Becoming a Teacher: How to Succeed Once You've Landed the Job (page 2)
NEW TECHNOLOGY and approaches to teaching are creating many possibilities for educators today. At the same time, today's teachers still face many of the same challenges as teachers in the past—conflicting job expectations, reduced resources, and limited freedom.
You learned many important things in your teacher education program. Still, all the education courses in the world won't help you manage your relationships with other teachers, staff, the principal, and parents. This chapter gives you tips for being successful during your first year on the job.
You got the job you dreamed of and are ready to begin your career. Taking out your education manuals, you start to plan the first lessons. You collect all the teacher's editions and manuals available and read all the students' records in the guidance files. You think you are ready to start, but one major ingredient must be added to the mix: input from senior staff members.
The key to your happiness and high student achievement often depends on your interaction within the school community, that is, your working relationship with your colleagues. Building these relationships is the most important first step to take when starting any new job. Every school has a culture. Your job is to learn this culture and become part of it. Doing this will help you succeed as a teacher and can determine your ultimate success in the classroom.
A school is a complete community—self-contained in many ways, yet part of another community, that is, the district that encompasses the building. The school district (the official hiring agency) defines the set of rules and regulations that structure your workday. These regulations often appear in a policy manual and provide specific prescriptions for handling problems, expectations for your teaching day, and general do's and don'ts set by the board of education. In addition, there may be a teacher contract from your union or professional association that explains the specific details of your job. However, the unwritten code of behavior within your particular building is what you want to capture before you begin to teach.
The time you should arrive at school may be listed in the teacher handbook, in the union contract, or in the board of education policy book. Although the requirements are defined, they do not tell you what really happens. For example, the teacher workday may be listed as seven hours, beginning at 8:20 A.M. Because the children do not arrive at the building until 9:00 A.M., when the buses pull in, this may seem logical to you. On the first day of school, you leave your house expecting to arrive right on time at 8:20 A.M. However, when you get to the school, you find a parking lot completely filled—you are the last one in! Are you on time? Technically, yes. Culturally, for that school, no!
In this particular school, many faculty members come in earlier than required to have breakfast together, socialize, copy materials, or complete professional work assignments. This culture can differ dramatically among schools within a district. It is your job to learn and interpret these small nuances that are part of the school culture. Social arrangements for weekend or after-school gatherings may be made during these times, and you should take part. To belong to a school community, you must have shared experiences that bind you to other staff members and make you part of the culture.
Your first task is to be a good detective and learn who the players are. Listen carefully to the clues presented by colleagues in conversational moments, and learn to ask questions that will help you understand the culture of the school.
Make Friends with the Secretaries
In your building, several people run the operation. The secretaries are the most visible. Stop in often to say, "Good Morning!" or to see if you can deliver anything to any other staff members for them. Your friendly approach will benefit you over and over again.
The front office is a gathering place for staff members, so the secretaries know all personnel and the staff hierarchy. Get to know the secretaries! Learn what they do, because they will point you in the right direction when you need information. They know who is in charge of what curriculum area and how to get what you need for your classroom.
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