Michelle Ventricelli is a 6th grade teacher who responded with flair to an assignment in course 968 What Great Middle School Teachers Do. Teachers who encourage and inspire one another are the absolute best – and Michelle shares her personality, professionalism, and caring heart in this “speech” to brand new teachers!
Welcome colleagues! I am sure you are so excited that you can finally call yourselves “teacher”. Although I have been teaching for many years, I can still remember the excitement I felt when I could finally, proudly say, “I am a teacher”. The next thing you notice is that people are going to ask you, “What do you teach?” When you say middle school, don’t be surprised when they say things like, “Oh, that is a tough age to teach!” Personally, I think it is the best age to teach!
Teaching has its challenges, so I will start with those. First, coming out of college, I bet you can’t wait to stand in front of your classes and begin using all the tools, strategies, and imparting your wisdom. Not so fast! Did you fill out all the forms the secretaries put in your folder? They are some of the most important people in the school! You’ll find that out soon enough. Did you know you have a “First Year Teacher’s Meeting” the second day of school? I didn’t. Yes, I missed my very first meeting. Why? Because my school calendar was at the bottom of the tall pile of papers given to me at our first “In-service”. In-service? That is what we call meetings we have as a school or district. They could last all day. You get PD hours by attending them. PD hours? Those are “Personal Development” hours. Do you know you need at least 20 of them a year? They will probably also talk about things like IEPs, and SGOs, GCN training, and benchmarks? Are your heads swimming yet? Understandable, but don’t worry. That is what your mentor will help you with. September and June are always a bit hectic, because you are beginning the year and ending a year. As you get to know the additional responsibilities that come with teaching, that at times seem so remote from teaching, you will develop systems that will make those times go smoothly.
I’d like to share with you some of my experiences and strategies that I have learned over the years, and provide you with a few teaching tips to help get you through your year. First, there are always standard forms and handouts that I give out in the beginning of the year. I make copies of them at the end of the year prior and put them in my “September Box”. Why? The copy machines will be VERY busy in September and so will you. I got this idea from a teacher friend of mine, which is another bit of advice I have for you. Listen to your colleagues! I can’t tell you how many great ideas I have gotten from my fellow teachers! I know that some of you come out of school thinking some of us are dinosaurs, but you would be wrong there. You are surrounded by years of wisdom; take advantage of that.
Something else you may experience in your first years of teaching is that a lesson you teach will be so wonderful that on your ride home you will envision yourselves accepting your teacher of the year award and there will be other days where your lesson “flops” and you question why you ever thought you could be a teacher. That is normal. I didn’t feel confident teaching until I taught for 5 years! Teaching is an art and there is a skill to doing it right. So learn from your mistakes and know we have all made them. If you stick with it, you will find your feet.
Finally, the most important incentive you have are the students. Middle School students are easy. They need structure. They need discipline, but remember they are sensitive. Middle school students want to know that you like them. You are not their friend, but if not handled correctly, they will think you “hate them” and you may have a hard time reaching them. All my discipline is based in respect and fairness. Humor, if you can do it, works too. I have settled many a student down by simply making a good-natured joke, like rolling my eyes and saying to a talkative student, “No more coffee for you in the morning”. They laugh for a second. Then I follow with, “OK, let’s begin” and they are with me. You will learn the best way to manage them. If you have problems with anything, that is when you seek help from your mentor. Remember, what you do is important. You may hear otherwise. Sometimes people like to bash our profession for many different reasons, but if you keep your focus on why you are doing this. I hope you see teaching as I do. Teaching was never a job to me, but a “calling”. You are being entrusted with tomorrow’s future EVERYTHING! Don’t take this responsibly lightly. Now go out there and inspire!
Interested in how to ignite and rekindle your imagination and commitment as a middle school teacher? Enroll in course 968: What Great Middle School Teachers Do and delve into proven strategies/best practices for advisory, motivation, brain research, working with parents, games, lesson ideas and much more!