Here are 10 mistakes
a rookie should avoid.
One piece of advice that I’ve seen in umerous books about teaching is to always phrase classroom rules positively. Instead of phrasing a rule as “no talking,” for instance,
teachers should phrase it as “talk in turn.” The
theory, I suppose, is that when students are told
not to do one thing without being told what
they should do instead, they may not know their
options. Proponents also argue that phrasing
rules in the positive is less confrontational; rebellious students will be less apt to break a positively
stated procedure than a negatively worded rule.
I don’t buy this. For new teachers, especially,
classroom rules need to be rules, and a rule
should be stated in the clearest way possible.
Many of the most important rules adults have to
abide by are written in the negative: No parking.
No dogs allowed. Do not disturb. Do not pass go.
Do not collect 200 dollars. Thou shalt not kill.
The same books that suggest this positive
approach to rule making often take a similar
approach to the rules they suggest new teachers
should abide by. But just as it’s wrong to be too
subtle when instructing children, it’s wrong to be
too subtle when instructing new teachers. This
is particularly true when the teachers are trained
through a crash-course alternative certification
As a product of the second-ever Teach for
America institute back in the summer of 1991,
I was taught the essentials of teaching in this
indecisive way. As a new teacher, my classroom
performance suffered partly because of this lack
of clarity. I was told that there are many correct
ways to do something. Although this is true,
there are also many wrong ways to do something.
Rookie teachers, who struggle to sort out right
ways from wrong, would be better served by a
clear list of behaviors to actively avoid.
I made all the mistakes I describe here in my
first year of teaching. As nobody clearly warned
me about these mistakes, I had to learn for
myself through trial and error. Unfortunately, by