10 Things My Dad Taught Me about Teaching

Aaah, Mr. Fowler. My seventh and eighth grade shop teacher. (I was the only student to cut her finger on a jigsaw one of those years.) Also a high school math teacher before that. (He taught my mom when she was in high school. Sssshhhh.) And if memory serves, he was also a teacher of driver’s education and a basketball coach.

But mostly, he’s my dad. A true Teachers Hall of Fame-r, for sure. And I give him credit for all of my wonderful teaching skills. I give my grandma, his mom, credit, too. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse, so you know she was no joke!

So, without further ado, here is Mr. Fowler’s best teaching advice, in no particular order:

1. Keep your sense of humor. Always.

2. Don’t ever become a substitute teacher. It will sour you, and then you’ll never want your own classroom.

3. You will always have a job as a teacher if you go into math or science. (Sorry I was insubordinate, Dad, but English is fun. I wish you’d have mentioned physical education somewhere along the lines, though.)

4. It’s okay to not remember former students’ names when you run into them. Just don’t let them know you don’t remember.

5. Once you’ve retired, go ahead and hang around that old school all you want. Haunting it can be your new hobby. Those are your stomping grounds, after all, and they will remind you of what you loved most about teaching: the kids. And that will keep you happy.

6. Join the union and become an active member of it. Teachers have to fight for other teachers. (As the shop teacher, he needed their protection, too. You never know when a kid could get hurt. I still remember when he gave me this advice: I was the new high school newspaper adviser.)

7. Changing classrooms or grade levels or buildings doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it could keep you fresh, thus getting you to those later years of retirement.

8. Enjoy activities outside of school with your colleagues: play cards, go bowling, paint houses and barns in the summers, or play basketball together. Those are your peeps, the ones who help you when the job of being a teacher gets tough. Because it can.

9. Be a good role model and not just for your students. Younger teachers need mentors with experience and wisdom they can rely on. It’s your duty.

10. Be kind. Be understanding. Be respectful. Be patient. Be yourself. Students will appreciate it.

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