My very first year teaching, I looked like a student (let’s be honest, I still do), and regardless I was fresh out of college and everybody knew it. So open house orientation night felt like a do-or-die scenario for me. I had to get these parents to understand I wasn’t a kid and that I would be a good teacher.
I’ll never forget the tall, polished mom who walked up to my desk where I happened to be sitting at the moment, making me feel even littler, and her asking me, “What is your focus of this class? What will you be emphasizing this year?”
I already knew who she was; the family’s reputation of being extremely academically intense had preceded them.
At that moment, I felt sure that this lady was definitely smarter than I was, and probably her kids, too; and that if I didn’t give a well-thought-out answer to her legitimate question, she would write me off as a doofus and tell the principal I was a bad hire. So I looked her in the eyes, smiled, hoping she couldn’t see I was sweating through my Old Navy blazer, and gave the best answer I knew how, despite the fact that I hadn’t actually thought that far. My main focus was actually just to survive until I could get the hang of this teaching thing.
We’ve probably all been there, one way or another.
Every line of work has their own FAQs, and the longer you’re in the biz, the more answers you have; some you could answer in your sleep. Teaching is no exception.
If you’re newer to teaching, or if you feel like you’re always having to make tough calls, take some time to really think through these questions and formulate your own answers. Write them down. It will save you time and mental energy to have already-thought-out answers, solutions, and policies in place. That way, when the need arises, all you have to do is set your plan in motion, or give your definite answer, rather than having to stop everything to think through all your pros and cons.
It’s even better if you’re able to craft an answer for each of these questions during a break from school, when you’re mentally fresh.
You may want to type some of these up as an FAQs section that’s part of your class syllabus (you can grab my syllabus template for free here!).
Here’s to always having a good answer.
- Will you be available for tutoring? If so, when? Will you charge for tutoring? If so, how much?
- Will you offer a help class? How often? How will it be structured?
- When a parent asks for extra resources for their child to use at home to practice X concept, what will you point them to?
- Will you be willing to organize or lead a club or other extra-curricular activity at school? If not, formulate your professional, polite “no” ahead of time.
- What’s your policy about purchasing fundraiser items from students?
- Will you allow students to turn in late work? If so, what is the penalty?
- What is your cheating/ plagiarism policy (and/ or your school’s policy)?
- Will you allow re-dos or re-takes of assessments? If so, what are your requirements?
- Will you allow certain students extra time to complete assessments? If so, how and when?
- What kind of homework assignments will you give, if any?
- Will you allow opportunities for extra credit? If so, may a student earn more than 100% on an assignment?
- What method of communication with students and parents do you prefer (phone, school texting app, e-mail, etc.)? When are times that you are not available? (You should have times when you aren’t available– see my Teacher Survival Tips post for more thoughts on this.)
- What is your policy (and/or your school’s policy) on arriving late to class or missing class? What are your procedures for missed work/ assessments and how and when they’re to be made-up?
- What is your policy (and/or your school’s policy) on cell phones and technology use in the classroom?
- If a student does not have supplies, will you provide them?
- If a parent offers to donate or volunteer, what items or assistance is needed? (Having a little list in advance of needed funds or items as well as tasks or responsibilities that parents can do for you will help you be able to take parents up on their generous offers, instead of waiting six months from the time they made their offer, and then trying to think of a polite way to ask them to make good on it.)
- If your school were to give you a budget or you received a grant to buy items for your classroom, what items would be on the top of your priority list?
- If a student finishes his classwork early, is he allowed to work on something for a different class?
- Exactly what steps will you take when a student’s grade reaches a certain low (failing or near-failing)? How will you document these steps?
- When is your designated time to check your email/ messages? (Don’t check messages until you have the time and mental energy to respond to them.)
For more thought-provoking questions to help you reflect and plan, grab my free Teacher Goals Worksheet.
Oh, and that mom I mentioned in my story? She became one of my biggest supporters during my teaching career. She always had my back. And she said the kindest things to me when she found out I was leaving the school.
What FAQs would you add to the list? Please share in the comments below.