Thursday, July 12, 2012

My advice to the new teacher

Advice for new teachers.  How will you survive your first year?

Where to begin?  Where to filter?  What worked for me, might not for you.  What will work for you, I may not have even thought about.  After thinking about this for a few solid days, the best piece of advice I can give is to get connected.  You have been hired because you know the content and you have been given some training.  But what seems to lack in the current education training world is how to apply the pedagogy.  You will not have the years of experience to tell you where students are going to make errors.  You will not have the experience to use this phrase instead of that phrase to clarify the meaning of a topic.  You will not enter the classroom with the experience of handling everyday situations that become second nature to most teachers.  Yet.  This will all come in time.  It has taken me years, well okay, almost decades to develop into the teacher I am today.  And, I am not finished yet.  There is always room for improvement. 

The one single thing that saved me from running out of the school building at the end of week one and not returning was my connection to others.  The internet was still using dial-up modems when I started teaching, so I didn't have social media to help me.  I had to go face to face with other teachers.  I learned from them.  I watched them on my prep.  I lacked the art of the HOW.  I constantly asked them what would be the best way to present this to where it seemed I was a thorn in their sides.  However, it was precious to me that first year.  It molded me, shaped me, and prepared me for future years.  Throughout my 17 years of teaching, I have always seemed to have someone to bounce my ideas on, to dialogue about the best approach, or to share a disaster of what not to do in class.  Other teachers have been like lighthouses to me, always there in calm weather and there when I needed guidance during the darkest, stormiest, crazy days of teaching.

This summer seems to be very similar to my first year of teaching. I have become connected with others outside my school and district.  I have become a social media nutter.  I have connected with other teachers who are pushing me to challenge what is happening in the classroom traditionally.  I have read, and read, and read books, blogs, and posts to make me a better teacher.  I would like to lead my department of 22 math teachers into a world where students are engaged and learning instead of being bored to sleep by lecture all the time.  I even started this blog to have a place to reflect on my journey.  Some posts I make available for all to read.  Some are hidden just for me.  It's that connection I needed to take my teaching to the next level.  Get connected, stay connected, find new ways to connect.


  1. Hi, Kelly,

    I came across your blog via David Wees, and as a fellow mathematics educator I thought you might be able to help in spreading the word about an educational TV show for preteens about math that we're putting together. "The Number Hunter" is a cross between Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Crocodile Hunter -- bringing math to children in an innovative, adventurous way. I’d really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the project.

    I studied math education at Jacksonville University and the University of Florida. It became clear to me during my studies why we’re failing at teaching kids math. We're teaching it all wrong! Bill Nye taught kids that science is FUN. He showed them the EXPLOSIONS first and then the kids went to school to learn WHY things exploded. Kids learn about dinosaurs and amoeba and weird ocean life to make them go “wow”. But what about math? You probably remember the dreaded worksheets. Ugh.

    I’m sure you know math is much more exciting than people think. Fractal Geometry was used to create “Star Wars” backdrops, binary code was invented in Africa, The Great Pyramids and The Mona Lisa, wouldn’t exist without geometry.
    Our concept is to create an exciting, web-based TV show that’s both fun and educational.

    If you could consider posting about the project on your blog, I’d very much appreciate it. Also, if you'd be interested in link exchanging (either on The Number Hunter site, which is in development, or on which is a well-established site with 300,000 page views a month) please shoot me an email. We're also always looking for input and ideas from other math educators!

    Thanks in advance for your help,