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Sunday, November 12, 2017

5 Things Bad Teachers Do Very, Very Well and New Teacher Strategies to Keep Them at Bay!

You are a new teacher and eager to implement the strategies and new literacies you learned as a college student in your education courses. If you're lucky, you have a digital portfolio to show the awesome things you did as a pre-service teacher.

During your interview, you even answer questions to demonstrate your understanding of 21st-century literacies and how important it is for students to be engaged in learning and to have access to technology. But once hired, your dreams and visions are crushed.

It seems that Bad Teachers have mastered the martial art of suffocating your ideas. When you do feel a moment of boldness to speak up during lesson planning, a look or a comment, crush your hopes for being the type of teacher you know you should be.

Do NOT lose heart!

There are teachers (maybe not the vocal ones) who are amazing. Unfortunately, the bad ones are in schools, as well. Bad Teachers are polished and believe what they are doing is right. Sometimes this is affirmed by a "Teacher of the Year (TOY)" nomination or elected as a team leader.

I have listed 5 Bad Teachers and what they do very, very well along with strategies to keep them at bay:

1. Mr. Ima N. Kuntroll: Ultimate Disciplinarian
Bad Teachers run their classrooms with military precision. Desks are in neat rows. You can hear a pin drop. Not only are their classes in perfect order, the Bad Teacher will be quick to point out to the principal (or even a School Board Member or two) how the new, unruly teacher across the hall has let his/her class run amuck.

The Bad Teacher has no tolerance for students talking, moving around, using technology without the constant supervision of the all-seeing eye. Past performance records reflect their "well-run" classroom. Mr. N. Kuntroll prides himself on being the Captain of his Ship!

New teacher strategy: Appeal to Mr. N. Kuntroll by remaining courteous. Ask questions about campus policy. This Bad Teacher will respond to respect and will enjoy talking policy. In the meantime, don't yield to the belief that a "well-run" classroom means students sit quietly in rows. Group desks so that students can collaborate. Stick to your beliefs.

2. Ms. Claire Itty: The Lecturer
The Bad Teacher is able to teach with their eyes closed. Their voice is most often monotone and assumes their students understand every word they're saying.

Strategies, like introducing academic vocabulary before a unit or providing background knowledge, are meaningless endeavors, especially since these tidbits of instruction were part of a prior grades' curriculum.

The Bad Teacher readily accepts the responsibility of teaching the grade-level curriculum. No more. No less. Ms. Claire Itty will be the first to tell you, "It is the student's job to ask questions when they do not understand."

New teacher strategy: During team planning, ask your team to share types of formative assessment to check for understanding. Countering Ms. Clair Itty's belief system with a proactive stance will give you leverage as you plan your lesson. Hopefully, this Bad Teacher will have a change of heart.

3. Mr. Wunsize Fitzall: The Lesson Designer

The Bad Teacher is indubitably gifted in the art of lesson design. He is able to take state standards and seamlessly design a lesson to fit all students regardless of age or ability level.  Special Needs? Gifted and Talented? English Language Learner?

Response to Intervention? No problem! Each of these students will be expected to master the learning material without scaffolding or differentiation.

Mr. Wunsize Fitzall will be the first to tell you, "Our job is to prepare students for the real world. Adults don't get a scaffolded tax return."

New teacher strategy: This is an easy one. Scaffolding has become a mainstream practice and is supported by research. Remember you learned about Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in your strategies course? Differentiation is also a staple of Response to Intervention (RtI), Individual Education Plans (IEP's) and ways to support English Language Learners (ELLs). Stick to your guns on this one. Unless Mr. WunsizeFitzall changes, he will be "retiring" in the very near future.

Ms. Fave Ortism: The Affirmer
The Bad Teacher is able to recognize the brilliance in her students, in spite, of what other students tell her. She wears the proverbial rose-colored glasses. Be rest assured, when end-of-year award
nominations come out, it will be the student who is: studious, quiet in class, courteous and is able to sit for extended lengths of time without the slightest shift in his/her desk.

On the flip side, The Bad Teacher will be ready, at the drop of a hat, to give zeros in the grade book and points off in an effort to shape the unacceptable behavior of distracted and talkative students. Ms. Fave Ortism recalls with fond memory, "I am able to spot the class pet within the first week of school. It is a pleasure to read and grade every assignment. I never tire of giving this student an A+ +  +."

New teacher strategy: Take my word on this one. Ms. Fave Ortism will never see the error of her ways. Her rose-colored glasses are here to stay. Use this Bad Teacher as a reminder to see the value in EVERY child. A child's ability to sit quietly, or a "reading level" should never define a child. ALL children need and deserve your love and respect.

5. Mr. Smartie: The Know-it-All

Bad Teachers are experts in their subject area. Their students are merely empty containers in need of the teacher's vast expertise to fill their empty minds. Regardless of advancements in technology, the Bad Teacher knows more.

How is this possible? Why they have had more life experience and most likely have a master's or even a doctoral degree in their field of study. This is in no way to trivialize continued education!

However, the Bad Teacher will forever remain the smartest person in the room. Mr. Smartie is quick to raise the point: What will happen when computers break?

New teacher strategy: Mr. Smartie is highly intelligent and has knowledge and insight from years of practice. However, knowledge alone does not make them a good teacher. If that were the case, Google, should replace teachers. No! Excellent teachers relate to and listen to their students. Explore new concepts about teaching and learning such as Understanding by Design, (UBD), Genius Hour, or Project-based learning (PBL). Edcamps will also inspire you!

NEW TEACHERS: Do NOT LOSE HEART! There are Good GREAT TEACHERS like Ms. Cher Moore, Mr. Ed Kamp, and Mr. Yewcan Dewitt in classrooms. Seek them out.

In the meantime, do what you know is BEST for kids. Remember, you were hired for a reason. Stay the course!

I highly recommend Todd Whitaker's book: Shifting the Monkey: The Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers, and other Slackers.

Confession Reflection:

  • What are some ways instructional coaches and administrators can support new teachers?
  • How can new teachers be empowered to take risks and to implement new and innovative ideas?
  • What are the dangers of rewarding bad teachers (TOY nominations, department chair, service on campus committees)? What message does this send to new teachers?
  • Why is it important for teachers like Mr. Wunsize Fitzall or Mr. Smartie to engage in ongoing professional development?
Clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Anyone, Anyone?

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