I had the opportunity to have a new teacher hang out in one of my classes today.  We had about a 20 minute discussion afterward where she asked some questions and I got to share a couple of resources.  She is being trained to teach Math and Science so we have a lot of overlap in our specialties.

First we talked about instructional strategies.  I mentioned that I don’t assign exercises from the textbook anymore, I haven’t all year.  I read brain based research which talked about how important immediate feedback (related meta-study) is in the learning process and realized that there was no effective way to have an exercise from the textbook tell my student what they are doing wrong, it just doesn’t work.  If I give any repetitive exercises at all, they are online quizzes hosted at either Thatquiz.org (if I want to create the quiz myself) or Assistment.org (if I want the students to have more open ended questions and more feedback).

I also mentioned that I focus on including real life examples of everything I teach.  In other words, every unit has at least one (usually many) examples of ways this math is used, or could be used.  I’ve got a bunch of examples up here, more to follow later.  The idea is obvious to me, connect what you are doing in class to what the students will be doing outside of your class, or at least to things they are interested in outside of class.

I talked about my strategy during my first years as a teacher.  My first year I focussed on surviving, I started my career in inner city Brooklyn so this was a necessary survival strategy.  My second year I started experimenting.  Every week I used a different instructional strategy.  In my third year I tried a new thing two or three times a week.  Every year I’ve been teaching I’ve created all of my lesson plans from scratch every day for every lesson.  It has forced me to reflect on my teaching and I think it has helped me to keep improving my practice.

She asked for some website resources and I gave her the ones I mentioned above, and she said that it was SO difficult to find resources in today’s age because there are so many resources to choose from.  The ranking algorithm of Google is good, but not perfect and doesn’t always help find the best resource for you.  So I pointed out Twitter.

I said that Twitter is like having however many people who are your followers acting to do some of your research for you.  Ask question, get an answer.  See a question, give an answer.  Follow 1000 people who Tweet regularly, multiply your productivity 1000x in terms of searching for resources and information, assuming you follow the right people.

What would you share with a new teacher?

More advice from Twitter PLN:

penphoe @davidwees re: new teachers, "5% lesson content, 95% dealing with people"

sharon_elin @davidwees I’d tell new tchr "Put bureacracy aside; it’s all about you & the kids." Relationship 1st, w/you as curiosity coach (not peer).

Philip_Cummings @davidwees Dear New Teacher – Develop a PLN & pick a really good mentor.

acmcdonaldgp RT @davidwees: I would tell a new teacher: Build GREAT, appropriate relationships and never take away hope!

rrodgers @davidwees Be adaptable and process-focused, and he end results will take care of themselves.

amichetti @davidwees I would say that the most important thing to remember is to be flexible!

misterlamb @davidwees "Teaching is your job, it’s not your life." Advice from my co-op from student teaching. Make time for yourself.

TSherwood @davidwees That it’s OK to cry. There will be more smiles than tears.