Teaching tips: You’re the adult in the room

Nancy Flanagan’s tips for new teachers sound like good advice.

Number 3:

You’re the adult in the room. Don’t get into power struggles with students, where you feel compelled to come out ahead by cracking down (this applies to first-graders as well as seniors). Remind yourself: you’ve already won–you’re the teacher. You can afford to be magnanimous, to decide on outcomes that benefit all kids (even kids you don’t like), rather than gratifying your ever-present sense of control/retribution. You’re the adult. Repeat three times.

Watch other teachers teach, she suggests.

Once you watch a dozen other teachers, you’ll have a baseline for measuring your own successes and screw-ups, plus a basket of field-tested techniques.

Make end-of-the-day clean-up a habit for students and yourself to show respect for the custodians. It’ll pay off when someone throws up.

Stuff is not teaching. I knew a teacher who had 25 pre-laminated, super-cute bulletin boards–which she kept filed, by month, in color-coded rolling crates. She did all her Xeroxing before school started. Her book baskets had perky bows and her door had gingham curtains. And her teaching was rote and sterile.

Expect “hideous mistakes” and “crushing disappointments.”

Expect to feel like quitting, at least a dozen times. Expect to anticipate vacations with pathetic longing. And know that veteran teachers also experience these things–just ask them.

Also, don’t leave your designer purse in your desk.

About Joanne


  1. I went to see a teacher the other day that has been teaching 28 years. I have only been teaching five. She told me the first week was hard, she was tired, and that she hadn’t been to the gym all week. While I felt bad for her, it made me feel ten times better to know that it wasn’t me; teaching is just tough sometimes.

  2. It also depends on what else is going on in your life; teachers, like everyone else, are affected by stressors in their non-teaching life.

    And, well, some years, and some classes, just AGE you – a lot.