How to become a great teacher!

I remember when I decided to become a teacher and I was so nervous that I was going to mess up or screw up my future if I didn’t do everything perfectly. I wanted to share my top 13 tips to becoming a great teacher since I’ll be starting my second year soon and feel like I have it all down and can share my wisdom. I wish I had a list like this going in to guide me, so I hope this helps anyone pursuing a career in education!

  1. Go to an education school.
    • Duh! After 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school, put in the extra 4 years of undergrad, and another 1-5 years if you’re going Masters level. To be really safe, you might as well go for a Doctorate. You’re spending the rest of your life in a school setting, so why ever leave? Hopefully you’ve known since before graduating high school that this is what you wanted to do because otherwise it’s really hard to get into it.
  2. Student teach and do everything perfectly the first time.
    • You don’t want your cooperating teacher, supervisor, or students to think you’ve never done this before or that you make mistakes. That would be super embarrassing.
  3. Pass certification exams.
    • If you can’t pass these tests, what are you thinking being a teacher? Tests are the epitome of your intellectual abilities, just like they are the epitome of your future students’.
  4. Apply and interview.
    • Only after you have those pieces of paper (degree(s) and certification(s)) are you ready to apply to schools! Where do you want to end up? Do you want to teach at a public or private school? Urban, suburban, or rural? Once you fill out the applications, rock those interviews. Make sure you mention how much better and progressive your new-age philosophy is in comparison to those tenured or “veteran” folks. Also, don’t pay attention to what the school represents or how the people interviewing you make you feel. This is all about you impressing them, it’s not a two-way street.
  5. Accept the job of your dreams!
    • You’re obviously going to get hired at the perfect school on your very first shot, love everyone you work with, and love all the students you teach. You’ll most likely stay at that school for the rest of your teaching career until you retire with a healthy 401K at the age of 65.
  6. Enjoy all of the free time.
    • Teachers teach. Super easy, right? Some other minor time commitments include lesson-planning, leading clubs, coaching, covering after school study halls, lunch duty, parent-teacher conferences, department meetings, division meetings, while also keeping a very normal life and healthy relationships outside of school. Oh, and all of this results in a massively growing bank account. Don’t worry, you’ll find time to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, and shower. It’s called summer vacation. Which reminds me…
  7. Never take a sick or personal day.
    • School cannot go on without your presence. What will the kids do without you there to teach them? No. It’s just not acceptable. You have winter break, spring break, summer vacation, and all other holidays off. Don’t be greedy.
  8. You also shouldn’t be leaving school before 8pm most nights.
    • If you are, you obviously don’t care enough and are not putting enough time into making yourself the best teacher.
  9. Set up your room perfectly and completely ready for the first day of school.
    • Martha Stewart won’t have nothing on you and your perfectly squared and hung posters, your immaculately clean and organized desk, and every desk and chair neatly arranged. No eraser or holepunch out of place, no clutter whatsoever. Make sure everything is set so that everyone knows you have your life together.
  10. Plan all of your lessons for the entire school year before school starts, if you can.
    • And make sure they’re fool-proof and perfect so you don’t ever have to go in and edit; that would be such a waste of time! Make sure every single one is dynamic and exciting because otherwise none of the students will learn a thing. They won’t even realize you’re in the room unless you teach with pizzazz.
  11. Always be happy and smile.
    • Never show any emotion other than happy because you don’t want your students to think you’re a human being. You need to be their role model and show them how to be happy all the time. That’s how you deal with absolutely everything: happiness. No crying, no complaining, no nothing. Don’t even talk about feelings or emotions.
  12. Do everything yourself.
    • Don’t ask for help or ideas or advice because you don’t want your co-workers, supervisors, and students to think you’re incapable of…anything. Troy and Gabriella and the gang sang that “we’re all in this together,” and while that might be fun and catchy, this is real life, not a Disney musical movie.
  13. Take this list and laugh at it because it’s a complete and utter bunch of ridiculous, flippant nonsense.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t thought about all of these at one point or another in my pursuit of teaching. I know the majority of them are totally ridiculous, like showing no emotion or the one about sick or personal days. But sometimes we as teachers feel a duty to stick it out even when we feel like we got hit by a bus. And free time? HA.

I also know that some people do try to plan their lessons way in advance and it works for them; BUT they are also aware that they will be going back in to edit those at some point to accommodate something that could be done better next time. And then there are people like me who plan pretty much a day or two in advance because that’s just how I work and I’m better at last minute ideas than trying to think of something for next week or next month.

Some of the tips are somewhat a tiny-bit helpful, like 1 and 2. Going to school to learn how to teach and gaining experience during student teaching is important, but don’t think you have to get a Masters or Doctorate and that you can’t screw up while learning how to teach. That’s what it’s there for. Heck, you might realize through those experiences that teaching isn’t for you, and that’s awesome! Plus, you might end up wanting to be a teacher after years of working in a different field, and that’s awesome too!

Obviously, most states nowadays require certain degrees and certifications in order for you to teach, but those don’t make great teachers. It’s experience in the classroom that makes great teachers. And an innate desire to teach. And there’s some innate talent that goes into it too. Point being: tests and schooling don’t solely make great teachers.

I’m hoping there was enough ridiculous sarcasm throughout all of the other steps that you realize this whole post is a silly guide to becoming the most unhappy and stressed out person on planet Earth. Teaching requires flexibility and collaboration and mental/emotional/physical strength. And a happy hour or twenty with co-workers…which could also be considered collaboration. Without those, you’re going to get burned out so quick.

I’ve learned so much from my prior long-term sub positions and first year of teaching (last year) and I am still preparing to learn for the next 30+ years in this field. If you try to do everything right the first time without preparing and being okay with making some mistakes or incurring hiccups or complete derailments, you will hate teaching. Obviously we all want to do a good job, but learning from mistakes is sometimes the best medicine for our egos. And that’s true for all walks of life and professions, not just teachers.

Let me know if you have any other ridiculous ideas that you may have actually had about the teaching life, or just some facetious teacher thoughts, and if you can relate to any or all of these!

My Invisalign Journey (4): Thoughts, Tips, and Complaints

Read posts one, two, and three to get an idea of the beginning steps of the Invisalign process!

Now that I’ve had my aligners for over a month, I have a few thoughts and tips to pass on. I also figured you might want to hear my complaints, so I included those too; if not, oh well.

Thoughts:

  1. I have been snacking less (see Complaint #1) which is good because I am a snacker.
  2. My teeth have whitened dramatically! Seeing as I have to brush my teeth after every meal, there is no room for coffee or other food stains, or plaque/tartar build-up.
  3. I feel as though people are looking at my mouth a lot more while I talk, which makes me self-conscious. Can they tell I’m wearing aligners? Do I look dumb? Do I sound like I have plastic in my mouth? I’ve mentioned this to a few people and they said that I’m probably just more aware of where people are gazing. Or that I’m just paranoid.
  4. This may also be a paranoia thing, but I feel like my face looks puffier with my aligners in.
  5. It’s cool when the aligners start popping on and off more easily. The tight fit of a new aligner is uncomfortable and lasts for the first few days. By day 5 or so I can tell that my teeth have shifted because the aligner is not as tight and difficult to get on and off.

Tips:

  1. Listen when they tell you to brush your aligners. This may sound silly, but when they tell you to brush your aligners, really brush your aligners. The first few times I went to brush my teeth and aligners after eating, I kind of just ran my toothpasted toothbrush along the aligners and popped them back in. However, the third or fourth time, I held them up to the light and realized that gunk had built up in the crevices and along the edges. Your mouth has so much bacteria, no matter how good you brush your teeth or how many times per day, so make sure you really scrub the aligners inside and out, paying attention to the little divots in the teeth imprints.
  2. If you’re going out for an evening or event that you know you’ll be consuming food and drinks on and off the majority of the time, just leave your aligners at home. I went to Boston to visit a friend the first weekend after getting my aligners and it was such a pain. We went out Saturday evening for some drinks, so I just left my aligners at her place since I wouldn’t be able to keep them in if I was going to eat or drink anything.
  3. Stock up on travel-sized toothpaste and toothbrushes. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.

Complaints:

  1. Having to brush your teeth every time you consume anything but water is annoying for a few reasons:
    • Knowing you have to brush your teeth and aligners after eating means you need that extra 5 minutes after a meal/snack.
    • A bathroom is a necessary amenity after eating to brush your teeth and aligners, so this can limit when and where you can eat. When I was in Boston, we were at Quincy Market during lunch time on Saturday. If you’ve ever been to Quincy Market, you know there are literally hundreds of food choices there. However, they only have one public bathroom…and the line was literally 50 women long. So we had to pick a restaurant with a bathroom that I could use to brush my aligners. And go pee.
    • Small treats and impromptu snacks are less of a pleasure knowing you can’t just pop them in your mouth when you want and be on your merry way.
  2. Having to bring your aligner case, a toothbrush, and toothpaste everywhere. I put them all in a small ziplock bag which I’ll call my “bag of goodies” or BOG.
  3. See Tip #2. If it’s just a couple of hours, just leave them at home.
  4. I can be forgetful sometimes, so making sure I have my BOG with me when I know I’ll need it can be trouble.
  5. Exhibit A: Tom and I went to have dinner at our friends’ place two weeks ago and I forgot my BOG, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. Before eating I took my aligners out, rinsed them in the bathroom, wrapped them in a tissue, and stuck them in my purse. After dinner, our friend said, “Holliday, you have Invisalign, right?” I thought it was a random question until I noticed he was holding one of my aligners. Turns out that their dog likes to rip up tissues, so as soon as he saw the tissue peeking out of my purse, he went for it. Thank goodness he doesn’t like ripping up plastic teeth aligners. We found both of them unscathed, I rinsed and wrapped them again, and then zipped them in my purse so no puppies could get them.aligner case
  6. My mouth has been very dry because of the frequent brushing, so I’ve been drinking more water.
    • Pro: That’s healthy.
    • Con: I’ve been going pee a lot. But if you know me, that’s pretty normal.
  7. The first couple days of a new aligner are usually filled with headaches and toothaches; the tight fit and pressure just make for an achy head and mouth.

I have my next appointment today, so I will let you know how the whole ‘attaching-the-attachment-for-rubberbands’ process works out. And hopefully I’ll have some sweet glow-in-the-dark rubberbands to show off. Do you think they come chocolate-flavored?

I’ll also ask to see if I can get my hands on those pictures she took of my teeth and bite since I haven’t taken any!