Tips for new teachers

Right Wing Prof advises new teachers on how to earn your students’ respect and other issues.

Students are smarter than you think. If one of your students asks a question and you don’t know the answer, don’t try to weasel your way out of the question, and worse, don’t give him a fake answer. Say you don’t know, you’ll look it up, and get back to him — and then do it as soon as possible and give him the answer. And do it in front of the class.

You have to earn your students’ respect, and there’s no reason students should respect you if you are dishonest, nor do you have any right to expect your students to be honest if you try to con them.

At Today’s Homework, Grayce also has advice for a newbie teacher.

About Joanne


  1. Confession time, I remember being in high school and testing teachers. I would ask some specific odd little question well within their subject area and would see if they knew it. The hoped outcome was one of 2. A)They knew the answer, thus a bright and learned individual or B)they would look it up and get back to me. Thus, a trust worthy person and a self educator. Unfortunately I got a few who guesses (or lied) and I knew right there what kind of person and teacher I had. I know, I was a pain;).

  2. I still fume over a high school calculus teacher who made a minor mistake one day in class, but wouldn’t admit it. He wasn’t that smart, which didn’t bother me, but it was some time before he understood why what he had done was incorrect. Specifically, he drew the graphs of the sine and arcsine functions as intersecting at 3 points instead of just at (0,0), and then challenged us to find the other 2 points. Anyway, I explained to him why there were no other points, and it was clear that he didn’t get it, so I went to the board and did it again, another way. In fact, I gave him 4 different proofs, and another kid in the class gave him 7 proofs, going to the board 4 times, and one of his proofs was an extremely clever one that just used elementary geometry. A few other kids also tried to explain it to the teacher, so that by the end of this I’d guess he’d seen at least 15, and maybe 20 different demonstrations that he’d goofed. Eventually he understood, but his ego got in the way, and so he told us “Your ideas are very interesting — you should think about them some more”, which was his way of dismissing people. The result was that he earned the contempt of the handful of students that were completely on top of the material, and didn’t really need him, and he deeply confused every student that was struggling — the looks of panic on the faces of the B students around the classroom upset me very much. After that I started going to the library instead of coming to class (he was happy to sign the form that kept me out of his room), so I didn’t have to look at him anymore.

    As you can see, I’m still mad about this. I wonder how many of the marginal kids gave up on math that day, figuring that they’d never understand it. After all, everything we had said to him made sense, and we were the best students, but he’d said it was all wrong…

  3. “If one of your students asks a question and you don’t know the answer…, [s]ay you don’t know,” give her some suggestions as to how SHE can look it up, and suggest that she get back to YOU with the answer (or with further questions about how she might be able to find the answer).

  4. Regarding Hardlyb’s experience, I had a similar incident in my AP biology class, on a question of probability (as applied to genetics).  Even though the teacher’s formula was obviously wrong (it yielded probabilities greater than one in simple cases), he refused to admit he was wrong.

    IMHO, one of the few things teachers should have to apologize for is giving out false claims.