100 things I wish someone had told me about teaching

told me about teaching post

Even with our best intentions, we still have “why didn’t someone tell me” moments in teaching. Here are 100 ideas to combat that. (Public domain image via unsplash.com)

As a brand new teacher, I was trapped out on an island. Isolated. Stuck in a “silo,” so to speak.

I had a lot to learn.

Sadly, I had a hard time learning from others. I felt like I had to do it all. Plus, I was the only teacher in my content area in the entire district.

In my teaching career, I’ve had lots of “I wish someone had told me” moments.

That’s something that the participants of the #DitchBook Twitter chat tried to defeat recently. #DitchBook is a weekly 30-minute Twitter chat (10 p.m. Eastern / 9 p.m. Central / 8 p.m. Mountain / 7 p.m. Pacific) that you can find on the #DitchBook Twitter hashtag. (This particular night’s chat, though, was a full hour!)

The topic of the chat was “What I wish I knew,” playing off the fact that preservice teachers from Converse College in South Carolina were planning to join us. We examined seven areas and shared our best advice with each other. The areas were, “What do you wish someone had told you about …”

  • relationships with students
  • using technology in the classroom
  • collaborating with others
  • giving homework
  • communicating with parents
  • instructional resources
  • work/life balance

This post is a compilation of 100 suggestions given by our #DitchBook chatters. It was like inspiration bombs kept blowing up over and over, so I knew that I had to share them with you.

Here’s a link to a Storify archive of the whole chat: https://storify.com/jmattmiller/what-i-wish-i-knew-ditchbook-2-16-17

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, there are a few abbreviations that people use. Ss = students. Ps = parents. Ts = teachers. And if you want to find someone on Twitter that’s mentioned below, just put their Twitter username after twitter.com. (Example: I’m twitter.com/jmattmiller)

What do you wish someone had told you about relationships with students?

1. Relationships w/ Ss matter more than Standards, w/o them Ss couldn’t care less what you try to teach them (Dianne Csoto, @MViTDiTeach)

2. I wish I was never told to not smile til October. I never bought that line and immediately discovered it was bogus! (Adam Juarez, @techcoachjuarez)

3. That it is okay to share yourself with them. Show them that you are like them. (KathiSue Summers, @KathiSueSummers)

4. Relationships w/ Ss are a two way street. Be open and honest. They’ll do the same. But they take work. Don’t just happen (MrWawczak, @MrWawczak)

5. That each student truly carries their own stressors and they need someone positive to confide in. I aim for that daily! (Evan Mosier, @emosier3)

6. That good rapport with students is everything. They want to learn from you and helps with classroom management (Craig Klement, @craigklement)

7. You may be a master of your content, but you’ll fail to reach Ss EVERY time if relationships aren’t a priority. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

8. Build them! Talk to your students about yourself. They like to know you are also human. (Mandi Tolen, @TTmomTT)

9. In teaching, you can’t do the Bloom stuff until you take care of the Maslow stuff. — Alan E. Beck (Kam Renae Koyama, @KamRenae)

10. That they will amaze you so many more times than they disappoint you! Too many Ts scare young Ts w/ horror stories. (Chris Heffernan, @cheffernan75)

11. That you can’t control what the Ss feel outside of school, only that they have a positive experience inside (Paige Steinhoff, @HistoriaTeacher)

12. That a smile & a handshake will go along way! Also it’s ok to take 5 minutes of class time & just talk with kids! (Anne Kamper, @AnneKamper)

13. It’s what teaching is all about. For every methods class I sat through, I needed 2 relationship classes. (Brant Nyberg, @PrincipalNyberg)

14. How not to cry when Ss tell me their dad is in prison, mom is on drugs, gramma doesnt want them. The (Mix It Up Girls, @themixitupgirls)

15. That it’s best to find Ss strengths first and play to them. Key to building a trusting relationship. Ss want to feel valued. (Tara M Martin, @TaraMartinEDU)

16. If you can’t reach their heart, you can’t reach their mind. (Michael Drezek, @m_drez)


What do you wish someone had told you about using technology in the classroom?

1. That Ss know more than you, embrace it instead of trying to be the only one to use it, give Ss options w/ tech (Dianne Csoto, @MViTDiTeach)

2. To give students a tool to create with not just a screen to stare at (Adam Bold, @MrBold05)

3. Tech is not a digital worksheet but a way to make lessons better. If it doesn’t make it more rich, don’t use the tech. (Mandi Tolen, @TTmomTT)

4. Not only about T using tech, but Ss. Tech can really make life easier and transform learning (Craig Klement, @craigklement)

5. Don’t be afraid & don’t give up! Sometimes things don’t work right keep trying! Also try 1 new thing at a time!! (Anne Kamper, @AnneKamper)

6. Establish a culture of trust and flexibility so Ss feel empowered to use technology for its intended purpose. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

7. That there are SO MANY tools to use and SO MANY ways to use each one. Don’t be scared to try something new. (Evan Mosier, @emosier3)

8. We need to use technology to do things with kids that they wouldn’t be able to do without the tech (mandy ellis, @mandyeellis)

9. What I now tell everyone: Pedagogy 1st. Take risks. Be ok w being a co-learner w your Ss. Don’t let pendulum swing too far. (Cori Orlando, @CoriOrlando1)

10. That the Ss would love it more then I did.Bringing in real life events make my Ss look at their world differently. (Brett Murrey M.Ed, @Sciology)

11. It is ok to let Ss choose the best #edtech tool for them. (Rayna Freedman, @rlfreedm)

12. Often get told tech is one more thing on their plate. Tech IS the plate and helps to better manage the rest. (Adam Juarez, @techcoachjuarez)

13. Sometimes the best tech is no tech at all. Don’t force it. Is it transforming or accelerating learning? If no, reassess. (Michael Drezek, @m_drez)


What do you wish someone told you about collaborating with others?

1. #bettertogether, no one should go at it alone, Ts who collaborate have Ss who benefit the most! (Dianne Csoto, @MViTDiTeach)

2. Your best resources come from the Ts next door. Most are ready and willing to support you, so ask them. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

3. BE ON TWITTER!!! I’m so sad I waited as long as I did to learn from this fantastic PLN! Free PD, anytime, anyplace (Mandi Tolen, @TTmomTT)

4. That other Ts can be your greatest resource. I was alone my 1st year and it was so hard. Seek others help (Craig Klement, @craigklement)

5. Everyone works and collaborates differently. We need to learn to “read the team” and adapt. (JP Prezzavento, @JPPrezz)

6. Gain new ideas, new perspectives, and new points of view. In other words: Grow. (Mark McNulty, @McNulty1977)

7. Find your tribe and surround yourself with those that push, encourage, and support innovation and creativity (mandy ellis, @mandyeellis)

8. My first few years, not many wanted to collaborate, tell me it’s ok to collaborate! It is! (Kyle Anderson, @AndersonEdTech)

9. Collaboration is key!!! Don’t be a silo! I just wish there were Twitter and edcamps back then! (Karly Moura, @KarlyMoura)

10. Collaboration is a MUST. Collaborate w/in And beyond your site. Flattened walls has opened up a whole new world. #noegos (Cori Orlando, @CoriOrlando1)

11. You are not a Silo! Beg, Borrow, & Steal! I did it when I was a young teacher & returned it when I became wise! (Anne Kamper, @AnneKamper)

12. Seek out colleagues in other subjects for new approaches to common problems. Squad up! (Sam Jones, @MrSamJones13)


What do you wish someone had told you about giving homework?

1. That the kids that need it most likely won’t do it (Paige Steinhoff, @HistoriaTeacher)

2. Ask yourself who is the homework for? Who benefits? What is the purpose? (Rayna Freedman, @rlfreedm)

3. Its not about quantity its about quality (if you give it) make that feedback matter or it wont matter to anyone (Ben Dickson, @BDicksonNV)

4. Just because you got it does not mean you need to give it Ss world are different than the one you were in adapt (Adam Bold, @MrBold05)

5. Homework doesn’t yield the benefits or requirements you’re looking for, so ditch it! (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

6. That it is nearly a complete waste of time. Take advantage of classtime!let the kids be kids at home! (Brent Barnes, @barneshistory)

7. Make it relevant! Don’t give it because it has always been part of education. In class work is just as powerful! (Todd Shriver, @ToddShriver)

8. I wish someone had told me- “you’ll be a parent of 4 elem. kids one day, and you’ll see how stupid this archaic practice is” (Joe Robison, @joerobison907)

9. When Ss ask if they can continue working on something from class at home, that’s the only HW that means anything (Sheldon Soper, M.Ed., @SoperWritings)

10. You don’t have to & that there are a lot of alternatives to traditional worksheets if you want kiddos doing “hw” (elizabeth spartas, @MsSpartacus406)

11. “Is this for a grade?” will drive you insane. Build in time for work in class so Ss can use Ts as resources. (Sam Jones, @MrSamJones13)

12. Consider everyone involved when considering HW, S’s, P’s, T’s. Can they do it w/out a struggle/fight? Time? Resources? Value? (Kam Renae Koyama, @KamRenae)

13. Encourage reading with family members. Creating moments for connectedness yields far greater results for us in the classroom. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

14. Chill with the HW. I was that T (math) who thought it was the answer. 1 good problem > 20 average ones. Respect Ss home life. (Michael Drezek, @m_drez)


What do you wish someone told you about communicating with parents?

1. Take time to make the first contact a positive one. …trust me (Brant Nyberg, @PrincipalNyberg)

2. Not to take everything they say personally. Sometimes it has NOTHING to do w/ the T (Dianne Csoto, @MViTDiTeach)

3. Bank the positives with parents! It takes little time to send a positive email home, but impact lasts a long time! (Paige Steinhoff, @HistoriaTeacher)

4. Create a team, start early and positive, and dont be scared of them, they want what you want, Whats best for their Ss (Adam Bold, @MrBold05)

5. Ps & I are on same team for Ss. It is okay to let them in. Share as much as you want. Blog. tell Ss growth, success, needs. (Rayna Freedman, @rlfreedm)

6. Be empathetic. Look at things from their perspective. You should be on same side, what’s best for the S. (Cori Orlando, @CoriOrlando1)

7. Parents appreciate being kept in the loop. Send an email, call, or share photos through a digital platform (Erin Dunroe, @dunroe_erin)

8. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.Parents need to vent before they will listen to you.They are your best ally. (Brett Murrey M.Ed, @Sciology)

9. That some P aren’t going to be happy with anything you have to say. They only want their child to get an A no matter what! (Mrs. G, @pcmrsg)

10. It can be harder to change parent expectations about “how it was done” than Ss. (Venturagirl, @me509myci)

11. Technology makes it easier. I love looking Ps cell #s & txt them out of the blue. (I use Google Voice to hide my personal #) (Sean Fahey, @SEANJFAHEY)

12. School may not have been a positive experience for some of our S’s parents so be warm& welcoming. Talk so they understand! (Kam Renae Koyama, @KamRenae)

13. Use tech to make your policies, differentiation style, & Ss’ work as transparent as possible & parent issues are avoidable (Sheldon Soper, M.Ed., @SoperWritings)

14. If you do have to call on a negative take the time to follow up & let them know how their kid is improving! (Anne Kamper, @AnneKamper)

15. For many Ss, you are their only stability. Your job is far more important than you believe. Show up. Every time. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)


What do you wish someone told you about instructional resources?

1. That twitter is in fact and instructional resource if you know how to use it as such!!!! (Mr. Belin M.Ed, @MarcusJBelin)

2. That there’s more to instructional resources than: – worksheets – workbook pages – photocopied quizzes and – TEXTBOOKS! (Matt Miller, @jmattmiller)

3. Start with a small “Go to” set of instructional resources. (KathiSue Summers, @KathiSueSummers)

4. The internet is an amazing place. You don’t have to spend tons of money to have or make great resources. (Mandi Tolen, @TTmomTT)

5. Beg, Borrow, and Steal…but cite 🙂 (Paige Steinhoff, @HistoriaTeacher)

6. the best ones won’t always be the ones that come with the curriculum resources (mandy ellis @mandyeellis)

7. That damn textbook is not the be all, end all. It’s just another resource. Supplement, supplement, supplement. (Adam Juarez, @techcoachjuarez)

8. That if I thought my job as a teacher was to only present content- I would lose that battle to Google every time (Joe Robison, @joerobison907)

9. Go with ur gut and ur Ss needs when it comes to instructional resources. Ss can be the best resource! (Rayna Freedman, @rlfreedm)

10. At times, you will have to create them to complement the needs of your students, and it’s WORK! But it’s worth it. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

11. That it’s not just about finding resources, it’s about finding inspiration, for yourself and your Ss (Sarah Warren, @wizardwarren)

12. You are not the holder of all knowledge! You are the facilitator and the guide! We have everything at our fingertips (Anne Kamper, @AnneKamper)

13. When presenting new info, have Ss do individual searches on certain terms/concepts to look for visuals/additional info (Sam Jones, @MrSamJones13)

14. Be as unorthodox as your little heart desires. The “side eye” from colleagues will be worth the smile on Ss faces. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

15. In teacher college classes, I never had a textbook to use. I found instructional resources that were better. Keep doing that! (Sean Fahey, @SEANJFAHEY)


What do you wish someone told you about work/life balance?

1. Remember to breathe. Be mindful. Take time for you. Practice yoga. (Rayna Freedman, @rlfreedm)

2. That is is a challenge to balance when you are consumed with what you love to do on BOTH sides! (Mr. Belin M.Ed, @MarcusJBelin)

3. That you won’t be able to help kids if you are running on empty (Paige Steinhoff, @HistoriaTeacher)

4. Gotta make time for both, keep it passionate, but don’t let it overwhelm, take breaks & a day off sometimes (Dianne Csoto, @MViTDiTeach)

5. You don’t clock out at 3:00 pm. I truly never get work out of my head. Tech helps me to juggle both all day long. (Adam Juarez, @techcoachjuarez)

6. It is hard to balance work and life if you are not intentional.There will always be something else to do.Be okay with that. (Brett Murrey M.Ed, @Sciology)

7. Sometimes you just have to say “no” to favors and requests. Easily the hardest thing I struggle with. Focus on family 1st. (Evan Mosier, @emosier3)

8. Work and life are not two different things, work is a part of life, learning where&how it fits in is extremely important (Brian, @btcostello05)

9. That there in no perfect formula to it. It varies year to year with every group of Ss and Ts. Make reasonable sacrifices. (Aaron, @jaballin14)

10. DONT take work home. Come in or stay a little over if you need to. But you need to turn it off & enjoy yourself & family too (Sean Fahey, @SEANJFAHEY)

11. That it is ok to say no. The world will cont on even if I dont say yes to running everything I am told I am an “expert” at. (The Mix It Up Girls, @themixitupgirls)

12. Important to take time to unplug & recharge. Our Ss deserve our best & we can’t give it if we are running on empty. (Tisha Richmond, @tishrich)

13. Work and life should enhance one another. One should not overshadow the other. Balance and (wine) are key. (R.Isaac Rivas-Savell, @RIsaacRivas)

14. Take advantage of your breaks. Don’t let work overwhelm you or take you away from your passions outside the classroom. (Sam Jones, @MrSamJones13)

15. That you definitely need to find an outlet. Whether it be meditation, yoga, etc. Find something that helps your mental state. (Mrs. G, @pcmrsg)

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

 DateEvent / Event DetailsCity / More Info
+ 10/03/2017—10/04/2017
"The Digital PIRATE - Ditch That Textbook" 
  Private Event
+ 10/06/2017
8:00am-3:00pm
GooglePaloozaVandalia, IL
 Sponsor:ROE #3 
+ 10/14/2017
7:30- 4:00 p.m.
Suffolk Excellence in Education Conference (SEEC)Suffolk, VA
  Private Event
+ 10/23/2017
8:30-3:15 p.m.
Show-Me Curriculum Administrators Association SMCAAOsage Beach, Missouri
  Private Event
+ 10/30/2017
8:00-3:30 p.m.
Sedalia School DistrictSedalia, MO
+ 11/07/2017
8:00am-3:00pm
Goshen Local SchoolsGoshen, OH
  Private Event
+ 11/15/2017
NIESCPlymouth, IN
 Venue:Christo's Banquet Center
830 Lincoln Hwy E
Plymouth, IN 46563
Private Event
+ 09/29/2017
8:30-3:15 p.m.
Meaningful Tech Workshop-Cleavland, OHIndependence, OH
 Venue:Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County
Essex Place, 6393 Oak Tree Blvd
Independence, OH
Register to attend

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