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Authors: Ellen Kottler,Jeffrey A. Kottler,Cary J. Kottler

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BOOK: Secrets for Secondary School Teachers
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Certainly, you have seen enough from your classroom observations and field experiences to know that there is tremendous diversity in the ways that teachers organize their classrooms and their lives. You have seen chaos in action—teachers who are jokes in their schools, who earn little respect from their colleagues and even less from their students. You have observed other teachers throughout your life who are truly masters at their craft, absolutely brilliant in their abilities to win friends and influence people. A few of these individuals may even be responsible for your own decision to be a teacher.

Now you stand poised, ready to begin your own career as an educator. You don’t want to be one of those teachers who is eaten alive, who burns out after a few years—or even worse, who keeps teaching year after year, long after the point where he or she cares any longer about children and their learning. Neither do you want to be the kind of teacher who is average, who puts in the years, accumulates time in the retirement system, processes children like an assembly line, doing an adequate but undistinguished job. No, you want to be a

Your dream can very well become a reality . . . if you make some sound decisions from the beginning. This means applying what you learned in your teacher education program in such a way that it is consistent with the realities of your particular school. It means catching on rather quickly to the innumerable traps and challenges you will face during your first year as a teacher. It means recruiting the right mentors who can support you along the way.

This book is intended to serve as one of your mentors, a handbook that you can consult periodically to prepare yourself for any of the usual challenges you are likely to face. It has been written by a teacher-administrator, a teacher-counselor-educator, and a student, specifically to reflect the realities of what most likely leads to success for beginning teachers.

We have brought together the most practical elements from your course work, from the education literature, and from the advice of master teachers to provide you with guidance during your first professional teaching position. The book includes tips and secrets that experienced teachers have developed to simplify, organize, and reduce the stress associated with the first year on the job. Many of the tips are illustrated with vignettes that show how they can be applied in action.

A series of brief, focused chapters addresses a number of topics that are absolutely critical for teachers. Beginning with the basics of orienting yourself to your school and classroom, we then provide specific and practical advice for not only
surviving but flourishing during your first year of teaching. These issues include such things as getting to know students, parents, and community; captivating and holding student attention; organizing your room and learning your way around the school; developing lesson plans and assessments, dealing with sources of stress, such as being evaluated and dealing with difficult students; figuring out the culture of the school so you can make a place for yourself; and preparing yourself for all the things you needed to learn in school but somehow missed along the way. We cover pragmatic realities related to difficult students and colleagues, handling paperwork, networking with others for support, preparing for a substitute, dealing with disappointments and unrealistic expectations, as well as maintaining your enthusiasm and planning for your own future.

This edition features a new chapter, Developing Plans for Instruction and Assessment. It begins with a look at long-term planning and unit planning and then focuses on daily lesson planning. A suggested lesson plan format is presented and described. Attention is given to working with English-language learners, special needs populations, as well as literacy strategies for struggling readers. Next, formative and summative assessments are discussed along with traditional and alternative assessments. An “A to Z” list of assessments is provided. Both holistic and analytic scoring rubrics are presented. Finally, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced standardized testing is addressed.

Other additions are incorporated throughout the book.
Chapter 1
, Learning Your Way Around the School, now looks at the department chair and fellow department members as resources, as well as the role of induction programs.
Chapter 2
, Organizing Your Room, includes suggestions for traveling teachers regarding materials and supplies.
Chapter 3
is expanded to address multiple intelligences, learning styles, gifted and talented students, sexual orientation, and diverse abilities in the classroom.
Chapter 7
, Managing Time and Paperwork, has more tips for organizing work space and
looks at time management.
Chapter 11
, Communicating with Parents, emphasizes the importance of involving parents in their children’s education, with a description of the National PTA Standards.
Chapter 12
, Engaging Difficult Students, identifies suggestions for engaging students with attention deficits, ADHD, and looks at prevention of discipline problems as well as mild and major intervention strategies for classroom management.
Chapter 16
in this edition, Taking Care of Yourself to Minimize Stress, is expanded and includes a new chart on sources of stress as a reference, as well as sections on finding support groups and assistance on the Internet. Finally, Planning Your Future, now
Chapter 17
, includes a lengthy section on the National Board for the Professional Teaching Standards and a list of general education and specific professional organizations as resources. Additional technology suggestions are interwoven throughout the chapters.

Implicit in all of these topics is much of what you need as a beginning teacher, not only to succeed in your new profession, but also to flourish. As you are probably already aware, a significant number of new teachers, even those with tremendous passion, commitment, and enthusiasm, still struggle mightily in their first year of practice. Half of new teachers leave the classroom altogether within their first five years, so dispirited and frustrated with the realities for which they were unprepared.

This book is written for new teachers, as well as those who are in the midst of their education and training. Although the suggestions and structures we offer are based in research and practice, this manual is intended to be practical above all else. It provides you with all the little (and not so little) things that will help you to do your job in such a way that you make your classrooms fun, interesting, and challenging—not only for your students but for yourself. Because if you are not having fun working as a teacher, you’re probably not doing it right!

The contributions of the following reviewers are gratefully acknowledged:

Barbara Slater Stern, Ed.D.

Associate Professor

James Madison University

Harrisonburg, VA

Dr. Judy Butler

University of West Georgia

Carollton, GA

About the Authors

Ellen Kottler
received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, her master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and her Ed.S. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has been a secondary teacher for over 30 years, in public, private, and alternative schools at the secondary level, teaching a range of courses in social studies, humanities, and foreign language. Formerly an administrative specialist for the Department of Curriculum and Professional Development in the Clark County School District (Las Vegas, Nevada), she is currently a Lecturer in Secondary Education at California State University, Fullerton, and a grant-writer for the Anaheim Union High School District, Anaheim, California. She is the coauthor of
Children With Limited English: Teaching Strategies for the Regular Classroom
(2002) and
Counseling Skills for Teachers

Jeffrey A. Kottler
is Professor and Chair of the Counseling Program at California State University, Fullerton. He has worked as a teacher, counselor, and therapist in preschool, middle school, mental health center, crisis center, university, community college, and private practice settings. He has served as a Fulbright Scholar and Senior Lecturer in Peru (1980) and Iceland (2000), and has worked as a Visiting Professor in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Nepal. He is the author or coauthor of over 50 books in education and psychology, including
Introduction to Therapeutic Counseling
Nuts and Bolts of Helping
Learning Group Leadership
Theories in Counseling and Therapy
Travel That Can Change Your Life
Making Changes Last
Bad Therapy
), and
The Mummy at the Dining Room Table

Cary J. Kottler
has attended public school in the United States and New Zealand. He is currently a student at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he is majoring in political science and is captain of the rugby team.


Learning Your Way Around the School

isitors please report to the Principal’s Office,” reads the sign at the entrance to the school. Indeed, you are a visitor that first year, with all the appropriate levels of confusion and disorientation that are typical for an intrepid explorer who is operating in unknown territory without a map.

As many times as you may have visited a school previously, during field placements or perhaps even as a parent or relative of a student, you are always struck by how big the place seems. Everyone seems to know just where they are going, always in a hurry, making contact with as many people as they can, rushing to the next class before the bell rings. The place is a maze of offices, rooms, hallways, labs, each connected by a layout that probably once made sense to someone in charge of designing things. To the newcomer, however, whether an entering student or first-year teacher, the school seems hopelessly inhospitable.


Your first job is to learn your way around. We don’t mean just memorizing the quickest route from the entrance to your assigned classroom; rather, we mean orienting yourself completely to every nook and cranny in the building. After you’ve gotten the official tour from the principal and department head, found out where to park and to what room(s) you are assigned, make it a priority to get “unofficial” guided tours from an experienced teacher, a secretary, a student, and a custodian (especially the custodian!). This is the place you will be spending most of your life during the coming years, so you will want to orient yourself as quickly and comprehensively as you can.

“I remember one new teacher,” a colleague of ours recalls. “She never left her classroom during the day except to go to the bathroom down the hall. At first, we thought she was just snooty or unsociable. Only later did we learn she was so afraid of getting lost that she thought it best to just remain in one spot as long as she could.” As you have more interactions with the staff, you will learn your way around and become more comfortable venturing out into other parts of the building.

As you walk around, note how the activities of the building are organized. Do the freshmen and sophomores have classes in one area while the juniors and seniors meet in another? Or, are rooms for specific subject areas grouped together, with science in one area and social studies in another? Where are the offices located? Are the counseling offices separated from the administrative offices? Where is the health office? How far away are the gymnasiums and athletic fields? And of course, most important of all, where do folks eat lunch and hang out?

Later on you will have time to notice where people habitually congregate. We are creatures of habit and take comfort in familiar spaces. Those who come early and those who stay late (students and faculty) tend to gather in the same locations. The same is true with respect to all the other factors that
draw people together—their common interests, their age groups, their areas of expertise, their mutual attractions, and their coalitions.

You may be curious about how student lockers are organized—in most high schools, for example, students may be assigned lockers according to class level. You will also want to study where various student groups hang out—whether that is in front of the school, a quad area, or a specific hallway (and eventually you will learn the “secret” places as well). So, if you need to find a senior before school starts, you’ll want to go to the “senior wing” of the building or the place where seniors typically gather as they wait for the first bell to ring. The office staff will have favorite areas as well, from lounges to department offices. You can be sure that most people, regardless of their jobs, personalities, or interests, develop consistent patterns over time.


Most people think that the principal is the key person to know in the school. Well, she or he is certainly the designated authority figure and is ultimately responsible for what happens in the school. But the people who control access to the administration, the ones who are connected to all facets of the school’s operation, those who know the most efficient ways to get things done, as well as the most important gossip, are the school secretaries.

In learning your way around the school, the school secretary will likely be your first point of contact. She or he will help you get settled, help you get keys and supplies, introduce you to other people, and guide you through the appropriate paperwork. Even if the principal does this him- or herself, you would be well-advised to spend some time getting to know the secretaries as soon as you’re able. Ultimately, they can be your strongest supporters or biggest obstacles throughout your career. They control access to everyone and everything.

BOOK: Secrets for Secondary School Teachers
7.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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