I am beginning my 20th year of teaching this year and I am no expert. I am constantly learning and changing things up in my classroom to meet the needs of my students, and I like to mix things up. But there are a few things or “aha’s” I would like to share with new teachers.
Here are my top five “Aha’s”
1. It’s okay not to have a “Pinterest” room
Pinterest is great for inspiration, but it can be overwhelming. It also can do a number on your self-esteem and pocket book. I have seen some classrooms that are amazing! I would love teach in them, or be a student. But then I wonder how much time and money must have been spent to do that. Even with Dollar Tree items, things add up. I manage to keep a very organized classroom, I have a simple color theme and that’s about it. Nothing over the top, I would rather decorate with student work and not spend hours on end decorating.
2. Pick one Area of Focus
You are going to have all sorts of new curriculum thrown your way. Pick one area, and focus on really learning it. Teaching is hard work. We teach a lot of subjects, so start with one area you are passionate about and dive deep.
3. Reach out to colleagues.
You will be working alongside teachers with various years of experience. If you need help or advice, ask for help. You may come in contact with teachers who aren’t so helpful, but most will be willing to help or give advice. Be sure to reach out to teachers at all grade levels, not just yours. I remember eating lunch in the lunchroom at my first school, it was a very rough school. My first year of teaching was rough (and that is putting it nicely). I taught second grade at the time, but I was eating lunch with a 6th grade teacher. I was telling this 6th grade teacher about this student I had that I was having problems with (really, I was complaining). This 6th grade teachers offered a piece of advice that I had not tried., and it worked. When reaching out to colleagues you may come across some negativity. It’s bound to happen. Try not to get sucked in to the negativity, it can be toxic.
4. Spend a lot of time on procedures.
I mean a lot of time. And I mean procedures for just about everything. Don’t assume your students will already know how to do something. One year, I assumed that my first graders would know how to take one piece of kleenex out of the box, blow their nose, throw way the kleenex and wash their hands. I assumed wrong. Baby steps…break each procedure down to baby steps.
5. Make connections with your students.
This to me is probably the most important “aha”. I have found over the years that if I really spend time early in the year to get to know my students, my year is so much easier and fun! When I say get to know them, I mean talk with them. Learn what their favorites, interests, strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing these will help you if you need to motivate them. Plus, kids are funny. If you build a true relationship with them, they will be more willing to be an active learner in your classroom.
Now, not an official “aha,” but an important one…have fun! After all, we have the best job. Have a great year!