June 26, 2018 at 7:54 PM #49122
In thinking about the next school term and thinking about new teachers joining the team, I’m curious. When you were a new teacher, or maybe you are a new teacher, what was the one (or two or three) piece of advice that you were grateful for as you went through your year? What was the piece of advice that you wish you’d been given?
June 26, 2018 at 8:06 PM #49123
There are several things that I wish I had known (or really understood) in my first year.
- Make use of your teacher guides. (The first year I taught I didn’t even have teacher guides.)Read the preface and check out the appendix. Most teacher guides have a wealth of information that someone who knew what they were doing has put together. You might not follow them exactly as written, but they can give you a good idea of the big picture. One disclaimer – many teacher guides have way more ideas and material than you can make use of. Don’t feel guilty not using every idea or study question. Use it as a guide and let it fit your situation.
- Find a knowledgeable someone who can look over your ideas and plans and give you constructive criticism. Be open to their ideas. I started by using my teachers and their methods as my guide but I didn’t really ask for advice. I’m not sure I would have been open to it either. I had my idea of what teaching should be and while it was a worthwhile idea, I realize now that I really had a very narrow idea of what I was doing.
- Understand that telling a student once is not enough. Students need review and practice whether it is in lessons or classroom habits.
June 29, 2018 at 5:01 PM #49339
That is a really good question, Carolyn, and you started us off with important bits of advice. I especially endorse the idea of intentionally seeking a teacher mentor. Consistent feedback is like a gold mine — cash in on others’ experience! And like you pointed out, it requires a mature level of humility (and inner security).
I wish I had known the snare of equating student success with personal value. Gauging my sense of personal worth by how well students respond to my instruction is an insidious trap, one all teachers face to some degree. With this goes a bit of advice a co-teacher gave me, “Watch the ebb and flow in teaching.”
I wish I would have known about the book “First Days of School” and the power of setting the stage on the first day(s). In this era, many new teachers have heard of the book, I highly recommend carefully reading it, especially the section on setting procedures.
I wish I would have had the opportunity to speak extensively with the former teacher or one in similar shoes who was passionate about teaching. Asking for lists of things like favorite story time books, Scripture Memory selections used, recess games, art ideas – and examples, ideas for devotions, etc. from experienced teachers would have been a huge benefit. I would also have benefited greatly from things like a copy of the schedule used the previous year along with comments on what worked/did not well, and a copy of the procedures and discipline plan if available – if not, verbal interaction would still really help.
One thing I am glad for is that I discovered the first year the importance of visiting students’ homes and get a picture of their lives outside of school.
June 30, 2018 at 11:27 AM #49342
The greatest factor in determining your success as a teacher is not your hard work or your talent; it is your character. You cannot be a good teacher without being a good person. Good character will lead you to work hard and develop your talent to the greatest possible degree.
The greatest factor in determining your character is the grace of God through Jesus.
Cultivate love for your students. Good is maximized and your failures are diminished when they know you love them.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. As a new teacher, it’s better to work within an existing system than to create something new, even if you think your new ideas will improve things. You’ll have way too much going on in your first couple of years to effectively replace an old system with a new one. Do try new ideas, but try them in areas where there is not already something that is working at a basic level.
July 3, 2018 at 8:59 PM #49349
Another comment I want to add (aimed especially at elementary lady teachers!) is to pay (significantly) more attention to preparing well for your procedures and lessons layout than to decorating the room. I intentionally keep the walls pretty simple for the first days and then strategically add more things as the days go by. Too much glitz can both give the wrong message and over-stimulate young minds. Putting up new things little by little enables students to notice specific items more. I often ask, “Did you see anything new today?” and then we talk about the new thing and its purpose.
July 6, 2018 at 9:19 AM #49367
PREACH IT, SISTER!
Priorities should go something like this—
3. Order and cleanliness
4. Sparkle and sizzle
July 6, 2018 at 9:40 AM #49368
Betty’s post reminds me of the importance of procedures, routines that create favorable conditions for learning. Entering and exiting the room, beginning and ending class, when and how to talk, assigning homework, passing out and collecting papers, dealing with misbehavior—establish procedures for these and other things. Effort spent establishing procedures will be repaid a hundredfold. I say this as a fundamentally disorderly person who finds procedures difficult. They’re worth it.
The book Betty mentioned, The First Days of School, is extremely helpful in this regard (and in lots of other ways). Buy it. Ask for it for your birthday. Tell the school board you won’t teach unless they get it for you. Lie on the floor and kick and scream about it. Send me a message and I’ll buy you a copy myself. (I’m actually serious about that.) It’s that good.
July 7, 2018 at 7:57 PM #49407
Peter’s list of priorities reminded me of some of my school-teaching nightmares; the ones that involve walking into a classroom on the first day of school to total disorder and chaos, maybe not even being sure which classroom was the one I am supposed to be using. And if there are students in the picture they are not doing a thing they should be. The good students are hiding out and the rest are running wild. Thankfully none of my nightmares have ever come close to being true. But, yes, planning and presenting your procedures is a big deal. I, too, wish the book, The First Days of School, would have been available when I started teaching. I still find it helpful today. Though I do want to add a caveat: If you are hoping that the procedures and objectives automatically turn students into a picture of success and good behavior, you may be disappointed. Wise procedures taught well and objectives for what you are teaching will greatly help you be successful; but we are teaching human beings and not robots. And the teacher is also a human being and not a robot. Plan and prepare carefully but don’t expect your planning to take the place of wisdom gifted to us from God.
July 21, 2018 at 9:50 PM #50674
I’ve been pondering over the idea of paying more attention to procedures and lesson plans than room decorations. I very much agree with this idea. My walls and bulletin board are usually pretty empty on the first day of school and they get filled up as the days progress.
However, I would not want to cause any teacher to feel guilty for putting time into how their classroom looks, if they are also putting time into procedures and lesson plans. I teach with a few good teachers who are using their “home-making” gifts in the classroom since they don’t have a household of their own they are responsible for. They are also well organized in procedures and lesson details. And as the one teacher said of herself, “If it’s not on the wall before school starts, it probably won’t happen after school starts.”
So to any new teacher, prepare your procedures, plan what and how you will teach, and then decorate according to your gifts – not according to how the teacher in the adjacent room has decorated. And if you don’t know where to begin with procedures and lessons, ask someone who does know. According to the Wongs in The First Days of School; good teachers beg, borrow, and steal ideas from other teachers.
July 23, 2018 at 9:52 AM #50682
August 7, 2018 at 3:33 PM #51098
Plan your instructional approaches in such a way that you could not proceed without the use of significant wall space for visuals.
Use the energy of students to create many of them–especially in middle grades and up. Post changing displays of student work: illustrated vocabulary words, penmanship samples, neatly done math work, book reports, posters…
Post time lines, maps, photos of people and places. Post charts showing concepts such as place value or types of levers. Create worksheets that require students to use wall material for their completion.
Post riddles, poems, brain teasers, news tidbits, “did you know” facts. Consider having students responsible for weekly changing displays of one or more of these.
Consider an activity section, such as a giant crossword puzzle (perhaps student made).
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