What I Would Tell My Pre-Teacher Self If I Could Go Back in Time


What I Would Tell My Pre-Teacher Self If I Could Go Back in Time

If I could go back in time and tell my pre-teacher self a thing or two about what my experienced-teacher self now knows, here what it might look like

Dear grasshopper,

It’s me, the seasoned-veteran version of you. Nevermind the excessive eyebrow wrinkles and bags under my eyes. You’ll soon understand they are marks of experience and grit, only earned through years of giving the teacher look to students and sitting through countless staff meetings that could have been an email.

Listen up as time is as rare as rainbow unicorns here in the future. In the list below, you’ll find 17 things I so desperately wish I knew back then.

1. Your lesson plans almost never go as planned.

What you envision in your mind and write down in your brand new fancy planner probably looks a little something like Dead Poets Society meets Freedom Writers meets School of Rock. The reality is slightly different. I hope you can think on your feet, because plans A, B, C and D just went out the window. Often, your lesson plan for the day is: “Teach something, if possible.”

2. Master the art of “mind over bladder.” 

In college, there will be endless role-plays dealing with a wide variety of classroom problems. What they WON’T prepare you for is dealing with them while every drop of water in your body is screaming at you for release. And don’t think you can step out of class for a break unless you want to come back to a bonfire started with what used to be your desk. The only solution is to find your inner peace and ignore your need to go until the bell rings. Just remember, deep breaths. “Mind over bladder.”

3. Wipe all traces of yourself from the internet. 

Students have a special set of skills. Skills they have acquired over a long career. Skills that make them a nightmare for people like you. They will find you (dramatic pause) and they will screenshot your profile picture and make you into a meme… or worse.

4. Harness the “teacher voice” & the “teacher look” early on. 

None of your college courses will teach you this, but the “teacher voice & look” are vital skills. We educators all have the innate ability to adapt our voice and facial expressions to meet our teacher needs. There is the “angry” voice/look, the “proud of you” voice/look, and the “I’m warning you, put that phone away right now or I won’t be responsible for what horrible thing happens to it” voice/look, among others. 

5. DO NOT take Parent-Teacher conferences lightly. Be prepared! 

Listen, I know your college classes are going to portray parents as logical and understanding. And sometimes, we get lucky and there are a few like that each year. But more often, they’re closer to silverback gorillas whose bananas you’ve allegedly stolen, full of rage and indignation. You need to show them you are not to be trifled with before they ever sit down. Always have a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War on your desk during parent-teacher conferences. No parent wants to get in an argument with a tactical teacher.

6. Gratitude evolves and morphs over the years.

Some say being a teacher can be a thankless job. Very few college professors will admit this to their students, however, because they don’t want them dropping their classes and taking finger-painting instead. The truth is that student expressions of gratitude may just be different than what you may be used to. When a 13-year-old tells you, “Bruh, your class slaps” you need to understand that he holds you in the highest regard. At least I think that’s what it means.

7. You won’t be as cool as you think you’ll be.

We all think we’ll be the cool teacher that students relate with because we know the lyrics to all the hit songs from the 90s. Until the day a student asks you if the last time you bought new shoes was 1998. No college course can prepare your ego for the realization that you’re not as hip as you thought.

8. Stock up on Ibuprofen from Costco, they’ll be your new best friend.

You have no idea what 30+ students screaming your name non-stop, electric pencil sharpeners, jammed copiers, repeating the instructions for each lesson 5 times, screeching chairs, ringing bells, fire alarms, angry parent emails, and an unfathomable amount of staff meetings can do to the human brain. And that’s all before 7th period. Stock up.

9. They’ll tell you contract hours are 8 to 3 pm, but what that means is they stop paying you at 3. You will work until 9.

Every non-teacher thinks that teachers’ days end when the busses pull out of the parking lot after school. They have no idea. They don’t know that any planning time you are allotted will be consumed by last-minute staff meetings, student interruptions, and a pure lack of time. And even if there was a daily planning period, it wouldn’t be nearly long enough to finish all the grading, reports, and lesson planning required.

10. Congratulations you’ve chosen a life of poverty. Welcome. Here’s a list of fun jobs you can do on the side.

Planning on a life of riches? You better marry a professional athlete, doctor, lawyer, or maybe famous YouTuber (yes that’s actually a lucrative career path these days). Teacher salaries barely pay the bills when you have a family, student loans to pay off, a car payment, and a mortgage. Luckily, there’s a thing called Uber now. That’ll help you pay off your car payment.

11. Make friends with the custodians.

You can occasionally get a decent answer from admin or even your fellow teachers. However, if you seek true wisdom, ask the custodians. There is nothing they cannot tell you. Plus, they have the key to the supply closet.

12. You can control your classroom with music.

Music can have amazing effects on a class full of students. 80s hits are the key to getting a classroom to work. Classical music is the key to getting a classroom to chill. Norwegian death metal is the key to getting lingering students to leave so you can grade their tests in peace.

13. ‘Teacher’ is only a job title, but the real job is so much more than that.

As a teacher, you’ll also need to be a skilled diplomat, first responder, crime scene investigator, and therapist, for starters.

14. Class sizes are like fireworks, they go up and up and up, and just when you think it’s over, they throw in a few more at the end.

You’ll be told that you’ll be teaching “an average of fifteen to twenty-five students per class.” In reality, they just keep shoving new ones in every few days, packing them in like sardines. I finished this year with fifty-eight. The office ran out of desks so the basketball team had to wall-sit the whole class.

15. Interruptions will rain fire on every moment that everyone is finally on task.

Having a deep discussion about human rights and discrimination? In the middle of your 4th round of repeating the instructions and everyone is finally listening? Expect these priceless moments to be shattered by an intercom screech announcing that it’s time to release the girls’ basketball team (good luck, Lady Orangutans!). It never fails.

16. You will run into your students everywhere you go. 

They will invariably be on their phones so you’ll see them before they see you. You’ll have two options in this situation: Greet them with a huge smile or run and hide in the cereal aisle until they check out. The choice is yours.

17. Your students will have as much of an impact on you as you will on them. 

You may be taught to believe you’re the star of the show, but the reality is that you’ll get as much from your students than they will from you. I’m not trying to be sappy, it’s just reality. And that’s what will keep you in the career, long after you’ve come to terms with the rest of this list.

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What I Would Tell My Pre-Teacher Self If I Could Go Back in Time

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anbaldwin343

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Andrew is a Jr. High Spanish teacher. He loves rock 'n roll, Chinese food and collecting military antiques. When he's not teaching teens that "¿Cómo se llama?" has nothing to do with Peruvian quadrupeds, he can be found hanging out with his family, playing drums, buying old Russian helmets and plotting the downfall of internet translation apps.

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