On Shellee Hendricks’ first day of tenth grade, her teacher shook each student’s hand.
“It’s customary to shake hands when starting work with someone,” says Hendricks in her new book, Notes on Teaching: A Short Guide to an Essential Skill. “I realized that I was being invited into a partnership; I quickly understood that my teacher respected me, held me responsible, and wanted to work with me toward a shared goal.”
“Shake hands” is note number 20. Hendricks and co-author Russell Reich offer 183 other insightful and inspiring recommendations in Notes on Teaching (RCR Creative Press, 2011), a comprehensive yet concise guide to perfecting the craft of teaching.
In an elegant and user-friendly format, Notes on Teaching covers all bases in sixteen sections, including Planning and Preparation, First Class Meeting, Setting Expectations, Classroom Staging, Leading a Class, Talking to Students, and Talking to Parents.
Below are ten of my favorite insights from Notes on Teaching:
25. Say why (First Class Meeting)
“Students face many compulsory subjects and deserve to know why they must study algebra if they have no interest in becoming financiers, physicists, or engineers.”
26. Dive into the subject (First Class Meeting)
“Start with housekeeping only if you want to signal pending tedium and forfeit the opportunity to, well, teach something. Reviewing your lateness policy line by line will demoralize everyone.”
31. Involve them in setting goals (Setting Expectations)
“Ask: ‘What do you want out of this class?’ Have students write down their answers. If you set all goals, they won’t be invested.”
33. Don’t tell them they’ve achieved what they haven’t (Setting Expectations)
“Don’t deny students a good education in the name of self-esteem. Deceive people about their own progress to make them feel good, or lead them to believe they’ve mastered something they have not, and you will quickly and rightly lose their trust.”
35. Champion failure (Setting Expectations)
“Foster a sea change in education by explicitly introducing ‘failure’ as a worthy goal, not a taboo. Failure is not a signal to give up or a cause for dejection or humiliation. It’s a healthy sign of working at the frontier of one’s ability or understanding.”
71. Be an emotional leader as well as an intellectual one (Leading a Class)
“Enthusiasm is contagious. So is its lack.”
114. Notice what they want you to notice (Talking to Students)
“Students drop hints: repeated references to basketball in their writing, or a tendency to break into song upon leaving class. Comment on their point of pride. Let them know you’re paying attention.”
130. Know the student, and show you know (Talking to Parents)
“Be specific. Your familiarity with each student gives your observations, suggestions, and warnings credibility.”
131. Deliver good news first and last (Talking to Parents)
“When parents see your interest in discovering the positive in their child, they absorb subsequent criticisms and warnings more willingly.”
140. Do not grade everything (Giving Feedback)
“Offering feedback without a grade sends a message to your students: Their practice and improvement are more important than where their work falls on some supposedly objective scale.”
For more information, visit notesonteaching.com.