Sunday, June 28, 2015

RoCk your 1st year - tips for beginning teachers

Being a military spouse can be difficult when it comes to teaching! We move A LOT, so that means teaching at new schools in new states with new curriculums and new faces are just a part of my life. It can be overwhelming, but I love the benefits of it far more than the disadvantages. Pair that with the fact that my son is just now entering Kindergarten (this fall) and I've been in and out of the classroom the last 5 years, bouncing between stay-at-home mom and full-time/part-time teacher, I can honestly relate to the feeling of being the newbie on the block. 

This year, I'm headed back to the classroom (FULL-TIME) with lil' guy in tow as I re-enter the world of KINDERGARTEN! I'm a seasoned teacher, but I'll be working in yet another new state, with new curriculum, and new faces. It's like standing on a weird wall between being a knowledgable veteran and the newest teacher there ever was. My teacher toolbag is full of resources, ideas, and whatnot, but I have to adjust to the school culture and learn the ins and outs. 

When Chandra (Teaching with Crayons & Curls) and Lyssa (My Mommy Reads) announced their link up aimed at new teachers, I was super excited to join up and chime in. I thought it would be awesome to share what I practice each time I join a new staff, but I can't wait to read the terrific tips other seasoned teachers are offering. Whether you're a first year teacher or maybe joining a new staff, these tips can go a long way!

Consult your principal - did you know that the term principal (in education) comes from the original job description of the position, principal (or lead) teacher? That's right, principals were considered the lead educator of their schools, the most veteran, the most knowledgable, the most everything. Everyone knows that you should consult your colleagues, especially your grade-level teammates, on ideas, resources, and curriculum implementation, but as new teachers, we often steer clear of the principal's office. We don't want to bug them, appear incompetent, or draw attention to our classrooms for fear that they'll realize that we're...NEW and still figuring things out! I struggle with this, but I remind myself that each principal that has hired me was confident in my ability to make it happen and doesn't want to see me fail! Principals don't want to see you struggle or flounder about when they can help. Seek out their advice, consult their opinion, be comfortable with their feedback. They want you to succeed, because when you're successful, your students are successful!

Speak Up! - being a new teacher can be overwhelming, there is a ton of information thrown in your face and sometimes you feel like you're barely treading water. It's OK! If you feel like you're drowning, you don't know why a certain technique isn't working, you don't know where to look for resources, your management style isn't clicking with certain students, don't be afraid to admit you're struggling. We've all been there, even those teachers that seem to have it ALL TOGETHER, were first year teachers or have had those times where nothing seemed to be going their way. Chat with other teachers, be honest with them about your struggles/concerns. Even teachers in other grades can offer you sound advice. Heck, they might even come to your classroom to observe and help implement more effective practices, walk you through a computer program, or give you resources. 

Get Involved! - one of the easiest ways to join your school's team is to get involved in extracurricular teams/committees. I've been on social committees, school improvement teams, student support groups, and Art Show committees. Joining these groups often builds relationships with teachers/support staff/school personnel that you don't get a chance to interact with often. For example, one of my very BEST friends was introduced to me, 10 years ago, in a New Teacher meeting in my principal's office. She was teaching 4th grade and I was teaching Pre-K. We taught in totally opposite ends of the school, but we shared a commonality of being first year teachers and joining our school's Social committee, which gave us the opportunity to connect outside of the instructional day. Another advantage joining extracurricular teams/committees is that you often get the chance to interact with students in different classes or grade-levels. This really pays big dividends when you see them during the school day or in the chance that you become their have an established relationship. 

Recreate the wheel - I have to admit, I am so guilty of this. I need an idea or resource; rather than asking others if they have something I can use, I create something (often spending loads of time and money). Now, don't get me wrong, creating is amazing, I love it. However, before you start, ask around, see if someone has something you can use. You could save yourself time and money, which are precious commodities as a first year teacher!

Close your door - sometimes we get intimidated by other teachers' classrooms. Ms. Veteran's class is soooo quiet and all on task. Mr. Fun's class is so creative and they always have the best projects. Mrs. Master Teacher does everything right and her class is consistently exceeding expectations. First off, let me start by saying that we all started somewhere, all teachers were once 1st year educators and had to learn through trial & error. Nobody just magically became this amazing teacher that you see today! Secondly, when we become intimated by what we perceive as other teacher's perfection, we can draw in on ourselves as a way to hide or protect our perceived weaknesses. DON'T! Keep that classroom door open, let other teachers observe your teaching style, your procedures, your students. You might be surprised by what those teachers have to say!!! I, once, thought that my classroom was too loud and I'd constantly remind them to lower their voices, even though they were working in collaborative groups. I thought other teachers would think my kiddos were off task and not learning. Shockingly, during a staff meeting, another teacher (not one I interacted with often) praised my classroom management style and instructional methods, saying that she was encouraged by seeing a new teacher (it wasn't my first year, but I WAS young and new to the school) using collaborative groups in math and that she was going to try to do that same. That floored me!!! She was a veteran educator who I thought would be very critical of my attempts (insert eye-roll and a snide remark "she'll learn"), but I was absolutely WRONG! Keep that door open, you could be inadvertenly teaching others. 

Cut yourself some slack - it's your first year! Perfection is rarely obtainable! Just try your best, utilize your resources, be open to feedback, and maybe have an adult beverage every once in awhile. 

Head on over to Teaching with Crayons and Curls and My Mommy Reads for more tips for beginning teachers from some amazing bloggers. 
Teaching with Crayons and Curls
My Mommy Reads


  1. Hi, Amanda!
    OMG! I reinvent the wheel constantly. That's good advice because it not necessary :)

    Made with Love

  2. Amanda,
    This is great advice! I wish you much luck as your re-enter this year!