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Practicial Wisdom for Succeeding in the Classroom

Practicial Wisdom for Succeeding in the Classroom

Dorit Sasson

Recently I interviewed Gini Cunningham, author of New Teacher’s Companion: Practical Wisdom for Succeeding in the Classroom, on how teachers can work under tight time and curriculum constraints yet still maintain a positive relationship with faculty and other teachers.

I asked Gini for some advice and suggestions on how teachers and especially new teachers, can foster more positive and collaborative relationships so they won’t feel professionally isolated. Here’s what Gini Cunningham had to say:

1.What are some things new teachers can do reduce stress? Do you have any suggestions for routines or techniques they can use?

Teaching well is high stress. The best help comes from a worthy and dedicated mentor. This does not mean snippets from 20 colleagues, but a Start-to-Finish Mentor who deeply cares about you and student learning. How to find him/her: Walk through the school, listen to lessons/engagement/student conversations. Ask a question of him/her and evaluate:
Does s/he listen, support, offer advice, and enrich?
Is s/he organized?
Does s/he love the profession?

The key to teaching success is being organized from the outset with a clear vision of goals and outcomes for student learning. None of this can be accomplished without excellent discipline and expectations for carrying out rules procedures. The New Teacher’s Companion provides details for getting all of this rolling, plus ideas to maintain fairness and accountability for every child.

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2.) How can new teachers maximize their support system whether it is a mentor or a colleague?

Listen, request help, sort ideas that will work and politely closet those that will not. Avoid griping, complaining, and grumbling and expect the same from your colleague. If the conversation is a drag, it will not increase the quality of instruction.

Collegial conversations should be based on strategies and techniques, examination if student work, analysis of data based on student work. Enrich yourself and your mind, share ideas, and borrow them as well.

3.) What can new teachers or teachers new to a school do to bond with their colleagues?

New teachers need to be friendly yet strong. They certainly have fresh insight but lack of experience may hinder respect. Admit it when you do not know; ask for help from the helpful.

Avoid “At my old school…” and phrases of this sort. Let excellence speak for you and your ideas.

Get involved in activities like textbook adoption, standards based assessments, and other academic pursuits.

Be on time (which really means at least 15 minutes early), dress professionally, speak and act as a positive role model for students and teachers, organize your classroom to run efficiently, remain positive and thoughtful of students, colleagues, etc.

Do not be discouraged if some veterans are not enthralled with your enthusiasm. Someone in the school loves what you are doing and the fact that you belong to that school. Find him/her and soar.

Continue reading on the next page.

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