Nine (Unconventional) Truths I Have Learned About Teaching

Front of school building with flagpole and American flag

I have almost 10 years of teaching experience. I started as a sub for three years, and now I am on my 7th year of full-time teaching. I have learned a few things along the way, a lot of it considered unconventional and unorthodox by many.

Ignore Some Things

Sometimes it is just better to “unsee” and “unhear” things students do and say. My job is to be a teacher, not a human surveillance system. Most of us never would have left the detention room in school had our teachers busted us for everything we did. I always thought my teachers were too old and just missed all of my nonsense. Now I realize they were just smart.

Give Kids Breaks

One day I forgot my work keys. Another teacher opened the door for me. I didn’t get detention. Another day I was slow to turn in a report because I was freaking busy. I didn’t get yelled at; I was just asked to turn it in a few days later. We all need some slack sometimes, so why not apply this to our students too? You’re not weak if you give kids breaks.

Give Your Peers a Break

Your principal? Yeh, she’s under some stress too. That fellow teacher that drives you crazy? He could be under the same stresses you are. If you are sick of people always assuming the worst about your motivations, then stop assuming the worst about other people’s.

It’s All Small Stuff

Most of the day-to-day “hassles” are minor compared to the real tragedies in life. A former student of mine was shot and killed by her husband a few weeks ago. That is important. Most of my “stresses” aren’t. In the long run, who cares if Blake talks too much or Ashley is chewing gum. I am not saying discipline isn’t sometimes called for; I am just reminding us that these are small things indeed.

Don’t Wait To Laugh It Off

NLP co-founder Richard Bandler reminds us that if you say “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” why not start laughing about it immediately? There is no need to look at something in the worst possible light now, only to put it into its proper perspective later. Put it in its proper perspective right now. Laugh. It feels good.

Stop Bitching

Our perspective determines our outlook. If we see past the 20 good things in front of us to focus on the one bad thing out there, that primes us to have bad days (and a bad life).

It’s Okay To End Class a Little Early

We teachers always shout for joy when our boring meetings and training end early. Well…to most of our students, our classes are “boring training” and ending a few minutes early gives them a little break to mentally gear up for the next classes.

Students Learn More From Me Than From My Content

When I think back to what I learned in high school (I promise you these words are not the opening lyrics to “Kodachrome”), I remember teachers and their personalities far more than content. Yeah, I remember content, but a curriculum never changed my life; people did. If you want to impact your students, change you for the better, and bring the content along with it.

Sports Aren’t Everything – But They Matter

People can get way too obsessed with sports, and since most students aren’t going to play in the NFL or NBA, every student needs to take academics seriously. However, sports provide students with important values too: learning how to stay in shape, discipline, teamwork, etc. We shouldn’t place physical activity over against academic learning. The ancient Greeks knew the importance of both.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.