Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hey There, New Teacher!!

your biggest fan, Suzanne
You did it!  All of that course work, training, planning, interviewing, and dreaming have led you to this point.  Your are going to be the teacher in your very own classroom!  That's a big deal!

If your now thinking to yourself, "Holy heck!  What have I done?!", you're not alone.  I clearly remember my first day of teaching.  We were about two hours into the day when I thought, "Man, when is their teacher going to get here?!"  I'm pretty sure my face went pale as I realized that their teacher was here...it was me!  

Teaching is one of, if not the most, rewarding profession!  Sure, there will be hard days, challenging students, and lessons that don't go as planned, but they's nothing that you can't overcome.  Especially with a little bit of advice.

Make Friends
These are little sweetie faces from my first crop!
Education is not made to go it alone. It's too hard! Making good friends can pay off in big ways. You will likely be paired with an official mentor by your campus.  Hopefully this is a great fit and this person truly invests in you and your classroom. Either way, find a person that is strong in your content. Listen carefully in department meetings and planning sessions.  Who is consistently asking good questions, bringing creative ideas, and tying ideas and suggestions to standards that are to be taught? Ask to spend a part of your conference period in their classroom. Ask to plan together once a week. Also figure out who is a dynamic teacher on your campus.  They don't even have to teach your same subject- good ideas are everywhere! You might hear music and laughter coming from their room or learning spilling out of their room and into the hallways. They can help you design lessons that are engaging and purposeful and manage behaviors and procedures. If you need suggestions, ask your administrators. You'll get mucho points for taking initiative! Another important friend- your custodian.  They are powerful!  Talk to them when they're in your room.  Ask about their family and any traveling they did this summer. They can also give you advice about being your new school.

Plan, Plan, Plan
You don't get to "wing it".  Sorry, if that sounds harsh, but I really mean it. Quality instruction doesn't happen by accident. Engaging activities take lots of planning and preemptive problem-solving. Higher order questions are premeditated.  Are you a new ELAR teacher? Yay, yay, yay!!  I'm so glad you're here. Now raise your hand and repeat after me- "I, {your full name here...yes, middle name too}, do solemnly swear to read all literature before teaching it in my classroom." This might sound like a no-brainer, but it deserves to be mentioned here. At NO TIME should you and your students be reading something for the first time together. And no, you reading the same short story when you were in high school doesn't count. No pressure, but there are eyes on you. It's just good leadership. People are looking at your lesson plans, coming into your classroom, and monitoring your scores in order to provide resources and support. Hopefully this support is being provided from the beginning to ward off potential problems. Being in the spotlight definitely means not taking short cuts.

Don't Be a Jerk
They're all big and grown now, but I still love them!
Relationships are key! Allow your classroom to reflect your personality. Have pictures of friends (that reflect your newfound adulthood and professionalism...{awkward smile}), family, cool places you've traveled, etc. around your desk. Proudly represent your college. Be kind to every student.  Greet them at the door. On those first days, you don't know them.  That means you don't know what they've experienced or how they work.  Respect that. Also, for some students, your newness is the best thing that's ever happened to them. It means a fresh start! Throughout the year, you will build stronger relationships. Tutoring is a great time to sit down with a small group and hear students as individuals. Also, learn what they're interested in and celebrate that.  Go to their games/concerts. If you can't, ask about them on Monday morning. Students are people too. They appreciate signs that you notice them and that you care. 

*I hate having to mention this disclaimer, but it's just the world that we live in: Before or after school, when you might have students coming and going, keep your door open. You never need to have a closed door meeting with a student. You just don't. Also, try not to spend prolonged periods of time with a student, particularly with a member of the opposite sex. This is best to protect you and your students. Also, technology- students don't need to be your digital friend or follower. You can create accounts for your classroom but keep them open for all to see. One last thing- protect your phone number. The is the #1 source of trouble I've seen. Be careful. Okay, enough of that...

Find Balance
It will never all be finished. But guess what? It'll still be there tomorrow. Set a cut off time. My personal one is 5-5:30. Yeah, even now. Some days I beat it and some days I leave after that, but it helps to have a time to start wrapping things up. You need something to enjoy outside of school, especially something that includes people.  Post-college can be a little lonely.  Don't worry- there's not something wrong with you. It'll get better. Find a great church, an intramural sports league, or volunteer opportunity. Also, take some time to relax. You are doing some of the most important and difficult work there is to be done- treat yourself like the VIP that you are!

I am so excited for you! My first year is still one of my favorites. There will still be some curveballs and unexpected bumps, but I truly believe that these little pearls of wisdom will set you off on a good start. And I 100% mean this...really...try me...if you need ANYTHING (resources, ideas, management tips, a listening ear) don't hesitate to let me know. Click on Contact Us at the top of the page, and I'm just a couple of clicks away. I genuinely want to see you succeed! You've got this!!

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