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teaching

How to Succeed as a New Teacher

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I was a new teacher once.  Fresh out of college, heart and mind full of dreams and good intentions, unjaded by the educational system, confident in my leaders, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed.

Then reality hit.  And boy, did it hit.  These were the days before TTAS, STAAR, and EXCETs.  I managed to survive my first few weeks; heck, even my first few years and emerge as a pretty good teacher, according to my evaluations and feedback from my former students. 

Maybe you can benefit from some of the things I learned, whether you are a brand new teacher, a teacher in a new school district, or just trying to have a fresh start. 

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 First, guard your joy at being in the classroom.  Don’t let naysayers and doomsdayers spread their gloom.  Focus on the positives.  You may need to remind yourself of this daily, but do it anyway.

 Along the same lines, don’t listen to what others may say about the students you are getting.  I’ve had teachers in the past ask to see my class roster so they can comment on a few of my students.  This is more difficult now with everything being online, but occasionally you may have someone ask you if you will have “so and so” in your class, and then proceed to tell you what a troublemaker/lazy bum/etc. he or she is.  Refuse to form opinions about students (or other personnel, for that matter) until you have met them yourself.  Many times I have found the problem with that student and teacher lies in the teacher’s attitude, not the student’s.

 Observe and absorb all you can from the teachers and staff but be very slow in offering up your own opinion.  This will allow you to get a feel for the school climate and how the teachers/staff interact with each other and with students.  Don’t be too quick to choose friends.  Allow time to get to know others so you can make smart choices about who to spend your time with.

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Avoid gossip.  Even if you don’t contribute, listening makes you a willing participant and aligns you with the person saying unkind things.  You don’t need that kind of reputation.   Give everyone the benefit of the doubt until you know them better.

Dress conservatively until you are familiar with what is accepted attire on your campus.  Some campuses are less formal than others, but you don’t want to start out too casual.  You’ll also carry more authority in your classroom if you are dressed better at first.  Dress like the professional you are.  If you expect others to treat you like a professional, dress and act like one, especially if you are young.  You need to establish boundaries with your students, especially high school students.  Save the capri pants and slide sandals for later.

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Along those same lines, speak like a professional.  Leave the slang and desire to be “cool” at the door.  You’re there to teach and be a role model.

Make your classroom a happy place to be.  Decorate with bright colors and include personal items (not too valuable!) so that students can relate to you as a real person as well as their teacher.  I liked to post motivational posters around my room (you can order online or visit a teacher supply store such as Mardel’s), and I included a table lamp, knick-knacks, and framed photos around my desk.  The table lamp came in handy when the lights had to go out for slides or film clips.  Students liked seeing pictures of my family as well.  Don’t let your room be referred to as “cell block 101” like one teacher I worked with! 

 Establish your rules and procedures the first day of school and keep practicing and reinforcing them until they become habits for your students.  I strongly recommend The First Days of School:  How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong.  You can order it here.  Dr. Wong provides proven strategies for classroom management and discipline.  Also don’t be afraid to ask experienced teachers what works for them.

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Prepare your first week of lessons.  Make a cheat sheet, especially for your first day, so you don’t forget anything or get anything out of sequence.  Get a good night’s sleep if you can, eat breakfast if you can, and walk into your first day with all the confidence of a superhero.  You’ve got this!

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What about you experienced teachers out there?  Is there anything you would add? 
Please post your comments!  We’d love to hear from you!


XOXO
Categories
Life teaching

Please forgive me, Neil. . .

When I was working full-time, it always seemed that getting up and going on Tuesday was much harder than it was on Monday.  Maybe it was because the adrenaline required to get everybody to school and me back to work had run out by Tuesday?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that tomorrow is the second day of school for many people, and if not, then this is still the first week of school.

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This adaptation of the 1975 Neil Sedaka hit, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” is dedicated to all the educators and students out there.  We won’t mention how old you may have to be to know the tune. 
Just Google it, okay?

“Waking up is hard to do.

Don’t take this bed away from me
And make me get up in misery.
If you do, then I’ll be blue.
‘Cause waking up is hard to do.
Remember when you said goodnight
And you tucked me in for the night?
Can’t think of all that I must do.
Waking up is hard to do.
I say that waking up is hard to do.
Now you know, you know that it’s true.
Don’t say my sleeping has to end.
Instead of waking up I wish that I was turning in again.

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I beg of you, don’t make me greet the day.
Can’t we come up with some other way?
Come on, baby, it’s not you.
Waking up is just hard to do!”
Hang in there, my back-to-school friends. . .only 35 weeks to go!  And my apologies to Neil. . .
XOXO
Categories
teaching

Teacher Tuesday: Advice for the new teacher

Much has been written for and about teachers, especially advice for the new teacher, but I thought I would devote today’s blog post to that subject anyway.  After 30 years of teaching and administrating, I feel like I know a little something about the field, so here goes. . .
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  • As a new teacher about to begin your first real school year, you no doubt have spent some sleepless nights, tossing and turning with planning and anticipation of what your very own classroom will be like.  You are looking forward to meeting your students, but then again there is a sense of dread and fear, wondering if you can really pull it off.  Relax.  You can.  You have all the training and knowledge that all of rest of us had, probably even more these days with all the technology and research now available.  You can do this!
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  • Now for some practical advice.  I know that the first bit of advice is a bit difficult. No matter what anyone says, those butterflies won’t go away.  And that’s a good thing.  That means you will be on your toes, your A game.  To quell the panic, get your classroom ready before you sit down at your desk to prepare your lesson.  Likely you have already done this.  But if you haven’t, get to it.  I could never concentrate on my lessons until my room was ready, all the posters and decorations up, the desks in place, the room ready for the kids to walk in. Now sometimes it isn’t possible, especially if the custodians are waxing the floors the weekend before school starts or you are still waiting on desks or equipment, but get it as ready as you possibly can.
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  • Prepare for your first day.  When I started to panic about what I was going to do, I would slow down, take a breath, and think. All I needed was to know what I was doing the first day.  Once I got the activities in place for that first day or first class period, the rest would fall into place. This may be difficult if your principal expects your lesson plans a week beforehand, but you can always plan that first day and make adjustments for the rest of the week as needed.

  • Make a list of your activities, an agenda of your plan for the day.  I always wrote an agenda on my board or on a Powerpoint slide and had my junior high and high school students write it down in their notebooks or journals. Having the list of activities posted where I and my students could see it ensured that I wouldn’t get ahead of myself or forget what was next, and my students always knew what was coming next.  It also provided a reference for them if they missed class. They could always ask their neighbor what we did in class that day.

  • Resist any urge to socialize your planning time away.  Keep a to-do list in your planner or on a tablet on your desk and use your planning period to be productive. Trust me, you will be glad you did.  You can socialize during lunch!
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  • Seek out a positive, experienced teacher to be your mentor.  You don’t have to ask them to be your mentor.  Just be around them when you can and soak up their energy, enthusiasm, and ideas.  Negative people will do nothing for your attitude or your career; in fact, they will color your perception of yourself as a teacher and the kids as your students.  Do not allow negative people to bring you down!  You chose your profession because you wanted to be a positive influence on young lives. Hang with positive people!
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  • Whining is NOT an option.  If you fail, and we all do, reflect on what you did, how you prepared or didn’t, and learn from your mistakes.  Teachers must be flexible.  If you planned a test on the same day the principals planned a disaster drill, roll with it.  No one will benefit from your complaining or whining and what’s more, you will only bring yourself and others down.

  • And finally, always have a Plan B. Administrators do plan drills without telling you, you will get called to meetings during class, your frogs for dissecting won’t arrive on time, the network will break down, your hour and a half lesson will be done in thirty minutes. Have an alternate lesson or activity you can pull out of your hat at a moment’s notice.  As you gain more experience, this will be easier, but don’t allow yourself to be totally dependent on Powerpoint lectures and worksheets.  Computers and copy machines break down but the kids will be there anyway.  Ask for ideas from experienced teachers.  You will be surprised at what they will tell you.
You are about to start your career as a teacher!  It will be rewarding, frustrating, time-consuming, nerve-wracking, sad, happy, maddening, full of love, and FAST.  Don’t allow yourself to forget why you became a teacher, and always enjoy and appreciate your students. 

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And let me know if none or all of this applies.  Now put that expensive college education to use and go forth and teach!


XOXO