Today was the last day of summer. After a 9:30am presentation to some of our new teachers, I headed home to enjoy the gorgeous weather (89 degrees in August in Oklahoma is unheard of!)... rocking chair, sunlight, breeze, good book... it was a glorious afternoon... well, until I got sunburnt LOL! :) When hubby got home, his response was "well, you wanted some color on your legs!" :)
Tomorrow starts my 18th year in the classroom. That's so scary to me. My students this year will have been born during my 1st year of teaching. I find that crazy because I do NOT feel that old! :)
As a shout-out to the new teachers I worked with today, here are 18 tips, one for each year I've been in the classroom! (These are in no particular order!)
- The most valuable person at your school is your site secretary. Get to know him/her really well! This is the person that knows where everything is stored and can answer 99.99999% of your questions. Always be nice to him/her and show them respect.
- The second most valuable person is the custodian. Go out of your way to find out their name, ask about their family, and treat them well. My custodian is a lovely lady who was a math teacher in Columbia before moving to the States.
- Your classroom is your home away from home. Make sure it is a place that you enjoy, because you will be spending many hours there!
- Take time to write and reflect on a regular basis. Some people journal daily, others jot down thoughts on a post-it, but whatever works for you, just make sure you do it!
- Take advantage of the resources of the MTBoS! There is no need to reinvent the wheel, nor do you have time for it! When lesson planning, I always have a tab open with Tweetdeck so that my PLN is just a click away.
- Take time for you. It is really easy to let this profession overwhelm you. Each week, find time to do something fun... go for a hike, go to a movie, get a pedicure, whatever it is that helps you relax!
- Relax! You can be the biggest perfectionist in the world, but no one is perfect the first time (or the first ten times!) It's okay to make mistakes, to learn from them, to learn to do better next time. Your administrator knows that you didn't walk out of college 3 months ago and have it all figured out already.. heck, 20 year veterans don't have it all figured out! Give yourself permission to fail, to pick yourself up and try again.
- Spend quality time in lesson planning. Think through how a lesson flows, plan out the questions you will ask, determine the formative assessment strategies that fit best. Put yourself in the student chair... would you be engaged with this lesson? If not, what can you do to fix it?
- Find a mentor. Chances are, there is a veteran teacher nearby that would love to help you. If not, MTBoS to the rescue! We have a ton of people from every walk of life that are passionate about teaching and learning and will help you out.
- Develop routines. Think about all the little details... what if a kid needs to use the restroom? What about absent students? When can they sharpen their pencils? How do you want to structure your class period? It's better to think through how you want to handle things before kids arrive.
- Be a "bell-to-bell" teacher. Some of the most valuable (and wasted) time in the class period is the first and last 5 minutes of the day. I highly encourage you to develop a warmup and exit ticket routine. If you use that time wisely, it can add up to 50 minutes per week... that's an entire class period!
- Find your "people". A lot of advice columns will tell you to avoid the teacher's lounge and for good reason! Often, the lounge is filled with Grumpy Gus and Negative Nancy. However, it is vital for you to have adult conversation at least once a day! Find the people that you identify with and I guarantee you will find some of your dearest friends.
- Sometimes you have to prioritize and that's okay! While I'm not advocating for letting papers pile up for days on end (guilty!), remember that your health and well-being is important. When it comes down to grading Friday's test or attending Grandma's 85th birthday, please choose Grandma every time! Those tests will still be there tomorrow, but your time with Grandma is limited.
- Speaking of health and well-being, take time to exercise and eat right. I've struggled with my weight for years and years, but daily exercise is really important. Beyond the obvious reason for exercise, there is also research about how the oxygen and movement is important to brain function, particularly creativity. I'd also recommend putting a pair of comfy shoes in your classroom so you can go on an afternoon stroll with a colleague. It's a great way to get some exercise in while chatting!
- Other things to have in your classroom: house-shoes for those days when your dress shoes are giving you a blister; bandaids for those pesky papercuts (or the blisters!); needle and thread because you never know when they might be handy for sewing on a button (safety pins are handy too!); jacket or lap blanket for those cranky heat/air systems
- Never underestimate the value of a good pen! I love pens, like really love pens! I have container after container of pens. However, when I'm grading, I can't stand pens that bleed, skip, or are "scratchy". For grading, my go-to is the Papermate Flair. They may be pricey, but they are SO worth it!
- Collaboration is important. Find the teachers that teach your subject and work with them. Share assessments and lessons. You do NOT have to do this alone! If no one at your school teaches your subject, then ask the MTBoS for help!
- Don't be afraid to ask for help! I have known too many new teachers that ended up leaving the profession because they were overwhelmed but didn't want to be a bother to the veteran teachers. You are NOT a bother! We want to help, but don't want to seem too pushy. Sometimes we all get wrapped up in our own lives and forget how it feels to be a new teacher. Please do not let that stop you. I promise that we love helping people or we wouldn't be a teacher! :)