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Career educator Fariña offers advice from her days in the classroom

A couple weeks away from the start of the school year, Chancellor Carmen Fariña is working the teacher-advice circuit.

On Tuesday, she told pre-K teachers at a training institute in Brooklyn to follow each students’ pace and to take naps after work. Today, at the close of a series of workshops for teachers at Scholastic headquarters in Manhattan, she provided words of wisdom from her own days inside the classroom.

“The reality is if you’re not nervous, in my opinion, you’re not a good teacher,” Fariña told them. “Good teachers do get nervous and excited.”

Fariña’s advice ranged from how to collaborate with other teachers, to how to foster a social life for young students. All of it was specific, reflecting her desire to present herself as a lifelong educator with a firm grasp on what goes on inside schools, especially in the younger grades.

“You see? I’m not making this up,” Fariña said after teachers murmured in agreement when she mentioned the divide between younger and senior teachers. “I didn’t lose my connection to schools.”

Some of her advice:

  1. New teachers should avoid the teacher’s lunchroom during the first few weeks. It’s where “the whiners” go to gripe, she said.
  2. Collaborate with your peers through one-on-one lunches or by swapping classrooms once a week. An educator skilled in teaching literacy could switch classrooms with another who excels in teaching math, for example.
  3. Celebrate students’ birthdays with something more productive than a cupcake or balloons. When she was a teacher, Fariña said she wouldn’t give students homework on his or her birthday. If the child had few friends, she’d let him or her pick two friends who would also have no homework, to help “bring them into the fold.”
  4. Don’t ask teachers in the grade below you for names of the “bad” kids. Instead, ask for the parents who they had trouble reaching.
  5. Send home “wow letters” in the first week to kids who are more of a challenge. You’ll give the student something to celebrate, and it also helps to “have those parents in your pocket when you have to tell the harder truths.”

Extra Credit: Do you have advice to add to the chancellor’s? Leave it in the comments or tweet @ChalkbeatNY.