The strangest, albeit pretty wonderful, thing happened to me the other day. I was helping clean up from dinner when my cell phone rang. When my wife answered and then handed it to me, the Caller ID gave a Texas number. I know very few people in Texas, and this number didn’t belong to any of them, so my next thought was “telemarketer” – I usually just hang up on those, but I took the call anyway.
It turns out that an aspiring teacher came across my resume via Google and decided to call me to ask for some advice on resources she could look to in order to prepare for her first year of teaching. Ten years ago, I would have been freaked beyond words to receive a call out of the blue from a complete stranger, but since I have gone to great lengths to represent myself online, I actually took this as a) very flattering, and b) validation of the concept of networked learning – somebody else was able to increase their knowledge because I have established an online identity and made myself available (besides, it’s not all that different from getting a blog comment or a follow on Twitter from someone you don’t know).
I wasn’t able to talk at the time (between dinner and the kids’ bedtime gets a bit hectic), but she promised to send me her email address, to which I replied later that night. After some shout-outs to my fellow educators on Twitter, I was able to offer the following advice (this is the truncated version; the real email is much more detailed):
- Read lots of blogs to get a sense of what issues, challenges, and triumphs teachers are experiencing (I forgot to say ‘comment on’ too, but I hope it’s implied; I also supplied some suggested starting points)
- A supportive community/network is important. Augment the one you’ll have at work by reaching out to other educational professionals on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
- I turned to Kevin Jarrett for some advice on books for someone transitioning from the business world to teaching, and he provided the following list (none of which I’ve read, I’m a bit embarrassed to say):
- Schools That Learn
- The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher
- Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement
- Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work
- Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader’s Workshop (this one comes courtesy Nancy Devine)
- Join a national organization that caters to your specific professional interests (I never joined the NCTE as a teacher, but I have been a member of NASP since grad school)
My parting bit of advice was this: you can go through the best teacher prep program, read all the books, blogs, and magazines out there, and go to all the conferences, but so much of how we learn to teach comes from actual classroom experience – OJT! At least, that’s how it was for me.
What advice could you have benefitted most from when you were just starting out? Drafting this blog post I can already think of a few things I left out of my original email, but the topic is so vast, it’s hard to get everything in the first go-round. If she’s reading, what other advice would you offer this soon-to-be teacher?