After 100+ Hours, 100+ dollars, and multiple trips to target and hobby lobby back to school is finally here! I can’t believe I am already in my second year teaching. Learning from my mistakes I know what I have to do to make this year better. My procedures are written down, binders are made, and classroom newly decorated. I made a lot of mistakes my first year, but like I say to my students, your best teacher is your last mistake. Here are 10 first year mistakes to think about about before beginning a new year.
1. Designated Place for Information
Consistency and routine is difficult your first year. Having a place to write homework, bellwork, essential question, and objectives (plus everything else we have to write) is necessary. A consistent area makes it easier to remember for you and the students. This year I used washi tape to make boxes on my white board organizing the information. If you don’t have whiteboard space use cheap whiteboard sticker paper to place on bulletin boards or walls. You could also use technology and have a daily powerpoint slide, also perfect for saving and reusing.
Harry Wong says, “procedures, procedures, procedures!” (First Day of School is a must read). I had no clue what procedures I wanted or where to begin. So I decided to implement during the year. Not going over specific procedures allows students to start bad behaviors right away. This also allows for you to be inconsistent, some days I would be more lenient, other days I wouldn’t let the students move or say a single word. Yes, it is easier to know what procedures you need after the first year, but at least make procedures for bathrooms, trash, voice levels, and attention getter. Either read Harry Wong’s book or research procedures for your grade level.
3. Seating Chart
Don’t let students come into your classroom and set them up to fail. They will sit by their friends and they will most likely talk. Making a seating chart sets up your classroom environment to begin in a positive light. I put colored frames on their tables and had a colored dot next to their name so they could find their name and quickly find their seat. I had every students’ attention from day one.
I am still having trouble with this one. It’s easy to spend every minute thinking of the next thing to make your classroom better. Yes, you will find yourself always thinking about the next thing you have to do. Your to-do list is equivalent to infinity. However, take time to stop and relax. Grab dinner with friends, go out for a drink, or just watch some Netflix. It’s important to make sure your not being swallowed by your job. Relaxing may look like taking an hour a day to not be consumed with lesson planning, or even taking a day to get away from it all.
5. Classroom Jobs
My first year I forgot attendance more times than I want to confess. The Classroom was messy, students would fight over who would pass out papers, quieter students were easily forgotten. Classroom jobs allow for a supportive community of students working together making your job easier, and creating a positive learning environment. You are able to give voice to students who don’t prefer to speak up. Students feel wanted and valued when given a job, no matter how old they are.
6. Listen to Wise Teachers
I remember last year when other teachers would give me advice, I would listen, but then do my own thing. I would try my own idea but after 10 times of failing then following their advice I realized, experience speaks volume.
7. Be Stern
Have fun with students the first day. Go over procedures in a fun way, play ice breaker games, and get to know each other. Make sure to take time to seriously talk about the discipline policy. It’s important that your attitude shows students that you are strict when dealing with discipline. Make sure your voice is stern, look them in the eyes, and end with a smile moving on to the next piece of business.
The first year will full of trail and error. You won’t be able to be consistent with everything. Pick one thing: weekly schedule, homework day, daily procedure, bellwork, or even your personality. People thrive with structure and routine. Find one area where you know you can be consistent and stick through it till the end.
9. Don’t try 100 things at once
Every week I would attempt something new. It’s important to try new things and be flexible to change. If you try a 100 things you won’t become a master at one, you’ll just be mediocre. Focus your energy on new ideas slowly. Make sure to give you and the students time to introduce the change then give enough time for everyone to adjust. You want to be ever changing as a teacher, but don’t change everything at once. Pinterest is an amazing place, it’s a good thing pins can be saved for later.
10. Love where your at
I wasn’t able to miraculously reach every student. My students didn’t grow the most. Nothing about my first year made anyone think wow, that’s the best teacher ever. I had some awesome lessons and some flops. I got in arguments with students. Yelled the loudest I ever had. I even let my emotions get the best of me and had to step out of my room because I started crying. The first year is a year of ups and downs. The second you begin your next year teaching, you don’t regret a single moment of the dreaded first. My mom would always remind me that God placed those students in my classroom. If your in your first year teaching or last, slow down and be present with the kiddos that make you love your job.