Six Tips for First Year Teachers

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That first year of teaching. The joys of getting your first "real job" offer! I can remember that phone call-my stomach twisted into knots! I got my first teaching job 5 days before school started. I was fresh out of college and desperate for a job. I had no clue what to expect as I had gotten my Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education and my first teaching job would be teaching remedial math to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

I truly believe that with each passing year you get better if you continue to stay current with new teaching methods and adapt to your current classroom's needs. I am no superstar teacher that knows it all but I DO know what has worked for me. My hope is maybe some of these tips will help you be successful with your first year changing lives! 

1. Do NOT take work home.
I had a veteran teacher give me this advice my first year with a stern voice. She said, "It will all be there when you get here in the morning". I could count the number of times I have taken papers home to grade on both hands. I have coworkers that love taking home papers and grading in front of their favorite Netflix series, but that doesn't bring me joy. I truly believe that you cannot pour from an empty cup. I have watched teachers get so tired because they never "leave work at work". They are constantly stressed feeling as though they are never caught up. This can lead to teacher burn out and this is NOT what you or your students need. Sometimes it is necessary to bring home something and I get this. I'm only suggesting you do not make this a habit and do it every single night. Please don't think I'm bashing anyone who does take work home each night-remember this is what worked for me!

Stay organized with your time management. Utilize your planning periods to the full extent! Do not go to your team teachers and gossip and waste precious minutes you could be using to grade that giant stack of papers. For me, I had to be honest with my coworkers that come planning time I meant business and to not bother me unless it was an emergency. You can always email me and I'll respond! Even five minutes here and there means another 10 papers graded. Remember that stack will be in the exact same spot when you open your classroom door. You could even stay after school and work for a little bit to get caught up. I find I am exhausted by the end of the day and I'm not as efficient. I would rather get to school early and hit the ground running because I've had a large cup or two of coffee! Try this instead of taking it home!

2. Use a Planner.
Your life is going to get busy really quick with so many deadlines and dates to remember! I love a paper planner! Have you seen "The Happy Planner"? Amazon has Box Kits that includes the 12 month planner and coordinating stickers, sticky notes, pen, and a pocket folder!  There are some really good ones at your big box retailers as well. First thing I do is sit down with our district calendar and write every single date for the entire year. Every time you get an email with a deadline write it immediately in your planner. Open your planner first thing in the morning while waiting for the computer to start. Refer to it throughout the day and always look ahead to the next day before leaving school.

I have recently been moving towards strictly using Google Calendar. I'll admit I'm becoming slightly obsessed. My district uses Google as their email platform so I can sync multiple calendars. I can easily color-code my events. I can set reminders to repeat as needed. I never miss a deadline. I can access this calendar from anywhere without having to carry a paper planner around. Whatever method you use just remember to actually use it. In order for it to work you must use it!

Plum Paper Planner

3. Don't worry if your classroom isn't "Pinterest-worthy".
This should not be your main concern your first year(or ever!). You need to be sure you have some type of decorations that make you happy to be there as well as your students but you don't have to have it all your first year. Work on having designated areas for multiple trash cans, pencil sharpeners, and where students will turn in their work. Your classroom will evolve over time as will your style. I'll share this picture from my first classroom. I took anything I could that other teachers were getting rid of. I was so proud of that room and each year something changes with my decor that I thought I loved the previous year but am passing it on for next year.

4. Establish your Rules and Procedures on Day One.
Ever heard of "Fake It 'till You Make It"? Try not to let your students see that you are nervous and/or have no clue what to expect your first year teaching. Students will feel it the moment you let that show. I never liked being told "don't smile until Christmas". I don't agree with this but I do feel that you must let students know how you will run your classroom with high expectations each day. You absolutely MUST have a classroom management strategy in place before school starts. You are going to have a classroom full of multiple children with all various parenting styles at home. How you set the tone with your expectations for your classroom each day is so important. This is important for your own sanity. You can walk up and down the hallways and see the teachers that do not have control over their classroom. It is pure chaos day in and out. This also can lead to teacher burn out. Remember we do not want to get burned out on what we love to do!

My biggest tip for the new teachers at our school is to go through your Rules and Procedures on Day One. I have used this PowerPoint presentation since my first year. I do not read every single thing on each slide. This is to help guide me in what I show the students. I quickly scan through this presentation and remind students we will work on these as the specific situations arise.
Remember to be consistent and follow through with your expectations and consequences.

5. Build Relationships.
You are going to feel like you are alone in that everyone else knows what they are doing. They don't. Do not be afraid to ask questions! You have to reach out to those teachers around you. Get their cell phone number and add them on Facebook. If you are feeling lost or confused about something-ASK! Teachers are busy and you may have to be the one to go to them. Make friends with your coworkers! They are one of your greatest resources!

You also need to work on building relationships with students(appropriately). This was one of my professional goals for the previous couple of years. I will be the first to admit I was terrible at this. I felt that I showed my students that I cared, but I wasn't doing my best. I vowed to stand at my door every single morning the entire time during homeroom, as well as every single class change and greet every single student by their name. My first couple of years I was nervous to hug my students. I was so young(22 years old when I started teaching) and it felt weird. I wanted my students to take me seriously as a teacher(some of my students were 16 years old), so I didn't want to get too personal. I think this changed after having two kids of my own. Remember, even your worst student is someone's baby. Stand at your door and say "Good Morning!" with a smile on your face. Do this even if you are having a stressful day. You are modeling so many things to your students and I want to model positivity!

6. Call Parents.
Calling parents can be a frightening thing! Parents will be concerned that you are a new teacher and are not going to teach their child what they need to know. You have no credibility. Yet! Get on the phone and call parents. You will probably meet a lot at Open House which a great time to introduce yourself. The older the students get, the less phone calls that happen. You will recognize the students on day one that might be the unruly ones. Call those parents first. Get them on your team. Explain to them that you are so excited about the opportunity to teach their child and that you can't wait to see what the year holds. This initial contact is SO important! It needs to be very positive! Parents talk to other parents. You want a positive message to be attached with your name. Talking on the phone is the way to go! Be sure that parents know you are there for them and can be reached when needed. This will be a game-changer for your classroom management. If you wait until that unruly student has driven you off the edge to make the first contact you will have more difficulty with getting their parents to be on your side. Trust me-you want parents on your side.

What is your best tip? Leave a comment below with your favorite tip for First Year Teachers!

I hope you have a FABULOUS first year! I promise you will survive and you will get better every year! I cannot wait to hear all about it and remember that you are changing the world one student at a time! If you have any questions or need help with something please don't hesitate to ask!

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