What do you wish you'd known?

What do you wish you’d known before you started teaching? So You Want To Teach? is featuring teaching tips for Reader Appreciation Month. 

About Joanne


  1. Things I wish teachers learned before they started teaching.

    1. Construction paper is only required for Art Class. If you require it for any other subject, then chances are you are assigning a worthless project.

    2. 30 minutes of homework actually takes about 60 minutes at home

    3. Randomly asking questions from a text book isn’t an effective way to measure learning.

    4. Parents can tell when you are winging it.

  2. Stacy in NJ says:

    After the age of 7, diorama’s are stupid.

  3. Hey thanks! I’m going to use some of these tips as well. Thanks for sharing the series. 🙂

  4. Things I wish teachers knew:

    1. Just because you haven’t taught the material doesn’t mean the kids doesn’t know the material. Many kids, especially bright kids know a lot that hasn’t yet been covered in class.

    2. Don’t send busywork home as homework.

  5. Lightly Seasoned says:

    A few minutes of non-instructional time here and there spent doing effective community building will set you up for big gains.

    If you can’t tell the kids in one sentence why you are assigning something, you have no business assigning it.

    [Jane: I have the opposite problem. E.g. after the 27th time teaching Julius Caesar, I have to be very aware that they are all reading it for the first time. I might be seeing new and interesting ideas in the play, but they’re struggling to know the difference between Casca and Cassius.)

  6. LS,

    I think that is a problem no matter where you work. I don’t work in education, but I am constantly amazed at how often I have to explain concepts that I feel are incredibly basic. When prices go up, people buy less….how hard is that?

    But, I am somewhat unsympathetic. Adults choose to be in a classroom. Children don’t have that choice, and at least in my children’s school.

    My six year old second grader, was completely unable to convince her teacher that she actually knew how to read. Or maybe her teacher didn’t care. I never could sort it out. But she didn’t get a chance to learn new material for almost an entire year.

    She did, however, have endless busywork assigned in class and for homework.

    Teachers, new or old, should realize that if they hurt a kid, they will make enemy.

  7. If you can’t tell the kids in one sentence why you are assigning something, you have no business assigning it.

    This is the absolute winner so far.

  8. Robert Wright says:

    What do I wish I’d known?

    I wish I had known that internal politics and keeping up appearances has a lot more to do with job status and advancement than being a good teacher.

    I wish I had known that the great majority of teachers don’t read anything beyond Time Magazine.

    I wish I had known that on the days when I taught my heart out that students would carry with them positive memories for decades to come.

    I wish I had known that the rewards would be great though only some of them would be immediate.

    I wish I had known to never throw out a roll sheet.

  9. These are all great tips. Thanks for sharing! I am currently in my third year of college studying secondary education and next spring I will be starting my student teaching! I will definitely keep these tips in mind. I wish some of my old teachers would have read these tips! And the website soyouwanttoteach.com is great! I could spend hours surfing on it!

  10. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Oh, no sympathy required, Jane. One of the perqs of teaching English is that I get to be so incredibly familiar with these texts — I’d never read something over and over on my own.

    I hate busy work. I had my own child in a private school for kindergarten. When I saw enormous stacks of worksheets coming home every Friday, I got her the hell out of there.

  11. LS…I simply do not understand why anyone assigns homework in kindergarten. When my kindergartener came home from school with his first set of homework, well, I don’t know what I was thinking. I had him sit at the dining room table and told him to get to work. He then asked me what the directions say. Meanwhile, I’m thinking…oh yeah, he can’t read yet.

    “If you can’t tell the kids in one sentence why you are assigning something, you have no business assigning it.”

    Still the best comment so far.

    Melanie, people will judge you by your writing skills. Exclamation marks very rarely belong in reasoned discourse. When you are a teacher, be careful with your punctuation. If parents see communications from you with grammatical mistakes, you will have a hard time regaining professional standing with them.

  12. I was disappointed by one contributor’s comment that teachers need to “love” their students first. Plain and simple, if you’re there to establish personal relationships with the students then you will likely have trouble succeeding. Too many new teachers get caught up in this trap and, despite their efforts, become ineffectual teachers because they start to empathize too much with the students.

    A teacher needs to care more about their student’s success and take the steps necessary to ensure that success. That’s what gives you the ability to discipline a student who is begging you not to or to give a failing grade to an A student who slacked off on an assignment.
    Yes, you should show interest in their non-academic lives, but for the purposes of better understanding them and better motivating them to succeed.

  13. Melanie,

    Here’s one tip for you: 90% of what you learn in a college Education major program is worthless once you enter the classroom. The classes on the subject you’re teaching (Math, Science, Social Studies, etc.), Classroom Management, and the Legal class were the only classes that had any truly useful information in them.

    Also, if you decide later to get a Master’s degree, get a Master’s degree in your subject area – NOT Education generically.

  14. Robert Wright says:

    Practical advice for a new teacher?

    Be sure your classroom has the following:

    an electric stapler, a box of safety pins, AA batteries, AAA batteries, several screw drivers, a hammer, jumper cables, sympathy cards, postage stamps, duct tape, Tylenol, paper towels, plastic spoons, a can opener, paper cups and plates, and a few long extension cords.