It is so thrilling to enter your first classroom. It is, after all, what you have been dreaming of for four years. I will tell you from personal experience if you don’t prepare well, you will enter your first year both under prepared and over prepared at the same time. Wondering how you can be both over and under prepared? Trust me. It happens. I’ve composed a list of 10 things I wish I had known entering my first year.
1. Prepare time-filler activities
Often, lessons don’t work out like the way they should. Either we get interrupted by school things like fire drills and picture days, or unexpected occurrences like vomiting episodes or accidents. When that happens, sometimes it is best to just wait and do that certain lesson tomorrow and do something else. This, my friends, is when most teachers would show a video. But YOU are too good for that. This is where you need to have time filler activities in your back pocket. Also, usually when students have down time there are behavioral outbursts. If you keep kids engaged and occupied there will be less of a chance for this.
My FAVORITE go to activities are Sparkle and I Have Who Has. Sparkle can be made to fit all your needs. Essentially you have things written on paper in a bucket or some sort of container. A teacher at my school uses a Pringles can! (Shout out to you Mrs. Copeland! <3) I put mine in little colored berry containers as seen in this blog, here. This can be sight words, pictures, sentences, whatever your class needs to focus on. The students will pass the container around and pick ONE paper out of it, and if they complete it correctly (depends on what you put in there. My kids did it with beginning sounds with pictures- they had to look at the picture and identify the beginning sound) then they get to keep the paper. If they get it wrong it has to go back in. If they pull out the word Sparkle! The game is over and whoever has the most paper wins! My kids loved this game and it was a great time filler.
I Have Who Has can also be used to fit your needs! My kids do the game with letters, but you can find it for just about any subject, here are a few I found-
Sight words I Have Who Has- Click here for link to amazon
Early Skills I Have Who Has- Click here for link to amazon
Letters I Have Who Has- Click here for link to TPT
When you have time filler activities ready to go, your students can have fun while still learning. Also, it looks really good when an admin walks in and you’re still doing something academic despite the weird timing of the day 😉
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel! The materials are already made somewhere (I promise)
I majorly made this mistake when I first started teaching. Please, please, don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t spend your evenings making materials endlessly. I promise you, you can probably find exactly what you need somewhere. I did this with assessment materials for my small groups. I spent so much time gathering and preparing materials when I realized that our PALS account had all of them pre-made and printer ready. Ensure that you are aware of all resources your school has such as google drive, PALS or any other online account. If you’re unsure of your resources, ask an admin, lead teacher or specialist!
3. Understand that administration is there to help you
They really are. As a new teacher in a new school you may be hesitant to approach your administration with questions or concerns. That is completely understandable, but remember in the back of your mind that they’re there to help you. If you have a question you can’t find an answer to, ask your admin. Can’t figure out what to do with one of your students? Ask your admin. I remember going to our assistant principal to just decompress after one embarrassingly awful lesson. Her support was exactly what I needed in that moment.
4. Have an organization system
For the love of all things holy, have an organization system READY. Trust me, if you don’t do this papers will pile up on your desk like some monstrosity and you will end up throwing away all those papers from lack of motivation to organize it. In an earlier post of mine I explain how I organize my papers, here. Bridget Spackman of The Lettered Classroom organizes her papers using IKEA shelves- Click here to be linked to IKEA
I think I will try this IKEA shelf method this coming year, and I’ll keep you all updated. In short, find a method that works for you and stick with it! For some people that’s using binders, others it is accordion folders, and others it is regular paper folders.
5. Don’t go overboard
This is the part where I’m telling you to not over prepare. To be frank, it’s hard not to. You enter your first year with so much zest and energy that you want to have ALL the adorable things in your room and ALL the adorable weekly newsletters and ALL the adorable routines. Perhaps for things like this, wait until the second week of school to prepare. If not, you’re going to put so much work into these things and they will go into the trash can. Stick with the basics for the first week or two and then add in your zest to the room.
6. Remember to be flexible
Things are going to change. I know you’ve been told this for four years in college but really, things in schools change often and quickly. Your schedule will change. The order of your day will change. Your lesson plan format will change. Remember to take these changes as they come. If not, you will be stuck in a cycle of negativity.
7. Take time to make your classroom a community
It is completely worth it to take the time in the beginning of the year to create a community in your classroom. This is a more and more a common thing due to the popularity of morning meetings. I am a huge proponent of mornings meetings. It helps your students become comfortable in the classroom with their peers. Arguably more importantly, it makes easing into the morning easier for your kids. If you teach in a title one school, an inclusion classroom, or special education classroom, mornings are extremely hard for students. When teachers have morning meetings or a set schedule for the mornings, it makes it easier for these kids to ease into their morning. It gives them structure, routine and community.
8. Take time to set routines
It is vital to the success of a classroom to take time at the beginning of the year to set AND practice routines. Remember that all things need to be taught in a classroom, that includes how to line up, how to stand in line, how to put away materials, and how to work independently in a small group setting. Take time in the beginning of the year to teach and reinforce these skills. I also am one of those teachers who make kids go back and do it again if they do something wrong, so if I were teaching how to line up quietly, we would practice until we got it correct. When teaching routines, you may need to take time away from other activities, but I promise you it is worth it.
Also, remember to have refresher practices when needed. They’re usually needed after long breaks away from school and when kids start getting lazy at the end of the year!
9. Accept and ask for help when you need it
First year teaching is hard, there is no doubt about it. Be open to asking for help from others, and accept their help. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of inner strength.
10. Enjoy it 🙂
First-year teaching is a time of immense growth but also immense fun. I’m not kidding. You’re going to meet some of the most wonderful and inspiring teachers who will turn into your best friends. You’ll also meet some of the most hard-working and loveable kids who you will remember for the rest of your life. Throughout the year, take time to just sit back and enjoy your first year!
Would you want to add anything to the list? What was your first year as a teacher like? COMMENT and let me know! As always please SHARE on Facebook if you like this post so others can see it!