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Advice column: To new (or all?) teachers from fifth grade students

I’ve been thinking about how to better connect the two parts of my job as a teacherpreneur. To closer tie the fifth graders in my classroom to the policy and teacher leadership work I do outside those classroom walls. Sometimes serendipitous moments erupt, and it all blends together.

Before going to speak to a group of soon-to-be teachers, I had my students write messages. My fifth graders felt they had some advice for these college students who were about to enter their first classrooms.  Who knows more about good teaching than those little bodies who learn in our classrooms every day? Below is what they wrote (prepare to fluctuate between tears and chuckles):

Professionalism:

  • Don’t start any drama with teachers.  -Tamara (Which made me think: Wow! Our kids really must hear EVERYTHING! And what is going on at my school that I don’t know about yet!? )

Classroom environment:

  • Pay attention to your students and make sure they are listening. -Brianna
  • Don’t quit or get so frustrated when kids yell out. -Malik
  • Be nice to your students. Do fun activities with together. Explain questions. Be supportive. Learn about them. All of this = success! -Amya
  • Make your students be respectful and honest.
  • The advice I have for you is don’t be mean. You should be nice and polite-like and you should have fun while teaching so the students don’t get bored. I also think you should give the children rewards so they are more eager to learn and try their best. –Elizabeth
  • Be nice. Make rules. Be respectful. If you do it, the students will do it. -Antoine
  • If you do less talking, more listening, you all will like it. –Antoine
  • I advise you that as a teacher you make sure the students are doing their homework. Perhaps persuade them to do so with a treat. What kid doesn’t like sweets? P.S.Congrats on your accomplishments. –Whitney
  • Good luck on your journey to freedom. I hope you love the children. Some advice? Ask the children what they want for a change. –Emeree

Rigor:

  • I would work with students after school, maybe two days a week and make them do higher grade level work (but you’ll have to explain). -Patrick

Building rapport:

  • Never talk mean to your students because if you do the students won’t listen to you. –Luis
  • Don’t be mean to the students. If they are mean to you and you don’t want to be mean, just send them out of the classroom. –Ruben
  • Have fun with your students. Do fun things with them. Cheer them up when they are down or have bad grades. And don’t give them too much homework. –Lesley
  • The advice I have for you is to be kind. Because if you don’t, the kids won’t pay attention in class. If you will respect them, they will respect you back. But hey—you never know. Good luck. You are going to need it. -Angela
  • When you become a teacher, you should be nice to your students. Then they will be nice to you. Also, then they are not going to disrespect you.  -Tamara
  • An important piece of advice I would give is to have fun while teaching. In fact, be nice to your students so that they respect you. Good luck! -Cesar
  • The advice I give you is to be nice, be caring, and lastly, give them love. If you do that, you will have a great year. -Asia
  • When you become a teacher, be nice to your students. You don’t want them to disrespect you. Disrespect = they don’t listen. If they don’t listen, they don’t learn. Then they flunk, and when they flunk, you are stuck with them again the next year. –Joe
  • Dear teacher: Here is some advice…Always be “not boring.” Be nice. Have new plans/activities. Don’t be too strict. Don’t give a lot of homework. Be funny once in awhile. When you’re in your new classroom, pull a group of students (about 3 of them) and get to know them. And also tell them about YOURSELF! –Tukie
  • My advice is to do what you do but be nice and fun. Be respectful to people who are respectful to you. Try helping students who need help. –Kamarie
  • Be respectful as the teacher and don’t play around. Have fun while you do it. –Brianna
     

My personal favorites...now posted on our classroom wall:

  • Treat your students like they are your own kids. Like you love them. -Tamara
  • Always keep a smile on your face. Every day. Don’t let your students see you down. -Tamara
  • I think you should be very nice to your students. If they get on your nerves, make sure you calm down and don’t lose it. Everybody knows kids are crazy. -Jean

As I read through the advice, a couple of things jumped out at me. First, I noticed that a majority of their advice centered around building rapport. I don’t know what emphasis we give this in education and evaluation discussions regarding student impact, but I—and obviously my students—believe that rapport and relationship most certainly do matter.

Secondly, kids can provide us with a great vision of professionalism and practice, whether we are a novice or an experienced teacher.  Their advice is packed full of wisdom and is such meaningful feedback. Maybe it’s time to ask our students about great teaching more often. 

5 Comments

Wandering Educators commented on April 2, 2013 at 7:59pm:

Love this

Tamara and the others have it right - give love, not meanness. What a great article this is - for LIFE!

Faye commented on April 2, 2013 at 9:23pm:

Joe's remarks

I think Joe might be able to write a book.  Great, great, great piece of advice. Made me laugh right out loud at the computer.

Cas Olivier commented on April 5, 2013 at 10:13am:

Great standards for to be Great Teachers

These advice is gold. To be teachers should embrace, treasure and nurture the advice.

They will then reap the fruits og Great Learning. 

Ms. Montanez commented on April 8, 2013 at 10:10pm:

Our wonderful 5th graders!

The power of a smile goes a long way. No planning needed...just smile.

Steve Zemelman commented on April 11, 2013 at 10:58am:

Teachers speaking up to build support for their work

Megan Allen, your blogs and video clips that promote public education and teacher voice warm our hearts and help inspire other teachers to use their voices too. Check out our effort at www.teachersspeakup.com where we're working to help more teachers do that.

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