It's that time again-my favorite time of year! Back to school season is upon us! I live for this time-getting my classroom ready, preparing new lesson plans, reimagining what our year will be. Inevitably, as exciting as this time of year is, it can also cause feelings of nerves for new teachers who are about to enter their very first classroom of their own. I wish I could tell you I remember exactly what I was thinking and feeling on my first day, but I can't-too many years have passed between and a lot of teaching has been done. But what I do know, is that every year I think about what is the best piece of advice I can give those new teachers in my school, and this year is no exception. I decided to write my five top pieces of advice (this year) for first year teachers in hopes that maybe I can provide some relief to those nerves as you get ready to begin your very first year of teaching!
1. Focus on routines-my first piece of advice is to begin your year focusing on your routines, procedures and building your classroom community. Taking this time now goes a long way throughout the year! I usually set aside the first few days to solely focus on those things, and then incorporate them in for the next two weeks. This helps students to establish mutual respect for one another, get to know each other and learn the expectations of your classroom. When they know what to expect and how procedures are done within your classroom, it can help them feel a sense of security and confidence within your room. There is a lot of positive reinforcement happening, as well as a lot of sharing-but don't forget to share about yourself too and model for your students what a strong classroom community looks like!
2. Find your tribe-It is my belief that the other educators in our schools are our most underutilized resource. In my school building, I am surrounded by people with such diverse interests and expertise. Find those people that you connect with and that can help you learn and grow. Don't be afraid to ask for help, ask how something is done, ask where things are at, or if there is anything you should be asking that you haven't asked because you don't know. Don't be afraid to make friends outside of your grade level and subject matter! We can learn a lot from those around us and those down the hall!
3. Reflect-I have this one listed as number three, but truly this may be the best piece of advice that I can give-REFLECT ON YOUR PRACTICE. If you want to grow in your practice as an educator, you have to reflect on what you've done, what worked and what you can improve. You can do this in many different ways, but keep notes for the next year, because if you don't, by the time next year rolls around you may not remember. I like to keep a list going in Google Keep on what things I want to change or improve for the next year. You can also keep notes on your lesson plans so when you go back to look at them during planning, they are specifically with the lessons and times they go with. However you choose to do it, just make sure you do. We should look to improve every year, but if we don't take the time to think critically about what we are doing, we won't improve. Reflection is not informing us on how "bad of a teacher we are", but it does inform us on how we can learn and grow. Just as we expect students to have a growth mindset, teachers should also have and model this. Learning never stops!
4. Prepare-This one may seem simple, but take the time to prepare. There are so many curveballs that come your way during the day, that preparation can be key to not being thrown off track. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be flexible, because you definitely should be, but make sure that you know what you are doing. I am an early morning prepper-I like to get to school early to get everything ready for the day. Before I leave in the afternoon, I like to make sure my lesson plans are ready and any prep I need for the next day is ready to go, or ready to get ready in the morning when I arrive. I leave my lesson plans open on my desk or computer all day long so I have a reference throughout the day. However preparing looks for you, don't forget to prepare through the tiredness of the first few weeks of school. And once you are prepared, if things need to change-do that! We should be responsive to our students and their needs, not stuck to a rigid schedule and lesson plan.
5. Remember why you started teaching-my last piece of advice is to remember why you started teaching. The first six weeks of school are always the hardest for me. I come early, stay late, am exhausted, my feet hurt from not being on them all summer, I'm having to train my body to wait to go to the bathroom again, I am ravenous because I am going all day long and I come home to a baby, husband and dog to hang out with and take care of. It is tiring and overwhelming, but remembering why you started teaching in the first place can help give you the stamina to make it through those first few weeks. I love teaching, and I believe that it is the best way to affect change for the future. I believe in this generation of students and their ability to change the world. I remind myself of these things when I am tried or cranky at the end of the day, because ultimately, no matter how tired I am, that is a mission worth working for.
*Bonus-I was about to write my closing, and I thought of one bonus piece of advice that I feel it is really important you need to hear as well-it is ok to go home with things left undone! You do not have to have every paper graded every day. You are a human. You need rest. You have a family to go home to and spend time with and those things are vitally important. If you need to go home without everything being done, then do that and don't feel one bit bad about it!
So that's it-my top five (and a half) tips that I give to new teachers. I hope that through this blog post, you can garner a few pieces of advice and *hopefully* wisdom. What are your ideas? What do you think would be good advice for a first year teacher? Leave your comments on what you would include below! Good luck and happy new school year! I feel like it is Christmas morning!