• December 26, 2014

‘Real Talk’ offers teachers solid advice

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Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2013 4:30 am

Nobody can ever say that you don’t have class.

Nope, you’ve got a big one this year, and it contains more kids than you’ve ever taught before. More possibilities and responsibilities, more eager faces.

For them, you’ve organized your classroom and arranged it twice. You’ve packed in supplies, finished behind-the-scenes paperwork, and made reams of lesson plans. You’re ready for your pupils … aren’t you?

Even veteran teachers ask that question, and in the new book “Real Talk for Real Teachers” by Rafe Esquith, you’ll get some classy answers.

When you’re a brand-new teacher, the vision you have of your very first classroom probably resembles a Hollywood movie: you’ll get a roomful of problem kids but you’ll somehow connect with them and turn them into scholars.

Esquith, a 30-year veteran, said it doesn’t happen that way. You’ll have students you can help, and students who will make you doubt your career choice — which leads to his first advice: “You are going to have bad days.” They’re inevitable because kids aren’t usually “golden drops of sunshine,” the job can be stressful, everything you plan “sooner or later falls apart” and “teaching hurts.”

And yet, there are reasons to smile — so do it. Make sure students know they can ask you anything, without ridicule. Hold them to high standards, but let them make their own decisions. Know that interesting lessons are “the most effective way to keep a class in order…” and keep in mind that homework can sometimes kill the joy of learning.

When helping a child who needs it, remember that certain lessons are more important than others. Don’t hold achievers back while working with kids who are behind. And understand that there are times when some kids should be left behind.

Choose your battles wisely behind the scenes, Esquith said; know when to fight and when to wait. Accept that your influence on a child doesn’t trump that of the child’s family or circumstances. Learn to deal with haters. And remember that, in the classroom, one size doesn’t fit all because students are not all created equal.

Though it may seem like “Real Talk for Real Teachers” has a very narrow audience in its focus on first- or second-year teachers, I think there’s also a surprisingly large group of readers who need this book: parents.

There is, in fact, quite a lot of information that will help parents become their child’s best cheerleader and their child’s teacher’s best ally.

Bring a lot of bookmarks when you read this book, because it’s packed with info who you’ll want to remember. If you’re a teacher or have kids that will have one soon, get “Real Talk for Real Teachers” — and don’t be tardy.

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