Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 1, 2010

A Celebration – The First 10, 000 Hits (Do’s and Don’t’s for New Teachers)

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A key purpose of this blog is to share ideas with teachers, to offer an alternative to the constant re-invention of the wheel. I’m thrilled to have reached 10,000 hits. In celebration, this offering is in response to a teacher’s request.

5 Do’s and 5 Don’t’s for First Year Teachers

This blog entry is a response to request from the “New Teachers” group of english.companion.ning (In cases where Jock Mackenzie’s blog has detailed explanations, the title(s) and date(s) of the entries are given.

The Do’s

1. Do learn your students’ names immediately. There is no more effective way to show your respect than to spend the time and energy required to know who is who. (Classroom Management – Learning Students’ Names #1, #2, and #3 – August 20, 22, 24 2009)

2. Do “real” things with your classes. If you teach letter writing, send the letters. If you are writing “how to” lists, print the lists on elementary school paper (the kind with the dotted line in the middle) about how to tie your shoes, how to get dressed for winter, how to wrap a present, how to be a friend and take the lists to a nearby kindergarten class. If you are writing an essay, find a knowledgeable local person and speak to him/her to gather information.

3. Do remember you are dealing with “adults in the making.” Students may look mature but they are in a learning stage. They are growing and changing and require nurturing, consistency, kindness, second chances, . . .

4. Do smile. Smile to show you enjoy what you are doing, that what you are doing is challenging but doable, that you eagerly invite participation, and sometimes (and this may be the hardest time) because you know you are in charge.

5. Do teach meaningful lessons. The default position is too frequently merely “management.” As a beginning teacher I found ways to fill the 47 or 53 or 80-minute class with activities that allowed us all to make it through. I wasn’t really teaching. Try to teach skills, or to provide opportunities and projects that allow practice, and a myriad of examples that allow students to walk away with abilities they didn’t have before being in your class.

The Don’t’s

1. Don’t try to do everything yourself. There are teachers who have excelled at teaching your subject and who are willing to share their expertise. Seek them out! And because they won’t always be available, get the “good book(s)” for your subject area. By way of example, English teachers must have access to a copy of:

Strategies That Work: Teaching comprehension for understanding and engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis – ISBN: 9781571104816.

I Read It But I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani – ISBN: 978-157110-089-4

2. Don’t try being a multi-tasker. As a beginning teacher, I hauled my marking/planning home and tried to do it on a TV tray so I could allow myself at least some entertainment as I worked. I ended up doing a poor job of both. For me, staying an hour alone in my classroom at the end of the day and arriving to get at least half an hour at the beginning of the next day made a world of difference. My time on task increased dramatically.

3. Don’t let the marking pile up. As a language arts teacher, I found marking to be the bane of my existence. I finally discovered the concept of student code names and I made a deal with my students that anything unmarked in a week would result in their getting full marks. (Classroom Management – Knowledge of Results – Code Names, February 25 2010)

4. Don’t be busy being busy. I used to hand out the papers, decorate the classroom, do the attendance, write the homework on the board for the last class of the day, read the announcements, try to be the expert on whatever topic we were studying, ad nauseam. I was frazzled. After a stint teaching elementary school, I learned about systems to allow students to do classroom tasks, that student work hung from the ceiling or mounted at the front of the classroom (where the student’s happen to be looking) can be hung or mounted by students and make better viewing than the expensive, colorful, soon-to-be wallpaper posters and messages produced by big companies. I learned to find experts from the community to come to the class to talk about things they knew far more about that I did. Then I got to be busy teaching.

5. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re new. Let your enthusiasm and energy make up for what you lack in subject area expertise. Tell you students when you don’t know; they appreciate honesty – but show them that you care enough to find out. I do not believe in the adage “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” As a new teacher, you get a chance to make an impression each and every day. You have power beyond your wildest imagination, power to affect the lives of your students in ways that will truly make a difference. Best wishes.


  1. Congratulations on # 10 000! It’s really assuring to know that as a blogger somebody cares enough to read what you say. Keep at it . Your stuff is very worthwhile.

  2. Yahoo… congratulations. This is a VERY considerable achievement. It is 10,000 times someone, somewhere found something of value on your blog… that is a whole lot of sharing going on.

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