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If you were starting to teach now (as I am), what advice you wish you had gotten?

Things as:

  • hopes you wish you did/didn't have
  • specific knowledge you wish you were more knowledgeable
  • books/references you wish you knew

EDIT: I know this is a bit generic, but here is a bit more of information about my situation. I will be teaching high school level math. Here in my school we teach everything, so advice on any subject is welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ This is very broad; I'm not sure how salvageable it is, but at the least: Teaching what? At what level? What is the background? Is it advice about something in particular? E.g., I think a question like, How would you advise I incorporate calculator/technology use into a college first-year course for engineering majors studying Calculus? is perhaps reasonable. The question here -- any advice for any teacher for any class -- is huge. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Nov 4 '14 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, @BenjaminDickman. I am aware it is a very broad topic. I gave a bit more info. If it's still too off-topic tell me and I'll remove the question. $\endgroup$ – Lucas Virgili Nov 4 '14 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ Regardless of how much you know about a subject, expecting to be a good teacher your first time (at least in my experience) is like expecting to be a good musician the first time you pick up an instrument. Some may have some innate ability to teach effectively (I don't), and some advice might help you from making the same kind of mistakes others make. But like a beginner in anything else, you will make horrible mistakes. These mistakes might even have a negative impact on your students, or worse (gasp!), their opinion of you. (cont. in next) $\endgroup$ – PVAL Nov 7 '14 at 3:46
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    $\begingroup$ My advice is to accept that you are going to make these kinds of mistakes, and the fact that as a beginner in anything you will probably stink. Notice any issues you have whenever you can, and do your best to correct them, but keep in mind that if you work hard to, you will improve. When I started teaching I had the completely unrealistic goal of being a great teacher immediately, even though every other skill I've gained some competence took practice. Don't make this same mistake. $\endgroup$ – PVAL Nov 7 '14 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ thank you, @PVAL. I will keep that in mind! But I have to admit that is something I got sad about! I want to be the best teacher they have ever had and got frustrated with my mistakes. $\endgroup$ – Lucas Virgili Nov 7 '14 at 19:46
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I will tell you as a previous teacher my hope that I wish I didn't have was that I was going to teach my students math and that they would understand because I was going to teach them the "how". This is an unrealistic goal (particularly for a beginning teacher). This pessimistic view will probably be met with down votes, but you need to hear it as a beginning teacher. You should lower your expectations.

Even if you are a great teacher, it's unlikely that you will be successful for your first few years. You need to lower your expectations. You need to both lower your expectations for what you think you can teach and, especially, lower your expectations of what your students already know. You are likely going to have to reteach many topics that you think are prerequisites to your course (whether it be geometry, pre-cal, algebra, etc.). You cannot teach assuming your students already understand/know the requisite skills.

Assuming this is for high school/junior high education, the thing I wish I had been more knowledgeable about was classroom management. This is far more important that your knowledge of mathematical topics. If you assume that you are going to keep your students' attention by explaining things in the most perfect way then you are seriously mistaken. High school and junior high students are not in your classroom to learn about math, they are in the classroom because they are forced to be there and I guarantee that a majority of your students don't want to be there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for your advice, Jared. Although really sad, you are most likely correct. I'll keep that in mind! $\endgroup$ – Lucas Virgili Nov 4 '14 at 12:39

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