Advice to First Year Teachers

1. Investigate Your School and your community---what is the race, class background of your students? What are the power centers in the community? Who owns the key centers of production? Who serves on the school board? What is the relative strength of your union/association? Is the union ready to place kids first? Who plays key roles in the union? Is the union integrated by race,sex, elementary-secondary, etc.? What is the history of the union? Does the union seek, or discourage, alliances with parents/kids? Which parents or kids? Do lots of people participate in the union or is it run by a clique? What's the culture? Is it common for teachers to visit students homes? Is the PTA active? What's the school's position on whole language?

2. Be ready for more than one year. The first year is sometimes tough. That's true in any new job. Reserve your judgement about teaching until you've finished two years.

3. Know the school policies and regulations---especially those on discipline. Check your local school policy AND your union contract.

4. Plan ahead. Be organized. But above all be flexible on everything but questions of principle. You can always reshuffle your plans. You cannot recover the loss of ignoring a racist joke. Envision your class before it occurs. What questions will you ask? What ways will you build on the kids' experiences?

5. You will be in charge. You will need help. Don't be proud. It takes more than one of us to educate a child. Teachers usually understand the cooperative nature of our work. Most teachers will be glad--honored--to help; if you ask. Don't just close your door and teach. Build a base of colleagues and friends. But EASE yourself in. Don't volunteer to be the local union president. Still, play a role on committees, etc. Remember that the secretary (who may well run the school), the custodian, the bus driver, and the cafeteria workers all play vital roles. Like teachers and kids, there is no school without them. Demonstrate your respect.

6. Find a mentor.

7. Know your students. But remember your leadership role.

8. Climb Mt. Nittany. Your mind and your body are the same entity. Regular exercise is a key to relieving stress and depression.

9. Decide for yourself what pattern of authority you wish to exercise. Be able to justify, in your own mind, the theoretical and practical reasons for your belief and exercise your authority responsibly.

10. Laugh and forgive yourself. Good humored humility goes a long way.

11. Remember what goes well. Don't get lost in memories of minor errors.

12. Don't blame the victims. If you find yourself thinking that the students or their parents are no good, stop and evaluate what you're doing to change the situation

(Much of the above is drawn from the book, "First Year Teacher", by Robert Bullough, Jr.)