Hey there, new teacher, and welcome! Right now, you are probably feeling so many different emotions and have tons of questions. My goal is to help answer some of those questions with this mini-survival tip kit and help make you feel more confident in getting started in this amazing career!
Now, I said amazing, not easy! The first piece of advice I want to share is to NOT try to do everything perfectly this year. It took me many years to realize that “Done is better than perfect.”
There are SO many different aspects of teaching, that it’s impossible to be an expert in all areas, especially when starting out, especially on the elementary level, and ESPECIALLY with the added unknown factors of Covid and distance-learning.
One of the most important things to do is to stay organized, as it’ll help you work smarter (not harder!). So, in an effort to be efficient, I’ve organized this post into the following categories:
- Parent Communication
- Top Tips in a Nutshell
Everything needs a routine and you’ll have to go over all of them frequently at the beginning of the year. Visual reminders are fantastic, whenever possible. Plan your routines and systems ahead of time, so you are prepared for any scenario. Scroll below for a freebie I created to help you with this! Here are some considerations:
- Morning routine: Where will students place their belongings? What to do they do after unpacking- wash hands, ordering lunch, attendance, morning work? My students placed their folders in our class mailbox, sight word rings in their table bins, handed me notes from home, ordered their lunch on a chart (which I used for attendance), washed their hands, and went to work on table activity bins. This year, you may need to have students work with their own materials, so plan an easy-to-follow task to give you time to greet everyone and address any morning issues.
- Bathroom: In my class, kids knew they could go to the bathroom without asking, anytime they were at their seats. Once we were on the carpet for any direct instruction, they had to wait until the lesson was over (no more than 15 minutes). Of course, in the beginning, allow kids to leave the lesson with a gentle reminder of the rule, until they get used to it.
- Pencil sharpening: Who will sharpen pencils and when? Pencil sharpening can be noisy and/or time-consuming. Here are a few options:
- You sharpen- designate a schedule, i.e, every Friday morning, you sharpen all pencils, or every morning, you sharpen one table’s pencils.
- Kids sharpen- designate a time, for ex: only in the morning during unpacking time, or each table gets a day for sharpening during x time of day.
- Parents sharpen- my favorite! I ask for parent volunteers at the beginning of the year at our Meet the Teacher night. Grab a free parent volunteer kit here.
- Using supplies: Will each student have his/her own supply box or will you do community supplies?
- Answering questions: Many kids don’t understand that waiting is important when raising their hands, ha! Nip the calling out by praising kids who raised their hand AND waited to be called on. Designate a sign for all kids to call out an answer and for turning and sharing their ideas with a partner.
- Packing up: Will you call by tables? What should they do when they’re done? I kept a basket of books on each table for students to browse through. They also had “unfinished work” folders, book baggies, and their sight word rings to practice. Sometimes, I handed out tiny play-doh tubs for some free time.
There are just so many classroom routines and systems and I’m sure I am forgetting some! To help you manage your routines and systems, I’ve created this freebie and made it editable so you could add your own. To get the freebie, sign up for my weekly teaching tips below and get the password to my free resource library.
I believe that when kids are engaged and feel loved, they have better behavior. Interaction and movement during lessons is key, as well as having good rapport and trust. However, I also believe that a clear and consistent behavior system is necessary. Understanding why rules are in place and knowing the consequences of negative actions ahead of time will also improve behavior. Here are a few tips and links to related blog posts.
- Decide on a system and be consistent. If you need to modify it, make sure you share how and why with your students. When they are part of the decision-making, it creates a more respectful and positive classroom environment. Here are my behavior management systems.
- Try subtle cues and strategies to stop negative behaviors, rather than calling attention to it. I share lots of strategies for quieting a talkative class here.
It is SO important to have a place for everything! I cover over 25 organizational tips in this post, but here are a few key points:
- “To File” bin- To keep your desk clutter-free, designate a bin for items you no longer need but don’t have time to put away at the moment. Don’t forget to empty it by the end of the week before it overflows.
- Keep computer files organized from the beginning! You’ll accumulate so many resources, it’s easy to lose track of what you have.
- To keep students organized, tidy tubs are great! Just place bins at each table for scraps to avoid a hundred trips to the trash can and scraps on the floor or all over the table.
- Teach children (and repeat, repeat, repeat) how to store supplies neatly.
- Plan ahead- In the beginning, you may be planning one day at a time, but once you get past the first few weeks, try to do just one thing daily to prep for the following week. For example, on Mondays, you can plan the following week’s centers, on Tuesday, gather the materials, Wednesday, plan your read-alouds, etc.
I think teachers are naturally ambitious and want to do all the things! But, as much as we like to think we can, we can’t do it all. So, collaboration is a great way to save some time while accomplishing more.
- Ask questions- There are always teachers who love to mentor and share their ideas. Find your teacher bff and ask away. I suggest asking as many teachers as you can when you have a struggle, until you find someone’s idea that works well for you.
- Share YOUR ideas! I love having student teachers because they always bring something fresh to my classroom! Don’t be afraid to share your suggestions with your fellow teachers. You may just have the solution to some of their problems!
- Split up the work- Chances are, your grade teammates are working on the same curriculum as you are. Suggest to divide up areas and rotate who does what. For ex: each teacher can be in charge of one of the following areas for 1-2 weeks, then you all rotate: homework, anchor charts, poems, lesson-planning for different areas, printing worksheets, assembling centers, etc.
- Stay teachable- even after 17 years, I love learning how other teachers do things. Listen to your fellow teachers, visit their classrooms, watch them teach, and try new things!
Decide on and share the best way to reach you with your parents (I always recommend a school-monitored system, such as email). Also, how will you communicate classroom happenings? Will you have a newsletter? With what frequency? I have done weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly. If done well, I think a monthly newsletter is sufficient (and much less work for you)! Here are some more tips:
- Communicate the good and the bad with parents. It’s easy to just call parents when there’s a problem, but try to call parents at least once with good news about their child. We all love to hear that and it helps build a great relationship. If the time comes when you have to share bad news, they’ll be much more receptive.
- If a student is struggling, let parents know early on (don’t wait until report cards or conferences). Give them simple strategies to use at home.
- Read tips for a Smooth Meet the Teacher Night here.
And finally, stay positive- there will be many challenges, but stay focused on all of the great things you are doing to help your students. Surround yourself with positive teacher bffs!
This also applies when teaching your lessons. You may not find a certain subject or topic truly exciting, but if you put on a smile and introduce it excitedly, that excitement will be contagious! Kids have a funny way of knowing when we are stressed out. It’s some kind of superpower! If you need a break, take a few moments to give yourself a pep talk and know everything will be ok.
Remember to give yourself (and your students) grace! Even the most seasoned teachers don’t get to all of it. Give yourself grace and celebrate all you have done, rather than focusing on what still needs to be done.
Kids need grace, too. For some, it’s their first experience in a school setting, they may miss home, or be nervous about meeting new friends and pleasing you. Be prepared for tears and know they will soon be replaced with hugs, smiles, and love notes!
TOP 10 tips in a nutshell:
- Go over routines frequently and revisit them throughout the year.
- Have a place for everything (including digital files).
- Be consistent with behavior management.
- Communicate the good with the bad to parents.
- Collaborate with other teachers.
- Enlist parent volunteers to sharpen pencils, cut out lamination, assemble centers, etc.
- Stay positive and avoid negative people and places.
- Reflect and modify any routines or systems that aren’t working.
- Done is better than perfect! Prioritize what needs to be done by picking the tasks that will make the biggest impact on student learning.
- Enjoy the hugs, smiles, and works of art (hang them all up) and play with your students.
some not-so-common tips:
- It’s ok to
“file”not grade everything.
- It’s ok to throw a lesson out the window and start over or try again another day.
- It’s definitely ok to say NO to additional responsibilities outside of your classroom until you are ready.
- Ask STUDENTS to help with lots of jobs around the classroom! They love it and can help with things like sorting books, filling folders, and collecting pencils from the floor (that’s a big one!).
- Save a sick, ahem, personal day for holiday-shopping and one for strolling around on a beautiful spring day.
Finally, we know this year brings additional challenges because of Covid and maybe you are teaching virtually or some sort of hybrid model. If that’s the case, I have some tips and lesson ideas for teaching via video, as well as digital resources available here.
beginning of year posts that may also help:
I hope these tips were helpful, and if you’d like more support and a chance to collaborate with other teachers, you are welcome to join our Tejeda’s Tots Facebook group. There is a whole lot of experience in our K-1 Teacher group! Click here to join us!