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Advice for Future Teachers

Advice for Future Teachers

Dear Julia,
I am a first year college student majoring in social studies education. I plan to be a high school history teacher and hopefully spread my love for history to my students. I’m just wondering if there is any sort of advice you can give me as an upcoming teacher. Things I need to start preparing for now while I’m still in college, and what different things I can expect once I graduate. Just any sort of information that will be nice to know now so I can be prepared.

Hi Taylor,

Congratulations on your choice to become a social studies teacher! Welcome! I know everyone at who reads your question will agree with me that teaching is one of the most rewarding professions that it is possible to have.

In my reply I will give you some advice that I have found helpful and then I hope that other readers will jump in and offer their insights, too. One of the greatest strengths that we have as educators is our colleagues. Everyone, please add your comments to help Taylor and thousands of other aspiring teachers as they begin their careers.

Okay, Taylor, here is what I suggest you do.

• You can begin now to do what experienced teachers do. We tend to translate almost everything we see into possible lesson plans. For example, instead of being bored with a class lecture, try to figure out what is boring to you. How would you present the same information in a more engaging way? What is your teacher doing right? What is your teacher doing that you would like to improve? We even do this with television shows, trips to the park…just about everything.

• Really, really learn the information in your courses. Trust me, you will need it someday. In the future, if you are stuck for a way to pique student interest, a weird little fact buried deep in your present-day textbook may just be the catalyst that you are looking for.

• Keep a journal of quick little ideas that you may have about teaching. This can be a great resource later. Record things you see and hear related to school and social studies, neat ideas, books, articles, activities, Web sites…anything that may help you later.

• Watch the students in your classes. That is what good teachers do. We look for clues in body language and expressions. What engages a crowd? How do you know this? You can learn a great deal just by being alert to other people’s reactions.

• Volunteer to work with students at schools near your campus. You will gain lots of first-hand information this way as well as doing a good deed. You can learn about how schools work as well as about how students learn and interact.

• Use the Internet as a resource. Browse education-oriented sites to learn more about your field, the types of students you will have, and other issues. There are many forums geared just for new teachers for you to explore, too.

• Even if it is not mandatory, take a class in school law. This could save you lots of trouble later.

• I know it’s cheesy, but watch movies about school. From To Sir with Love to The Substitute to Lean on Me and beyond, you can learn a great deal—especially if you watch with friends who are willing to talk about what they learn as you watch .

• Use your school’s library to browse the education collection. Even though you may be focused on social studies, there are hundreds of wonderful resources covering topics such as classroom management, bulletin board design, discipline, games, or technology integration there waiting for you. You will be surprised at how many of the problems you may have in the future are solved for you already.

• During breaks from your own courses, ask to observe classes at the schools in your area. Take a notebook with you and observe what good teachers do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what we are here for!

Best Wishes,
Julia Thompson

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