Dear New Teacher,
Welcome to the best profession there is. It’s by far one of the most rewarding, but also most challenging. There are so many things to think about when you land that first job that your head starts spinning from classroom set-up and decor, getting to know the new lay of the land, getting to know your teaching partners and school district, getting to know your students, teaching to the standards, parent teacher conferences, the list goes on and on.
Here are some words of advice for you, new teacher:
1. Teaching is a job that never ends so set the limits for yourself and take care of yourself. You WILL work more than the typical 8hrs a day quite frequently. You’ll be thinking about your students and their needs and how to do a better job all the time. But remember, it’s okay to put all the schoolwork aside to take care of you. When you’re healthy and happy, your students will thrive. Make time to get out there, do what you love, whether it’s traveling, kayaking, having coffee dates with friends, walking the dog, etc. The most important thing to remember is you DO have time to take care of you.
2. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took me years to get the hang of teaching, discipline, and building rapport with students. I encountered my fair share of “false starts”, “backfires” “mis-steps” but none of there were ever a full force failure, because were all learning and growing experiences. Every year you teach you will be a better teacher. Each lesson you teach and each discipline issue you encounter, you’ll find a way to handle it better or say it better next time. It also takes time to acquire things to decorate your classroom. You don’t need to have the perfect Pinterest classroom to be a great teacher. You can create the basics, but don’t underestimate the power of student decor in your classroom! Students love to see their work on the walls, and it’s FREE decor that you can change as you see fit.
3. Laugh and show your students you are a real person. When students point out your mistakes, agree with them, laugh. It makes you a real person. Wear the craziest hat on crazy hat day. Sing the goofy songs that kids help kids remember the 6 times tables. Play games with your students. Tell stories. Connect with your students by showing them you’re interested in them.
4. Respect your students and teach them as if they were your own children. Remember that each child you teach is the most special person to their family and relatives. If you teach each student as if s/he is your own child, you will be mindful to respect those precious kiddos who are entrusted to your care. You’ll do a better job of teaching and they will do a better job of trying to learn.
5. Teach ALL students as if they are gifted. They will surprise you and appreciate your belief in them. Every now and then, teach concepts that are above the grade level you are teaching. Students will either get it or they’ll hear it again in a year or two. It’s okay! It stretches them. Allow all learners to have the opportunity for the enrichment activities. Your special needs learners will surprise you by learning and doing things if given the chance. It helps their self esteem to be better at something than their peers. Let them shine and have their moment.
6. Never compare yourself to others. No one has the unique skills that you possess. No one has your personality or comes with your uniques skills and talents. Don’t compare yourself to other teachers who’ve been teaching for awhile or to pictures of perfect classrooms you see on Pinterest. Your decorating abilities don’t make you a better teacher. Sure, make your classroom learning space fun and kid friendly, but it doesn’t have to be perfect or cost your first month’s paycheck. Do watch what great teachers do and learn effective ways of teaching and dealing with students and difficult situations but don’t compare yourself to the teacher. Be yourself. Be YOU.
7. Ask for help! It’s okay to get help from your teaching partners. They know the routines and can offer lots of advice that might save you time and energy. Listen and then do what you need to do in your own way. Probably the most challenging things to learn are in behavior management. (Hint, see #4 and #5 above). Learning effective classroom management skills comes with time and each child is different so there’s no perfect way that works for all students.
8. Find a way to get and stay organized . Whatever you do, be/get organized. Find the systems that work for you. You might be a binder person, or a crate and tub person, or an online organizer, or a filing cabinet person. It doesn’t matter what you choose, just choose what feels right for you and be organized. It will save your sanity. Years ago when I found great websites, I saved them on my website in my online file cabinet so I could find those great sites again. I’ve tried all kinds of methods to get organized in the classroom. For my teacher materials, calendars, duty schedules, student information, lesson plans etc. I have to use a 3-ring binder so I can add and removed materials as the year progresses. There are some super cute pre-made spiral bound teacher planners that I wanted like but they just never worked for me. We’d get a new duty schedules, goal setting sheets, testing information, etc. that I could file behind the right divider tab. I could take out the beginning of the year lesson plans and file them, giving me more space in my binder. For curriculum storage, binders were expensive and I would put the papers in binder front pocket because the paper wasn’t punched. Besides, after years of teaching, you just can’t have enough binders to store all those great ideas and you don’t have the space. For the paper items and ideas, I had file cabinets full of ideas all organized by drawer and filed alphabetically. I had one 4-drawer file cabinet full of math topics. When I’d find great ideas, I’d put them into file folders. I never had to open binders and punch holes. The first file folder in each drawer was a “To Be Filed” one so I could quickly plop the paper in and worry about filing it exactly until later. That plus my online website links worked for me. Just find what works for you and stay organized.
9. YOU are enough! A happy, healthy teacher is a more effective teacher. You’ve worked hard to get your teaching degree. You can do this job and you’ll be great. I’m not saying it will always be easy. It won’t. Your students will appreciate you and you’ll make a difference in their lives. The notes of appreciation and words that you made a difference in their lives makes it all worth it. You’ve got this!
When you take a step back and remember these simple things, you will feel a little less stressed, and a little more empowered. Don’t sweat the little things! Have a great year!
from Mrs. Renz Class
P.S. If you are looking for somewhere to start and want access to some great FREE online web-links for all subjects, click here to follow me (it’s free) to get access to the huge collection of links!