A New Guide for New Teachers
Tips on classroom management, record keeping, and more.
An EducationWorld.com "Wire Side Chat"
I remember my first day teaching -- back in the day. After a half-day
of staff meetings, a tour of the building with the school secretary, and
a hearty good luck from my building principal, I was on my own, with 30
quivering kindergarteners. Some were crying (or their mothers were);
some were sucking their thumbs (or their fathers were); a few were
screaming in the hall, refusing to enter the room at all. The rest were
dismantling the bookcase, teasing the rabbit, over-feeding the fish, and
getting grimy fingerprints all over my freshly covered bulletin boards.
Suddenly, I felt a migraine coming on. The year went downhill from
The situation is different today, of course. For one thing, today's
new teachers can rely on the advice of Yvonne Bender and her
New Teacher's Handbook.
Included: Tips on classroom management, record keeping, getting along
with parents and administrators, more.
Yvonne Bender, the author of the recently released
New Teacher's Handbook,
has 30 years experience teaching in the Baltimore, Maryland, public
schools. A nominee for Maryland Teacher of the Year, Bender has taught
reading, English, math, history, social studies, and science to
emotionally disturbed, learning disabled, gifted, and average students
in elementary, middle, and high schools. Throughout her career, Bender
advised and mentored numerous teacher-interns and first year teachers.
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of
Baltimore in 1968 and a Master of Education degree from Loyola College
in 1974, Bender continued post-graduate courses in education, student
teaching, and liberal studies at Towson University from 1968 through
1991. For several years, Bender also taught graduate level courses in
methods and curriculum at Loyola.
Bender currently holds a Maryland State Department of Education
advanced professional teaching certificate for English (grades 5-12) and
special education (K-12) and is a retired member of the National
Education Association, The Maryland State Teachers' Association, and The
Teachers' Association of Baltimore County.
Bender, who also is the author of A Parent's Guide to Child
Control or Who's the Boss Here, Anyway? lives in Baltimore,
Recently, Education World asked Bender to share her classroom secrets
-- and survival tactics -- with our readers!
Education World: Why did you decide to write
The New Teacher's Handbook?
Yvonne Bender: Throughout my teaching career, I mentored many
talented teachers who were disillusioned and frustrated during their
first year in the classroom, because they weren't properly prepared for
the realities and demands of their new profession. As I reviewed the
written materials available to help them, I found the majority offered
impractical strategies and motivational platitudes. So, I decided to
write a book for new teachers that actually delineated the realities and
demands of teaching, and offered viable strategies for dealing with
EW: What are the three most important things a new teacher
should do to prepare for his or her first year?
YB: In order to prepare for their first year, new teachers
need to learn as much as they can about their students, their school's
policies and procedures, and the curriculum they are to teach.
EW: Most back-to-school articles recommend that students help
write their own classroom rules, and that those rules be written as
"dos" ("Do respect your classmates' right to learn"), instead of
"don'ts" ("Don't talk when others are working"). Is that good advice for
new teachers too?
YB: Because it takes a great deal of skill to not only elicit
viable rules from students, but also to work with them in the
egalitarian atmosphere created after having done so, it's not a good
idea for inexperienced teachers to use this rule-writing procedure. (If
it's school policy to have students help write their own rules, the new
teacher should prepare a list of rules and work diligently to elicit
those rules from his students.) Rules should be worded so they are
crystal clear and unambiguous; the rule, "Don't talk when others are
working" is clearer and less open to interpretation (and argument) than
the rule, "Do respect your classmates' right to learn."
EW: How should a new teacher who's having difficulty with
behavior management deal with the situation?
YB: First, new teachers must understand that behavior
management is a challenge to all teachers because many variables are
involved; there are no pat answers to behavior management problems. To
resolve those difficulties, a teacher must make an objective assessment
of what's actually happening in the classroom by asking such questions
Honest answers to those kinds of probing questions will help the
teacher pinpoint the areas she needs to work on to solve behavior
management problems. If behavior problems have escalated to the point
that the teacher seldom, if ever, can complete a lesson, however, she
must seek (in writing) the help of an appropriate mentor, chairperson,
supervisor, or administrator.
EW: Many parents view inexperienced teachers with a certain
degree of wariness. How can a new teacher quickly gain parents' trust?
YB: Parents' trust is gained through open, honest, and
frequent communication. That communication needs to begin early in the
school year with an introductory phone call or letter and continue
throughout the year with every effort being made to keep parents
informed of positive as well as negative happenings. That type of
communication helps parents understand that the teacher is working in
their children's best interest.
EW: In your book, you talk about the "golden rule for
communicating with administrators." What is that rule and how can a new
teacher implement it?
YB: The golden rule for communication with administrators is
to make sure it takes place, especially when issues regarding student
safety, school policy, community relations, or serious parent complaints
are involved. That is best accomplished by scheduling a meeting with the
appropriate administrator, bringing the necessary documentation to the
meeting, and taking notes during the meeting.
EW: What is the most common mistake new teachers make, and how
can they avoid making it?
YB: New teachers often make the mistake of trying to build
rapport with their students by attempting to be their "best buddies."
This strategy backfires when the teacher must place demands on the
students and they become resentful and rebellious. To avoid this ugly
scenario, it's best for the new teacher to cultivate a respectful and
business-like approach toward students. Once the teacher has developed
his own distinctive teaching style (usually after the first year), he
may choose to relate to his students on a more personal level.
EW: What does good record keeping have to do with good
teaching, and what kinds of records should a new teacher keep?
YB: Good record keeping is an essential part of good teaching.
Accurate records give the teacher an objective view of both classroom
dynamics and student progress and, because they provide verification,
they also can improve communication with parents, staff members, and
administrators. New teachers should keep copies of anything they write
to or for others, notes they receive from others, and student work
samples, in addition to such mandated records as daily student
attendance and grades.
EW: You advise new teachers to be careful about taking the
advice of veteran teachers? Why should they be wary of such advice?
Whose advice should a new teacher take?
YB: When a veteran teacher offers a new teacher advice about
how to teach a lesson or discipline a class, she is speaking as a
teacher who already has developed her own teaching style. Those
techniques might work well for her, but they may prove to be a disaster
for the new teacher. A new teacher should seek advice from veteran
teachers who are respected by administrators and fellow teachers, and
then adapt that advice to fit his own personality, teaching style, and
EW: How many weeks, months, or years of experience does it
take before a teacher feels confident and competent in the classroom?
YB: Generally speaking, it takes about two years before a
teacher feels comfortable in the classroom. That doesn't mean, however,
that first and second year teachers don't have periods of time when they
feel self-assured and proficient, or that highly experienced teachers
never have moments of doubt!
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