Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My advice to first year teachers

This is a post that originally was posted about a year ago. It has been updated and modified to my new advice. Enjoy.
1- Books
Collect books from garage sales, retired teachers, or goodwill. Remember books are only new the first time you open them and they will never look that way again. Put on Facebook that you are needing books, post it at church, send e-mails to family members and look for ads on craigslist or ebay. People love to give books to teachers and lots of garage sales will GIVE you items when you tell them you teach.

2- Parent Contact

Befriend the parent. Befriend the parent. Befriend the parent. You can also never have enough parent contact. And of course that needs to start on a positive contact. You want the parents to be on your side---REMEMBER that. Introduce yourself. You can see my introduction letter HERE. Everyone is nosey and wants to know what their child's teacher is about. Keep it professional but let them know that you are in fact a person that functions just like everyone else. When I wrote to parents I always signed my first and last name..never Miss Janes. Not sure why but I think I thought it made them think I was more of an adult than just their child's young new teacher. (You made have a different opinion on your signature)

In my building we do something called Pay It Forward. Every payday we send a note or phone call phone praising at least one child. You don't want parents to think that every time you are trying to get a hold of them it is because something bad has happened. It gives you brownie points too- who doesn't love to talk about their child's successes?

3- Newsletters
Always have a newsletter that is easy to read and right to the point. NO ONE wants to read 3-4 page newsletters! I kept mine to upcoming events, vocab/spelling list and math/science/communication art topics. You can also list birthday shout outs and parent thank yous. It should be useful you don't want to waste anyone's time. Parents are busy and if you start off my making your newsletter full of junk they will assume it is junk every week. The truth hurts right?

4- Discipline

I sent two kids to the principal's office all year. I think discipline should be dealt with inside the classroom until you A)Run out of options, lose total control and need backup or B)Run out of options, lose total control and need backup. Don't send kids to the principals office for everything. They will remember that and so will your principal. The first time I sent someone to the office was because he brought a knife to school. The second time was because another child (with extreme issues) lost control of himself. When my principal came to get him she told him that she knew he must have broken a lot of rules because "Miss Janes takes the principal's office very seriously". I was so happy when I heard that. Don't forget to be consistent in discipline and follow through with discipline. But have patience--you will learn several students learn slower than others and need more reminders.

5- Build Relationships
One of the best things I did this year was give up my lunch time to eat with 3-4 students each day. We sat in my room and got to know each other. It was so rewarding and really built a connection between students and also myself. It is important for kids to get to know you as someone else besides their teacher. You will gain respect for them and they will gain respect for you. I got to know so many things about my student's lives that I would never find out from just teaching math. Another thing we did was go around each Monday and share one thing we did in the past weekend. The kids LOVED it. We even came to the point where we could predict what each other did. It really build great friendships.

6- Make The Time For it

Whatever you put into this job is what you are going to get out of it. If you don't do research, don't get to know your kids, and don't make engaging lessons etc. you better kiss it goodbye. You won't enjoy work, your kids won't want to be in your class, and basically you won't last in the teaching field. I was so proud to say that all my kids told me they would miss my class at the end of the year. I can't say that they would have all said that back in December but with lots of hard work I did whatever I could to make everyone happy(most of the time of course).
Don't forget to work early because by the end of the day you will DIE and be emotionally drained. The first weeks or even months your bed may turn into your best friend. I'm pretty sure this is acceptable as long as you pull yourself together by December or so:) The first 2-3 months of school I was there over an hour 1/2 early to prepare and left the MOMENT I could! I needed the quiet time to organize and prepare myself for the day.

7- Resources
When you get to the your new school you may be alone and that is okay. But you won't be alone for long. Your team should be people that you can turn to in time of need rather it be for a laugh, vent, or educational resource or question. Find someone who has been in the field that you can turn to and trust. It may not even be your mentor. Mine wasn't and that is perfectly fine! It also was great that I had a few friends teaching across the state that I could also call or e-mail when I needed someone outside my building to relate to. (shout out to Katie HOLLA) Save everything but not in paper form...Beg, borrow, steal,--- use resources like teacherspayteachers and google. Start a Pinterest account and start pinning!! Also get a Googledocs account to back up EVERYTHING you find. Organize all your files on your computer and upload the files to Googledocs. You never know when your computer will crash-it happens. You can also share files easier that way with other teachers AND search them. It's like having a secretary find all your papers for you whenever you need them.

8- Reading
Find a reading program that is structured and allows children to read what they CAN read and what they want to read. I wish I would have found this out last fall when I started school. My kids made amazing improvements in reading and I know it was because I finally put a limit on what they could or couldn't read. I really pressed that reading too easy/too hard books is a waste of time because it doesn't make them a better reader. I drilled this into their little brains until they were able to pick out just right books and maybe scared them a little bit. I took books away from kids allllll the time and gave kids books that I made them read and take test on. I really focused on teaching the kids how to help themselves and I know all my kids benefited. I only hope they take this to fourth grade. I also told them if their teacher didn't have books for them on their level to come back and I would help them. Read this post and be sure to send home book bags with your struggling readers. Make sure the child knows how important these bags are and so do the parents. You may have parents that are not involved in your kids reading (unfortunately) and that is when you must make sure the little person knows the responsibility is on them. Celebrate the small successes in this! If you assign books to kids they can't read they will hate reading. You have to find ways to make it fun and spark their interest:)

9- Technology
You will realize that technology is your best friend. KIDS LOVE technology and most of them already know how to use it. Don't be afraid of the computer lab. The first couple times it may be rocky but you can use it to your advantage if you are using it properly. Don't waste time in there, get straight to work, and practice it often. Some of the best learning tools can be found online.. You just have to look for them:)

10- Enjoy Your Life
Don't forget the real world and don't get offended when people talk about your job and say it is easy. Most of those people can't handle kids or had bad experiences in school. Go to happy hour, online shop on your lunch break, and if someone asks you on a date don't use an excuse that you have to grade papers or something. It makes the rest of us look bad;)

11- Donor's Choose
Donor's Choose is your best friend. Trust me, the moment you become a teacher create a project to invest yourself into. Make sure you are passionate about it because that will show in your writing you submit. Share it to facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram--whatever you can! Tell all your relatives. They will love it because you are a first year teacher and everyone thinks that is just precious! My first year I earned a kidney table for my classroom and this year I got an i-Pad mini. People are generous when they love you. And wait until double donations start for your parents and yourself to donate. They always happen you just have to wait for them. So don't get to carried away! Last year they did it right before Halloween. So get one ready and wait for donation match time to come up.

12-Be Mean, Be Serious, Be Stern, Be loving
In every class you will have that one student who pushed your buttons the first week of school. Push theirs right back. Students like this will test you the first week and don't cut them slack. Blow it off, ignore bad behavior but let them know it comes with consequences as well. Take away recess and lunch, don't just threat. Let expectations be clear and consequences clearer. Students will respect you for this. Pick your most troubled student, the one who is hardest to like even (it will happen) and spend time with them. Make sure they know that you care about them. Every child wants love but some have different ways of showing that. But let them know who is boss. It is hard to discipline children. I've nearly cried after seeing children apologize to me who I can tell actually mean it. I always give them a hug and tell them I forgive them but let them know I am disappointed in their behavior. You will thank me for this;)
13- Start a TeachersPayTeachers Account
My first year of teaching I made a lot of simple resources but I never saved them to sell. This year I took those resources and modified them for TPT. Upload your freebies, make your simple items a little better and put them on there. The income you get will cover items you want to purchase yourself. I don't make much on there because I don't have a lot but It is always a nice surprise to get a little chunk of change in your account. Think long term on this, a TPT success story doesn't happen overnight. For help with this check out this awesome blog post by Mercedes.
AND use the restroom even when you don't think you have to. Because something will come up.


hmdale said...

Wow. You gave excellent advice. Even though I am going on teaching 26 years it was nice to read through all your suggestions. Those of us that have been teaching a long time could use your advice as well. You seem to be an excellent, caring, well-informed teacher. Keep up the good work and have a great school year!

Margaux said...

I am loving this post. I'm not a teacher (yet!) but reading posts like this get me so excited about the prospect of teaching. It's so nice to know that there are people out there interested in helping newer teachers - this is such thoughtful advice. I'm sure I'll be back to reread this many times once I've got my own classroom.

The Imaginary Classroom

Courtney @ Missthirdgrade.com said...

Thank you! That means a lot to me! How sweet

Courtney @ Missthirdgrade.com said...

Good luck in the job world! It will come to you! I should do a how to land a job post.. it took me a year to get to the district I wanted! It will happen:)

Rachel said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! There are so many great pointers that I have to remember for this year! 20 days and counting till my first day :)

A Little Bird in Third

Unknown said...

Thanks for the shout out. :)

Surfing to Success

Courtney @ Missthirdgrade.com said...

Glad you found it useful! Congrats!

Courtney @ Missthirdgrade.com said...


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chenmeinv0 said...
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