Tuesday, August 6, 2013

10 Things They Don't Tell You As a First Year Teacher

As much as we'd all love to believe that we emerge from our college courses and teaching internships with fresh ideas and the preparedness to jump right in and be a successful teacher, it's far from the truth.  Sure, we gathered invaluable amounts of knowledge on how to write a 6-step lesson plan and individually assess a child based on their singular needs, but there are just those minute details that go unforeseen as rookies.  I try to always keep a running mental list of tips to pass on to a fellow first year when needed.  Going into my third year this August, I feel reasonably prepared to offer a few words of wisdom to those that seek it.  

So, to simplify....I've narrowed down a list of 10 things we should all be told as first year teachers:

10. Keep every receipt to EVERY school related purchase you make
Even in those summer months while you are racking up things for your first classroom and haven't been introduced to the PTA or district administrators...those funds with be there.  They won't be on any grandiose scale...but every little bit helps.  You are even able to write a certain amount off on your taxes.

9. Always make a master copy of every unit you plan
Keep all the masters in a Manila folder and file it labeled in a file cabinet.  Binders go missing and are too time consuming to flip through.  When you get to that unit the next year, all you have to do is pull it out and see what worksheets and activities you previously did

8.  Try to establish a solid relationship with your mentor
This person will be your life line the first few years, and you're also mandated to meet with them for an hour a week and discuss your progress.  Their feedback will be essential to your growth.  I always took the time to get thoughtful gifts and thank you cards for my mentor this year.  She was super supportive of every aspect of my teaching and I wanted her to realize how valuable she was to my growth.

7.  When exchanging emails with a parent or other professional that may involve any negative,  have a more experienced teacher look at it BEFORE you send it
I made this mistake a few too many times, and it also came back to bite me more than once.  We sometimes send emails home to a parent about a student that may have gotten the best of us that day, or may even be heated with the parent.  CALM DOWN 100% before you send, and make sure another teammate approves of the wording.  

6.  If you are fortunate enough to have an assistant, appreciate them 
My first year teaching second grade, I had no assistance other than the 45 minutes I was granted to send my kids to specials each day.  This past year, I moved to another school and had a full time assistant.  I CANNOT tell you the impact that this woman had on my growth as an educator.  I've had other friends complain about their assistants before, but at the end of the day that person is your partner and teammate.  You are grateful for the work they do as your second in command.  Don't ever go over their heads and change the decision they've made with another student unless you feel it's unprofessional.  (For example:  if a student asks you to go to the bathroom and your assistant has already said no, that's the final word.  It will make your assistant feel unappreciated and of no value if you change the decision).   It can also be hard to delegate with someone who is older than you if that's the case.  My assistant is almost my mothers age and I never felt comfortable telling her what to do....but that's because I never TOLD her, I always ASKED.  Kindness and humility goes a long way.

5. Make a spreadsheet with students names and helper jobs
Each week when you change the jobs, check off what student has had what job.  That way,  every kid will get a new job they haven't had yet and you won't have repeats or any complainers that they've never gotten to be the paper person but Susie has done it twice already.

4. Make a point to develop a first name basis relationship with the following people:
The lunch staff
The front desk secretary
The bookkeeper 
The attendance (NCWISE) manager
The librarian 
- You would really be surprised at what a difference it can make to have good relationships with these people.  Even if they're not always the friendliest to you, they will appreciate your kindness and be more likely to put you at the top of their list for a request.

3. Don't be afraid to give your kids the responsibility of learning how to handle technology
By the end of the year, I had one student who knew how to take my laptop and hook it up to my SMARTBOARD, sound speakers, and document camera.  Then she could go to the correct website and pull up our morning newscast each day.  All of my students knew how to email me a document from a laptop and also find something I put in their dropbox.  These students will learn how to navigate around technology when given the chance to trial and error.

2.  NEVER tape down name tags to desks at the beginning of the year
As soon as you realize that Judy doesn't work well next to Sammy, you're going to need to move someone.  Then you have the task of pulling up all that tape and getting new to transfer to another desk.  I used Velcro and my kids just pulled up their tag anytime they needed to find a new desk home.

1. If you're fortunate enough to find out you have a job early enough, go to work in your classroom as SOON AS POSSIBLE.  
It will take you HOURS to set up your room and you will need all the time you can get.  Go work in your room before those teacher workdays start.  Don't be fooled by the fact that it says Teacher Workday.  What that really means is "spend hours of your time in professional development and meetings before school."  The PD is definitely needed, but so is the time in your room.  Go early, save yourself the stress and frustration. 

Hope this was helpful!!!

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