Dress appropriately. If there is a student dress code for your district, make sure you follow it too. If and when you have jeans day (Oh, how we educators love jeans day), make sure you still look professional. You will probably spend a lot of money on professional clothes this year. Be okay with that.
Your first year will be overwhelming and busy. You will learn quickly that you can’t do it all. That’s okay. Do your best and enjoy your off time. Overworked teachers burnout and leave the profession. Take time for yourself. You and your students need you to do that.
Don’t be one. Be consistent and fair with your discipline. Do not be afraid to manage students’ behavior. Your year will be a disaster if you don’t.
Document, document, document! Keep all notes (especially parent and administrators’ notes) and save email correspondence on a file on your computer. Keep notes on your meeting agendas and keep those agendas in a folder or binder. Later, you will have that information/documentation in one place, and you can refer back to it. You’ll find you will do this a lot.
If you think you may need to document something, do it. If you aren’t sure, do it. If you think it doesn’t make a big difference, do it.
Have a box of essentials: safety pins, band-aids, aspirin, deodorant (just in case you forget), hand sanitizer, Q-tips…
Try to figure out a filing system that works for you. Use broad categories. Make files for seasonal and unit activities: Halloween, Christmas, 100s Day, Rocks and Minerals, the Gilded Age…
G- Grading Policy
Follow your district’s or school’s grading policy. That’s usually not up for debate. If you don’t know what that is, find out. Find out the end of your grading periods as soon as you can. It will help you get an idea on how to schedule your year.
Think about why you assign homework when you are developing your homework policy. If homework doesn’t enrich, extend, or reinforce what was learned, then it should not be assigned.
Consider the amount of homework. Do you remember when you were in school, and you had mountains of repetitive work to do at home? It probably wasn’t productive. When you give homework, it should serve a real purpose to learning. If it doesn’t, you have wasted class time assigning it, students’ time doing it, and your time managing the completed homework. Time is too precious for all of that.
Homework should never be a punishment. It is an ineffective consequence for students.
I- Instructional Time
Don’t waste instructional time with dead air. How do you eliminate dead air? Good planning.
Join professional organizations. The information and journals you receive help keep you informed of current trends in education. Go to conferences to engage in professional learning. Go ahead and make professional learning and development a part of your professional life.
The second you know it all is the second you need to retire. Every teacher who has said they have been teaching X years, and they don’t need to grow professionally were non-truth tellers. Don’t be a non-truth teller.
It’s destiny! It’s love! It’s you getting fired. Be careful of work romances. What you do after the school day is your business (for the most part). Keep it professional at work. Always.
Don’t be lazy. You may think you can make it through a day unprepared and with no plan (You probably can’t). Have well planned lessons that engage your students and encourages them to think deeply. Often, your worst days will be days you’ve been a little lazy. And that’s all your fault. Don’t go blaming the students when you didn’t do what you were supposed to do.
Never keep large amounts of school money in your classroom. Never bring large amounts of your personal money to work. Keep all school money in a secure place and turn it in as soon as possible.Follow all bookkeeping guidelines.
Never “borrow” from school money. Never lend money to students. Never borrow money from students.
Romance and finance will get you fired.
Note: I’ve given money to students for lunch money or other school related things, but I did not expect the money back. If they repaid fine, if not fine. Students should never owe you anything but their hard work, respect, and attention.
Begin learning your students’ names the first day of school. If a students goes by a middle or other name, call them what they go by. It isn’t worth being That Teacher who calls G by his full first name: Gale. Why waste your time? Call him G like everybody else.
Also, tell your students your full name on day one. They are going to find out anyway. They want to know your name. But let them know what they will call you. I even signed everything with my full name rather than Ms. P. It’s important that students and guardians know you a human being.
O- Overplan Until You Get a Good Grasp on Your Instructional Time Management
It is better to have too much than too little. It is difficult managing your instructional time when you first start teaching so make sure you have more than enough activities to do. Be flexible with your activities and time. Do not be afraid to adjust.
Make parent contact with all (yes all) students as soon as you can. This first contact needs to be positive and specific. I know from experience that this will set the tone with you, the parent, and the student for the rest of the year. It is one of the best things you can do to build relationships.
You can tell from the first few days who your “outgoing” and compliance challenged students will be. Contact those parents first to develop a positive relationship.
Throughout the year, continue positive contact with both your on task and not quite so on task students. Don’t let all your parent contact be negative. Parents like to hear the good things their kids are doing in class even the ones you think don’t appreciate it. If parents live in separate homes, call both of them. Don’t leave Dad out. Want to really wow them? Call grandparents too (only positive); might as well get as many people on your team as possible. Document all parent contact.
Pro-Tip: Some parents had bad experiences in school. Therefore, they will assume you are negative like some of their former teachers. Once they believe you are truly on their child’s team, they will support you. Also, be careful of parents and social media.
Have students complete a brief questionnaire or All About Me Gazette at the beginning of the school year. You can learn your students’ interest, feelings about subject matter, and academic concerns with a well developed questionnaire. The questionnaire can be anonymous or not, but their answers should be private unless they choose to share. Actually read and value the information they put in the questionnaire. This beginning of the year activity can be very eye opening for you as a teacher. Use it wisely.
You expect your students to respect you. Respect goes both way. Respect their work, time, effort, and voice. In most countries, you are legally obligated to respect your students’ privacy– it really doesn’t matter what your opinion is. Never share students’ scores (good or bad), personal information, health information (physical and mental), online presence, or information about medicine. Also, ever ask a student in a public setting, “Did you take your medicine today?” Just try and not ask that question at all.
S- Social Media
Do not friend your students on social media.
Use technology effectively. Need some tech ideas for the classroom? One of the best resources you have for tech ideas are your students.
Don’t give students ultimatums. It doesn’t matter if they are 5 or 105, many see ultimatums as a dare. And some kids always take a dare. Be clear, consistent, and fair with your discipline policy. If you do that, there is no need for ultimatums. Appropriate behavior is a nonnegotiable.
Use your voice to help maintain discipline. Adjust your voice to keep students engaged and on task. If someone is addressing the class (you or a student), no one else should talk (including you). That is respectful and should be a nonnegotiable.
W- Watch and Learn from Other Teachers
Observe outstanding, exemplary teachers. Take note of what you can bring back to your own classroom. Hopefully, you will have an administrator who will support you learning from professionals in action.
Make your copies at least two days in advance. The more desperate you are to make a copy, the more likely your copier will be broken. Do this early in your career, and it will become a habit. And don’t believe the hype, we don’t live in a paperless world yet.
Be yourself in the classroom and not someone you think you are supposed to be. Take time for yourself. I know I covered this in B is for Break, but it is important. It is likely that you could have work to do until 1 AM every morning but don’t do that. Do not let school work consume your life. Take time for you. Explore your hobbies and talents. Spend time with your friends and family. Sit on the couch and watch TV every once in a while.
You’ll be a better, more effective teacher because of it.
Z- Ziplock Bags
Have big and small ones you can use them for all sorts of things like book and device protectors, carrier for broken glasses, game pieces, holder for personal items, food storage, candy storage, money storage, ‘What is that on the floor!’ picker-upper protector, broken earrings, science experiments, math manipulatives, craft storage, bags for drawings…
* Some ideas obtained from an old new teacher guide distributed by my district.
Other Helpful Posts for Teachers from K. Renae P.
- 7 Things All Teachers Should Know
- Twitter Chats for Educators
- Teacher Resources
- Trade Books in the Classroom
- From the Horses Mouth: Primary Sources
- Freebies from My Quick Links Page
- 10 Teacher Promises I Can’t Keep