Mr. Cooper goes beyond the book

Here’s the latest new teacher story and cartoon! Check it out and see what Mr. Cooper learned by reading his story below the comic. Want to share your 1st year teacher story and allow a new teacher to benefit from your experience? Send it to


“Well, what does the book say to do?” Do you sometimes wish you had a owners manual for life; a book where you can look up all the answers? “If X happens… do Y.” Of course, we know no such book exists, for life is just too unpredictable and complex, especially the life of a teacher in the classroom, where you often have thirty plus young people in one room together! Yet, some teacher graduate programs attempt such a feat. They are filled with plans and templates to follow, “best practices,” the latest ways to engage students, and so on and so forth. A new teacher fresh out of such programs can be tempted to “stick to the book,” only to find themselves left with feelings of bewilderment as they wonder why their lessons are not as effective as they anticipated. As Mr. Nigel Cooper realized in his first year teaching, “teaching programs do not provide all the answers to every teaching environment and situation.” The truth is there is no single book that could contain all the insights that veteran teachers gain throughout their careers (of course, this book your holding may be the closest thing to that, lol). To gain such knowledge, one must embark upon an active quest to seek out their veteran colleagues, and sit at their feet and soak up their wisdom. Read more about Nigel’s quest in his story below.

“My first teaching experience was in Incheon, South Korea. I was nervous and didn’t want to fail. My goal was to be the best foreign teacher my school has ever worked with. However, in my first few months, I noticed that things were not quite going as planned. I wasn’t able to control my class, had low engagement from the students, and my lessons always went over time. Though at the start of the year I was confident that I had all the answers to manage and teach a perfect class, I was now feeling depressed because it seemed I couldn’t do it by myself.
It took the experience of a more seasoned teacher to point out my pedagogical flaws and help put me on the right track. After following her advice I noticed an immediate improvement in my lessons and a huge uptick in student engagement. I began to seek out more feedback from other seasoned teachers at my school. My quest paid off, as the knowledge I gained empowered me to tweak my lessons in ways that provided a superior learning experience for my students.
My first year as a teacher revealed that teaching programs do not provide all the answers to every teaching environment and situation; successful lessons require adapting, tweaking and fine-tuning. Thanks to the critical feedback of my peers, I transformed from a nervous, naive teacher to an instructor that was in control of the classroom and equipped to promote the success of my students. Through continuously seeking feedback, applying what I learned, journaling my experiences, and reflecting critically on my practice, I was able to become a more confident and capable educator. After my first year of teaching, the following years kept getting easier. As I reflect upon my experiences that first year, I believe the greatest insight a first year teacher can gain is this: don’t let yourself get in the way of your students success!”

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