I just finished my 12th year of teaching, so I should be an expert by now, right?!? Not even close! I still have so much to learn but if I could go back in time and talk to the brand new 23 year old teacher I used to be, this is what I’d say:
Think hard about the position before you accept it!
My mom always said, “Don’t take the first offer of marriage you get!” I took her marriage advice but I would have been wise to apply her advice to teaching positions. I took the first offer I received. It wasn’t a terrible year but my dream school called to offer me a position a few days later and I had to turn the principal down. I tell new teachers who are looking for positions to see what else is out there!
Another piece of advice I have for new teachers is to change the way they think about interviews. You are interviewing that principal/staff just as much as they are interviewing you. If it’s clear from the interview that your views do not align, don’t take the position. You don’t want to be in conflict with your principal and new coworkers…it makes for a looooong year!
Faculty relationships are the most important!
What will make you want to stay at your school year after year? It’s not the kids, programs, or parents… it’s your relationships with other faculty members. Each of the former things will change frequently but if you have friends on the faculty, they will be your support system. You will need all the help you can get to keep you going during difficult days/weeks/years.
This makes me think of a class I had a few years ago. There must have been something in the water the year they were born because it was a very, very difficult group. Honestly, I would not have made it through the year without my dear coworkers. Although we were struggling greatly with our students, we had a lot of fun together. They made a rough year bearable. We made it through and our next group was amazing!
So, get out there and make some faculty friends!
Kids are not your friends!
Yes, I know this is so obvious but I see a lot of new teachers trying to be friends with students. I don’t mean friends as in “Hey, let’s hang out and go to the movies.” That sort of thing borders on illegal. I’m talking about teachers who are terrified that they won’t be liked by their students. These teachers do not give out consequences or set firm limits because they feel like they won’t be popular anymore. As a first year teacher, I was guilty of this too. I was timid and always weighed how a student would feel about me before I said anything.
Your students have so many friends but fewer teachers and authority figures. Students will be more respectful and compliant with your requests/requirements if you maintain a fair, authoritative, professional tone and attitude at all times.
There is no need to spend a huge amount of money decorating your classroom!
Picture it: It’s August in Oklahoma… 100 degrees or more everyday. I was sweating it out in my non-air conditioned classroom. I spent two weeks arranging, rearranging, and decorating my first classroom. These were the days before Pinterest, so I relied only on pre-made decorations. I went to the local teacher supply store and purchased over $500 worth of decorations, supplies, and other stuff I thought was absolutely essential.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying things for your classroom. Just don’t go overboard. Look around for things other teachers are giving away. Minimalist is best. Use your students’ artwork/projects to decorate bulletin boards and walls. This will save you money AND make students feel some ownership in their classroom.
Trust me, you will soon fill any empty space, so keep your purchasing to a minimum!
Think about the functionality of your classroom BEFORE school starts!
When your students arrive in your classroom, you need to be ready to rock ‘n roll! You will be swamped with paperwork, supplies, questions, and many other things. If you have already set up the functionality aspect of your classroom, you will be ready to hit the ground running.
Things to think about:
Where will students store extra school supplies?
Where will they hang coats and backpacks?
Where and how will students turn in papers?
How will you organize papers by “Need to grade,” “Need to enter in grade book,” etc?
How will you separate students’ take-home papers? Mailboxes? Hanging file?
Sit down in your empty, quiet classroom and think about how you want your days to run and the easiest ways to arrange and store everything. This will save you loads of time throughout the school year!
Dealing with parents can be challenging!
Talk to any veteran teacher and he/she will be able to tell you some colorful stories about parents of former students. I certainly have some! From year to year, you never know what types of parents you will be working with. Honestly, most of your students’ parents will be wonderful and supportive but there are some parents that are challenging.
What you need to remember at the beginning of the year is that you MUST set up and nurture positive relationships with parents. To do this, I recommend calling, messaging, or writing a positive note to parents at the beginning of the school year. Having positive contact with parents before anything negative happens will go a long way in creating great partnerships with parents.
I wrote a full blog post that will help you create and maintain positive relationships with parents: ESTABLISHING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARENTS
Classroom management is the most important thing during your first year!
I’m going to tell you the truth here. There is not a single first year teacher I’ve ever met (myself included) who was great at managing a classroom from the very beginning. It’s not easy but you will learn as you go along!
Remember when I said that faculty relationships are so very important? This is one of the reasons! Watch your coworkers closely while they interact with students. What do they do to earn respect and manage their classrooms/students effectively? I do have some resources for you to check out if you want to learn all you can about classroom management. This blog post has good information for upper elementary teachers: DEAR FIRST-TIME FIFTH GRADE TEACHER.
Also, I loooooove this book. Harry Wong’s First Days of School was a treasure chest of information for me as a new teacher. There are some things that apply to high school but there is a plethora of classroom management information that is crucial for upper elementary teachers! Click here to see it on Amazon: (I am in no way affiliated with the author or publisher of this book but it’s simply amazing and I wanted to share my affiliate link with you!)
I have a FREEBIE for you! Please sign up on this form to receive my EXCLUSIVE packet: Back to School Resources for New Upper Elementary Teachers! In this packet, I have provided you with my best tips for setting up your classroom, planning the first day of school, and I have included some ready to use, engaging activities for the first day or two of school. Sign up on this form: