re gonna be amazing. I always liked teachers who were structured but had a personality. Structure made things predictable and made me try harder and know what to do because it was clearly communicated what was expected. But they were never strict as they had an easy going personality. Students can always tell if you’re being real or not! you’re awesome!! you were MADE for teaching.

    • Brynn said:

      Thanks Rachie! I’m definitely gonna have to work on the structure part! Super important. It’s just a matter of figuring out what structure works best and sticking with it! 🙂

  4. Tyler said:

    Set your discipline expectations and don’t waiver on them.

    Try not to care about whether or not students will like you, remember you’re much much cooler than them.

    Don’t leave pens out because they will disappear.

    Just say whatever you want, theyll believe you.

    Don’t yell, ever.

    Have fun with it and stay positive.

    Hoard binder clips.

    • Brynn said:

      Awesome advice….and I shall remember to hoard those binder clips.

  5. Tyler’s first is an excellent one. I would add: Learn your discipline options up front. Every school has different rules. Don’t go in expecting your children to be terrors. Do go in prepared to deal with terrors smoothly, knowing what arsenal you have available. If you already know your options, you’re less likely to have that “oh no, what do I do?” moment if they hit you with an authority challenge.

    Don’t yell is also good advice. If you lose your temper, they win. The ability to project an unexpected “I mean business” voice without losing control or yelling is golden, however. Reserve it for that critical “regain control moment.” Ask my K-2 Sunday School class about the time three boys thought they could talk over me. :>

    Identify the intelligent bored kids. Where allowed by school curriculum policy, I’d consider having some worksheets from a higher level of and when you identify a kid who’s getting finished 30 minutes before everyone else because it’s easy for him or her, take a worksheet by their desk and tell them if they’re done with the work they can try these for a challenge if they like. Make sure you have the answers to them and understand them, in case the kids ask. 😉 This can be a way to keep the smart kids from becoming troublemakers out of boredom. I learned this tip from my 5th Grade math teacher, who handed me a folder of 6th Grade sheets I could work on any time I finished the classwork early as long as my grades kept up. Now that I think about it, I think my mom may have had a hand in arranging it. And don’t be afraid to let kids who might not really be ready for it give it a shot if they want to try; try to make it no pressure if they don’t get something, but encourage them to try if they want to try, as long as they do good work on their normal classwork.

    • Brynn said:

      Great advice!
      It is definitely critical to reserve that voice for those critical moments!
      Thanks for chiming in! And I applaud your ability to overcome the HTML overlords.

  6. That should be “from a higher level of -insert subject here-” only I keep forgetting that comment areas treat as HTML tags and hide anything I put them around. 😛

    • Let’s try this: < > If that doesn’t work, just know that I put the less than and greater than symbols around the text and it vanished because it tried to treat it as code. You are a math person so you know what those symbols are even if this comment prevents me from typing them.

      • Ha! Finally beat it.Our computer overlords will not have the victory this day. 😉

  7. unemployed teacher said:


    I am only slightly farther along than you in this whole process, so its all fresh in my memory!

    1) So you look like you’re 18…join the club! I go out of my way to dress professionally and carry myself professionally so there is no question who is in charge. Honestly, both you and your students will forget that you look young after a month or so when you have earned their respect.

    2) Earn their respect. At first be harder on students (especially given above circumstances). Enforce all the rules equally, and don’t make exceptions. If they think there is wiggle room they will try to find it. You can only teach when there is order in the classroom, so refuse to teach until its quiet. It was really hard for me at first, but otherwise you teach them its okay to disrespect you. Trust me students get just as frustrated at chaos in the classroom as we do. They won’t feel safe enough to trust you with sharing their lives if they don’t feel like you can create a safe and fair environment for everyone. (AKA order =witness…counterintuitive?)

    3) Clearly communicate your expectations. Before you step foot in the classroom, know what you want and have a system in place. Do students have to turn in work on time? Where can they find missed assignments? What are classroom behavior rules? What happens if they are violated? How does grading/collecting papers work? What does the daily classroom operation look like? (How should students come into the classroom? Where are Instructions displayed? What happens at the beginning middle and end of class everyday?) Procedures make your life EASIER. Come up with classroom procedures to answer all these questions. Tell them to students, write it in a syllabus, post it on the wall, and spend time talking about it the first week. Remind them of where to find it when they forget.

    3) You can’t change the life of every student, so don’t feel like you are failing if some students are choosing to fail. Help them to the best of your ability. Try to give them pep talks, homework/behavior contracts, talk to their parents/school counselor, try to get through to them on their level. Make them communicate to you what the problem is. Empower them to be the solution though- don’t make yourself the solution. Even still, in the end some kids will choose to fail. Use the best weapon you have for the long-term life change of these students: PRAYER.

    4) Ask open-ended and relevant questions as much as possible (i realize this will be harder in math), and/or don’t just take one answer and move on. Otherwise 95% of the the class has just tuned out. Get students working with each other to find solutions or just to explain to each other how they arrived at their solution. Seat students intentionally to create good group/partner work, and have specific expectations/ results.

    5) Have fun! Involve your students ideas, play sponge bob after a test (just make sure you can explain this with the proper jargon to administrators), joke with students. Don’t do this right away. But once you get to know your students well, and are comfortable in front of the class it will come easily. Share about your life, and find out about your students’ lives. It makes being up there less intimidating for you and more enjoyable for all!

    • Brynn said:

      Thanks Carrie! Awesome reminder about prayer. And I gotta know what “sponge bob” is (as a classroom game, not the tv show!). Also, it’s great to hear advice from someone who also worked at Madison!

  8. unemployed teacher said:

    sorry its a novel!

  9. Elementary or secondary? The advice is different for each.

    Elementary: Watch the wigglers. They may need the bathroom sooner than you’d think.

    Secondary: Be aware of what’s going on in the classroom, not just what you’re teaching at the moment. I have gotten in exactly THREE classroom brawls where the teacher didn’t even notice.

    Good luck!

    • Brynn said:

      Thank you!
      And it’ll be secondary math
      About those fights…*shaking my head at those teachers*.

  10. I’m in the student teaching boat with you, just on a different deck like the galley you’re not eating in because you’re busy on the bow of the ship reenacting the king-of-the-world scene from Titanic.

    I was seriously hoping I would have gray hairs by the time I started teaching, now that I’m 28. It’s okay though, a 19-year-old thought I was 20 this summer.

    • Brynn said:

      20! That’s not bad…moving on up and outta the teens!

    • When you hit your mid-30s, you’ll be glad they still think you’re in your 20s. I’m currently approaching that mark. I’ll be 35 next birthday, and still get 23-25 as age guesses. 🙂

  11. Brynn!

    I’m so excited that you made your way to “Lessons From Teachers and Twits.” I don’t know what level you are teaching, but I think this advice is very different from what I have seen.

    Brace yourself.

    You are going to have some very sucky days. Seriously sucky, hard days. Harder than you ever imagined. Days where nothing goes as planned and then you find yourself staying up really late planning for the next day because you’ll have to. Because if you don’t, you won’t have any material. So you will have have to stay up. Really late. And you’ll want to quit. You will want to. And it’s okay to feel that way. It is important to have identified the person you will go to when you start to have that first meltdown. Figure that out early. I had that day during my first year of teaching, and I found my department chair and I cried to her over a bowl of red beans and rice. I blubbered and wept and I begged her not to hate me forever if I quit right then and there. Thankfully, she gave me a great strategy.

    She told me to just give the kids a reading day.

    I didn’t know I could do that.

    I sooooo needed permission to not know what I was doing. And I made it through the day. And the year. And here I am, twenty years later.

    So I don’t know what grade level you have, but big kids are psyched to do their homework and little kids are usually psyched to read or color. You can be there, but not be there. And later, you can have a good cry. Really long and loud in your car. And you’ll be okay.

    • Brynn said:

      Renee, this is great advice. Definitely something that I needed to hear. Thank you so much!
      I know those days and nights are coming, and it’s so good to hear how you dealt with it.
      And especially that there is no shame having a bad day!

  12. Dusty said:

    From a math teacher to a math teacher:
    On average, make sure that your students are doing math more than you are. I really like math, and I’m really good at it, but I don’t need to do everything for my students. It’s hard, but I try to throw as many questions back at them and see what happens.
    Also, don’t fall in love with any of your students.
    “The More You Know…”

    • Brynn said:

      Both solid pieces of advice. And I always pay close attention to PSA’s.

  13. mom said:

    I’m so proud of you Brynn. So good to see you put this out there and get all this amazing feedback. Like I said, you are my redemption for being a failed student. In the ’70s, during “forced integration,” in the San Fernando Valley, all I learned from my angry African American math teacher is how mad he was about what was happening, misguiding his anger towards us (not our fault and I totally “got” his anger later on in life, but I loved everyone all the time ~ which is why I was a lousy math student too. way toooooo social back then) He used our seat and row number to call us out (I was even stupid at that, “what? C-9? is that me?” I would have to look around and count, before I stood up to be humiliated with a math problem). I also learned that most of my white teachers were drunk, my French teacher was a communist (seriously, talk about spit landing on you as she spoke) and it was so much better to get lost in cheerleading and pretend I was actually going somewhere. Think I was “tracked” to be a housewife and I don’t regret any of it, or I wouldn’t be able to have this “teaching moment” to you all above. “Never stop believing, even on your worst days, that you can help at least one student, like me.” It was my African American English teacher that took her time with me and made me love and appreciate the classics and want to write, when I was young. Although, I never ended up doing anything with that love, I got a good enough grade to balance out my D in Math and graduate. I will never forget her. Thank you for that Miss Emily Kemp. Wish I could have told her that in person.

  14. After reading your Meaning vs Method post over on the math blog, I thought of one more thing that needs mentioning as a new teacher.

    Be prepared that you may meet many people in the schools who don’t share your enthusiasm for kids or learning. All those bad teachers your mom mentions above still exist (not necessarily the same people, of course, but the types). From friends in teaching and teacher’s assistanting (is that a word?) I’d say that some days, the ones making you want to cry will be administrators and co-workers who are there for the paycheck and not for the kids, because you’ll see the harm they do and may not be able to do a thing to change it. The things about keeping your self-control with difficult students can also apply to difficult co-workers or superiors. Hopefully you won’t need them, but having in mind how you would handle some situations doesn’t hurt.

    Sometimes you may come under pressure to do something that isn’t in keeping with your integrity as a person and as a teacher. As with students, pick your battles in terms of verbal conflicts, but keep your integrity above all else. Watch for small sins. Don’t compromise your principles. Remember that your ultimate responsibilty for the choices you make is to God, not to the people around you. Make the decision to live and teach with integrity up front, and if nothing arises, you’ve done yourself no harm by planning, and if something does arise, you’ll be better prepared and equipped to find the right course.

    I also suspect if you sick your mom and grandma on any particularly troublesome persons that they will regret ever bothering you. 😉 Even if it’s just mom and grandma’s prayers.

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