On Your Mark. Get Set. Teach.
You’ve been working toward this moment and now it is finally here. You have on your best teaching outfit, you have your supplies, your room is ready, you are just waiting for your students to arrive. We know the feeling. It’s both exciting and terrifying. Will the students like you? Will you get along with the other teachers? With the right resources and tools you can navigate almost anything, and we are here to help.
1. Establish Classroom Norms
First thing’s first. You have got to establish yourself as the authority in the classroom. Remember, you are the teacher and they are the students. This is often done with a set of classroom rules that are easily seen by everyone. You should go over these rules periodically throughout the first week or two to ensure that students are familiar with them and understand them. At first, gentle reminding and then a set of clear and understood consequences for disobeying those rules should be enforced.
Students don’t like to be in the dark. One of the most frustrating things is to not know what happens next and as the leader of the classroom, you may not have to tell them everything that’s happening but some form of structure to the schedule is helpful. Try to have a general flow to your teaching, this way students know what to expect and know when they need to be focused and when they might be able to interrupt you to ask for questions or use the restroom. If students have an understanding of what the time is going to look like they’re better prepared to focus when they really need to.
At the beginning of the school year, you spent so much time making your classroom just perfect, so make sure you take the time to familiarize your students with the classroom layout. No doubt you’ve created certain areas designed to encourage certain behaviors and reminding your students of those areas and of those features will allow them to feel more comfortable. Remember, this is your home away from home but it might only be one of 7 or 8 different classrooms that they attend every day.
2. Make Teacher Friends
Your classroom can start to feel like a bit of a silo throughout the day. So get to know your neighbors, these are the other teachers that you are most likely to interact with simply due to proximity. Learn who you can rely on and what they might need help with in return.
Sometimes the teacher right next door Is not going to be your best friend. There are many different personalities and your “tribe” might not be right next door. Make an effort to reach out to other teachers, you may find your “tribe” outside of your department or on the other side of the school. Look for others in the same life-stage as yourself. Finding your tribe Is sure to make your new job a little easier.
In every work environment there are always the Negative Nancy’s, try to avoid these people as they can put a sour taste in your mouth. You’re in a new environment, so give yourself a chance to make up your own mind, plus detractors will only bring you down as well.
3. Involve the Parents
Do you want to know the dirty little secret about students? They go home and they talk to their parents or guardians. So make an effort to get to know those parents, maybe you can send something home with the students as a brief introduction or maybe you want to try to make phone calls and reach out to them individually. Whatever you do, at least make an effort. Once you have reached out be sure to keep track of what kind of response rate you get. Don’t wait until you absolutely have to reach a parent to find out that you had the wrong phone number. You have to build those relationships so that they are already established when you need them. But remember, getting to know the parents could be taken a little too far sometimes as well. Try not to be the teacher that makes students have a signature on every piece of homework.
4. Make It Fun
When I think back to my childhood, the best teachers were the quirky ones. Don’t be afraid to let you personality show through to you lesson plans. Do you love Premiere League Soccer? Or Maybe you’re a die-hard Auburn fan? Let your students see what makes you the wonderful person you are. Invite them into some of your quirky habits. Students will remember you for them. I still remember how my 2nd grade teacher absolutely freaked out about Groundhog’s Day. She made a huge stink out of it and made sure that every child in her classroom celebrated it properly.
Sometimes having fun in class needs to fit into a tight schedule. That’s okay too. Plan a food day where some students can bring in treats for class or maybe have a game day once a month. You have to take a break from the serious every once in a while and when it’s predictable, students can look forward to it with anticipation.
Sometimes to have fun, you can take advantage of current events. Be on the look-out for Solar eclipses and the more often, lunar variety. Or maybe the Olympics are coming up; I know the World Cup has already passed but you can incorporate a kind of Word Cup activity even after the fact. When planning for fun, look outside the school for inspiration too.
5. Take Care of Yourself
The best tip for a new teacher is to remember to take care of your classroom’s most valuable asset, YOU. Taking care of yourself might be as simple as ensuring you’ve got little snacks to keep irritability at bay, or maybe that you’ve got your favorite types of pens in your pen holder. Being a teacher can consume you, so be cognizant of making time for those dance lessons or yoga. Treat Yo’Self.
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