I'm linking up with Chandra over at Teaching with Crayons and Curls to offer some advice to new teachers, just entering the profession.
Let's face it: none of us would have survived our first years of teaching without the invaluable encouragement and constructive criticism of our more experienced peers. That's why I think this linky is so fantastic: all of this amazing advice can be found in one convenient place!
Make classroom management a top priority: The first weeks of school should be spent establishing a classroom management system that works for you and your students. Your behavioral expectations should be clear and concise, and your students should know what the rewards and consequences are for following (or not following, as the case may be) your classroom rules. With that said, you may begin the year using one management system, only to find that it is no longer effective halfway through the school year. There is nothing wrong with changing things up! In fact, using a new system can be refreshing for both you and your students! I have used many management techniques throughout my teaching career, but the one I have found the most effective is A Teeny Tiny Teacher's gold ticket system. My kids love it, and I've gotten lots of compliments from administrators and parents, too.
Build rapport with families and staff: I can't emphasize the importance of this piece enough. Your first priority should be creating relationships with your students and their families. This can seem challenging at first, since the beginning of the school year can be hectic, and often, you are struggling just to keep your head above water! But, it can (and should!) be done! I feel especially fortunate because in my county, our superintendent sets aside two days before the school year even begins for "Get Acquainted Conferences." These conferences are a great way to ease first-day-of-school anxiety for parent and child (and, let's be honest, for the teacher, too!). More importantly, they provide an
opportunity for families to become familiar with you, your classroom, and your teaching practices.
It's equally as important to establish relationships with the staff in your building. Even though you may be completely overwhelmed by your first year of teaching, take the time to eat lunch with your teammates, get to know the custodial staff, and chat with the school secretary. These interactions are invaluable...believe me!
Find an organizational system that works for you: I'm sure there are effective teachers out there who aren't (crazy, Type-A, psycho) organized, but I'm not one of them! I have to be organized, or I literally can't sleep at night. When I was pregnant with Princess A, I knew I would be out on maternity leave for nine weeks, and a long-term sub would need to find her way around my classroom. So, I labeled and organized absolutely everything in the weeks leading up to my leave. I am still an insane label-er to this day (just ask my husband: I'm banned from bringing my label maker home from school). The key is to find an organizational system that works for you: if putting everything in file folders or gallon Ziploc bags is your thing, then, go for it!
Don't compare yourself to others: As difficult as it can be, don't get caught up in comparing yourself to other teachers in your building. Many of them have been in the profession for decades, and you will drive yourself over the brink if you constantly compare yourself to them. Instead, ask your colleagues if you can observe them, and when you have the chance to spend some time in their classrooms, take lots of notes so you remember what they did or had in their rooms that you'd like to try. The, when you have time (over an extended break, for example), start putting some of their ideas into action.
Don't forget to make time for yourself: If you let it, schoolwork will consume you. Take my advice: don't let it! Burnout is a very real threat to the teaching profession. Find something that is just for you. Take an hour in the evening to read a book for pleasure. Get up a little earlier than you need to, and drink a cup of coffee on the porch. Go for a sunset run. My "me time" usually involves an evening run, followed by a hot shower, a heating pad, and a book on my Kindle.
"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." I stumbled on this quote when I was putting together my Teacher of the Year portfolio a few months ago, and it really resonated with me. There is so much pressure on us to deliver effective instruction that we often forget to take the time to really get to know our students. Make it a point to personally greet each student as they come in in the morning. Set aside one morning a week for a Morning Meeting (you will be surprised by how much information your students are willing to divulge!). As you're teaching, walk around the classroom and make physical contact with your students (a pat on the shoulder can go a long way, especially for those children who are deprived of physical affection at home). Your children will be much more willing to work hard for you when they know that you are invested in them.
Now it's your turn! Head over to Chandra's linky and join the party!