Dr. Kem Smith is Chalkbeat’s first advice columnist. She is a full-time 12th-grade English teacher in St. Louis, Missouri.
Dr. Kem Smith reflects on six months of writing her weekly advice column, “After the Bell.” We hope it has inspired you.
Take care of required things like bathroom procedures first. Use pillows and cushions for alternative seating and decorate with art. Have a place for coats and other personal items.
No way! Expose students to grade-level material. Create opportunities for expanded learning using online resources. Seek pandemic funding for additional support.
Set expectations for behavior. Praise students who move away from their phones. Seek parent help for chronic phone users.
You have different teaching styles, but notice the teacher’s positives and trust your colleague. See if you can help solve any problems.
Practice culturally responsive teaching through classroom leadership. Research your students’ diverse backgrounds and share your own experiences. Create opportunities to help them identify and reach their goals.
For beginning teachers, decide what you value and support students as individuals. Build a community of learners. And, connect with fellow teachers for support.
Be prepared with reference letters, practice your answers, and have real-life examples of classroom problem-solving.
Have students list what’s important to them. Students should do virtual or in-person college tours, seek advice from school counselors, and attend college fairs to narrow their list.
Let’s commit to doing a few things to help our sanity. First, take a minute to catch your breath. Remember what is in your control. It’s OK to ask for help.
Be each other’s safe spaces. Collaborate on solutions. Get together outside of school and learn about your colleagues as people.
Follow the teacher’s lesson plan. Form relationships with students. When all else fails, use your acting skills.
Learn your rights. Allow your students a voice. Make available recent young adult books. Fight oppression.
If you decide to leave, coach a mentee to succeed you. Look for ways beyond teaching in a classroom to support school-aged children. Find your next step.
Technology can be your friend. Use help from ELL teachers, students to communicate with families who don’t speak English. Stick to district-approved technology for communication with students.
If you’re new to a school, make friends with teachers and colleagues. Unpack and settle in. Be flexible with change.
Consistently alert students and parents to what you expect to prevent problems and establish a healthy work-life balance.
Vote. Use social media to fill classroom needs. Set routines in the classroom. Make every day a fresh start.
Set professional and personal goals. Find a mentor. Make a date with yourself to follow one of your passions.
Use technology, your school community, and online resources to connect their interests to learning.
It’s harder than ever to juggle all the demands of being a teacher. Advocate for yourself with the administration.
Set boundaries and give yourself permission to recharge.
Introducing Dr. Kem: Her new weekly Chalkbeat column is the place for teachers to share joys and frustrations (we know you’ve got them!) and get answers to teaching questions.