Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tips on How To ROCK Your First Year of Teaching!!

Hello Teaching Rock Stars!!

I hope many of you are off to a wonderfully relaxing summer!! I have been taking advantage of sleeping in (well having 2 young children, sleeping in is until 7:00, but I will take it!), having fun with family/friends, and enjoying every single STRESS-FREE minute!

One thing that the summer always allows me to reflect on is my teaching practices. I've been teaching first grade for 11 years now- it's hard to believe it's been that long. Even though I've been in first grade for that long, I am still open to changing and adjusting my teaching practices year after year. Today I'm going to share some of my best tips for first year teachers and for teachers who are still new in the field!

As I think back to my beginning years of teaching, it's like WOAH--night & day. I started teaching back in 2005, before the world of blogging, TPT, and very little advice or inspiration was out there. Don't get me wrong, I was very enthusiastic as a beginning teacher, but the world of blogs & teaching has just turned my teaching world 180!
I'll be honest, I think back and {cringe} a little bit... because what I know now compared to what I did then has been such a learning experience for me. So I am more than happy to be able to share some of my best learning experiences with you!
So let's start with...

1. I am VERY much about explicit routines & procedures. This wasn't always the case, but I can tell you this is one of my MOST important tips! If you want to set the tone of your classroom in a positive direction for the entire year... explain and implement your procedures from DAY 1. A typical first day in my classroom is come in, say goodbye to your parents, work on a coloring sheet that I have on their desks, and then we come down to the carpet, and discuss each and every classroom rule in detail. It is an open discussion of modeling and examples, but they know that I mean what I say and say what I mean. Not only do I do this on Day 1, but we reinforce & review on Day 2, 3, 4, and 5. What I notice from this is that my classroom runs smoothly and efficiently, year after year.

2. Be willing to learn from others! After 11 years of teaching the same grade level, I openly admit that I still do not know everything there is to know about teaching. Have an open mind when it comes to taking advice and learning new things from veteran teachers, administration, etc. Your willingness to learn new things with an open mind will make you a stronger teacher than you could've imagined.

3. Be consistent! This ties in with number 1. If you aren't consistent with your expectations and routines, more than likely you will be heading up a rocky road. Your students are relying on you to lead the way. They need the consistency and structure from y-o-u. They will test your limits and they have to see that your limits can not be broken. You've got this! :-)

It's bound to happen... you will make mistakes! We're human. We all make mistakes! However, it's what you do to change them after you reflect on them. Here are the top two things that I learned as a beginning teacher:

1. Do not compare yourself to other teachers about everything! Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You. are. learning! You are not going to be the best teacher that you can be the first year, second year, third year, and so on. It's a learning process. open to learning from your colleagues; however, do not make it a comparison of your professional worth. Each year we learn something new. Each year we become a little better and more confident at what we do. Give yourself time to flourish as an educator.

2. Do not put too much on your plate at the beginning! It is great to be involved in your school, but with new teacher programs to complete, learning how to do lesson plans, learning the curriculum, parent/teacher conferences, behavior incentives, IEPs, PSTs/AIPs or whatever acronym your district calls it, the worst thing you can do is spread yourself too thin. Sure it's nice to be involved to be on the SAC committee or PTA or run after school clubs, but you need to take the time to focus on yourself, your family, and your students' needs.
It's hard to pick just one piece of advice to give you, because I could honestly write a book full of advice! The best piece of advice I can give you is:
The teaching profession is forever changing. The pendulum swings one way and then swings the other way. It does get frustrating... one year you learn a new program and then next year it is obsolete. However, an open and positive attitude when facing challenges and changes will help you make it through. As hard as it is, this is my mantra. It is easy to be brought down by the negativity around you. Many people are naturally resistant to change. Do NOT let others affect your positive energy and bring you down. Remember who you are there for! Your students follow your lead. Just remember during the tough times of teaching...this too shall pass. And it will...

I hope some of these tips that I have learned over the years will help you as first year/beginning teachers! Like I said, after 11 years, I still continue to learn day after day, year after year. It is a continuous cycle of reflection and learning.

To end this post, I am going to share one of my favorite inspirational teaching quotes: