Education: How I Survived Teaching cont….

As a first year teacher in 2006 I was under a lot of stress and very unaware as to what effective teaching looked like.  Effective teaching and trying to survive in a classroom where so much had to be done….OMG what did I get myself into.  What do I need to do to set myself up for success?  My year in a nutshell was challenging  but I would not change anything for the world.  I needed those bumps and challenging situations for me to learn from.

For me to continue to tell you about my journey I want to speak to the first year teachers.  As a first year teacher it is tough because there are 10,000 things that are being given to you at once.  Although you may think you are ready for the year you may have a change of heart after the district and campus training.   I am just being very honest with you.  Once you get hired you may think that all of those classes and books you read have prepared you for the real thing.  Once you step into the school and are introduced to the systems you must use and grant items that must be in done……you will be signing another song.

To be prepared you must be realistic with your goals.  Do not get discouraged by all of the first week informational meetings and training’s.  Do not be green and think that you have it all under control either.  Take your time and try to master one thing at a time and always ask for help.  Your team is there to help you.  Here are some tips I would like to share with you that may help:

First Year Teacher Tips

Here are a few tips that helped me my first year teacher trying to stay a float and advice I have given other first year teachers.

  1.  Set practical goals – You will not master everything on day one.  Create a set of practical goals for you and your students.  It is really important that you plan your day with the goal or big picture in mind.  This will motivate you to get you through the day as you work towards success.  Students will also work towards a practical goal if given one.  Be practical and honest with yourself.  A goal to have all students make a 100% on an exam this is not practical, you may want to  reevaluate your goal.  A goal that states your students will master at least 75% of the exam objectives is practical and attainable.  Make sure you are not biting off too much.  Take everything in stride and as you grow and develop your craft you will be a master at it.
  2. Good Classroom Management – Let me say this, if you cannot create an inviting and safe environment for your students you will have hell every day.  Students need structure and boundaries.  Not boot camp rules and boundaries but a set of policies and daily procedures to make your class run smooth.  A successful teacher can build relationships with the students and create a safe classroom community.  If your classroom is chaotic and lacks structure then the learning environment is not going to be effective.  For me, day one is structure seating and learning a bit about each and everyone in my room.  Day 1 will help identify the students that know each other and who will talk if they are together.  Day 2, structured seating and giving students tasks that require following directions.  During day 2 you can explain how students are to communicate, complete task, model group work and explain the polices.  I can go on for days with this….but what you should know is you must be consistent with your policies and procedures each day.  Students need it.
  3.  Lesson plan with a team – Do not try to freestyle your lessons without speaking to your team.  They have the knowledge and experience with the curriculum.  You may be new and fresh with ideas but they understand the flow of the unit.  While lesson planning ask a ton of questions and make sure you are teaching what the curriculum says to teach.  If there is something that you do not understand about the unit ask the team lead to model it for you.  My team was amazing my first year.  We discussed the weaknesses of the students and planned based on that.  Having my mentor on my team was great because she explained the units and where to find resources.  As a first year teacher I did not have a whole lot of time to break down the curriculum so I literally learned in my team meetings.
  4. Do not add to your stress –  As I said before you will have a lot of information and systems that you will have to learn at you campus.  Do not add additional stress to your day.  Stress can stem from a lot of things.  My advice is to always be prepared for the week a head of time.  Make your copies, find the resources needed, be prepared for duty, use a calendar to organize your meetings and always check your email.  There is nothing worse than missing a meeting or important task because you did not read an email.  Take time out to organize your day so that you are not stressed because of the lack of organization.
  5. Stay positive – The first month will be tough because you have a lot of information that was crammed into your new teacher training and campus training.  I know your head was probably spinning after the first week of school because of the training.  You need time to process the information so take the time to do so.  Make sure you take notes and come back and review them so that you understand.  What you have to do is be positive. Remember that Rome was not built in a day.  Stay positive each day and remember to reflect on the practical goals you set for your self.  This will carry over into your classroom because the kids will feel the energy you give off.  If you are having a bad day the kids will detect it.  So be positive.  Always remember that your kids are watching you.  You may not believe it but they will notice your actions and how you treat others.
  6. Get to know your school – This may sound silly but seriously take a trip around the school.  Do not wait until the first day of school to find the copy machine.  Usually the week before school starts is filled with multiple training’s and meetings for you to attend.  This will take up the majority of your time and will overwhelm you if you let it.  My advice to you is go ahead and ask your campus if you can come in a one day before the teachers are scheduled to come back.  Doing this will allow you to take your time to get to know the campus, decorate your room and organize your life LOL.  Find the copy machine, vending machine, nurses office, administrators office, teacher lounge, teacher restroom, department chairs room, where to sign up for technology, who give out teacher supplies on campus, are all things that will be important.
  7. Decide what is important – What is important to you as an educator?  What ever the answer please make sure it includes the success of those students who you will call your kids.  There are so many educators out there teaching for the money.  I am still trying to figure that one out because we really do not get paid that much.  But if you do not have the intention of investing in the future then please find another profession.  Teaching is not for everybody.  Think about this, we see our students more than their parents each day for 187 days or so.  We influence them a lot.  Teaching them how to be successful at what they are good at is what we should focus on.

Take a look at some influential statements spoken by another educator:

• A good teacher knows the students on many levels. The teacher learns all about their academic strengths and needs, but even more about their interests, fears, hopes and worries. The teacher helps students learn these things about themselves and helps students to learn some of these things about each other, especially the strengths and hopes!

• A good teacher remembers that each student is somebody’s precious child. It is known that every parent has high hopes, valid concerns and great expectations for that child. The teacher works to help the parents understand the goals and to develop their confidence. Parents are an integral and vital part of the child’s education – not intrusive, annoying impediments. The teacher recognizes how much influence can be made in a child’s life – and how difficult it can be for a parent to trust their child to anyone else.

• A good teacher tries to see things through the students’ eyes as well, working hard to be fair, empathetic and encouraging. The teacher strives to maintain high expectations for each and every child – to challenge them to reach for their best and aim for the stars. The teacher is strong, firm, and determined and shows students that learning and doing one’s best are the goals and that grades are not.

• A good teacher makes learning exciting, helping each student find areas of interest to explore and master. The teacher helps students see that goals which are at first difficult may eventually become easy, and are often the most satisfying to achieve. The good teacher helps students to see new things as stimulating challenges rather than dreaded obstacles, showing them that perfection is not only unrealistic, but undesirable as well.

• A good teacher becomes attached to the students, knowing it will be hard to say good-bye at the end of the school year, hoping those students will come back to visit, realizing that even if they never see each other again, they will carry memories of that teacher in their futures and with their successes.

Charlotte A. Wolfe is Associate Publisher for Community Newspapers (Journal, Inc.) and general manager of The Itawamba County Times. She may be contacted at

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