Being a new teacher can be intimidating. I’ve been there, I know! When being in the classroom for the first time, you just don’t know what to expect because you will have children in your classroom that you have never met before. You have to deal with several personalities, different backgrounds, and ethnicities. On top of that, the school year that you have ahead, the goals you’ll have to meet, getting acquainted with new colleagues, the administration, and the list goes on. Just thinking about it can be overwhelming. So, I am here with a few tips to help new teachers prepare for their first year in the classroom. Keep reading, if this is you.
Preparing for the First Day
As a new teacher, one of the most important things is to be prepared on the first day of school. You absolutely want to make a great first impression on the students and the parents as they walk into your classroom. Make sure your classroom is decorated with everything in its place. A welcoming classroom makes students and parents feel comfortable and ready for the school year. When I worked as a teacher, we came into work a few days early before school actually began, and we were able to decorate our classrooms. This is beneficial, although the administration would love to interrupt our time with professional developments, taking away time we needed to be in our classes getting ready. That’s what I hated most! Secondly, what I liked to do was make sure I had a fun, pre-planned activity, on their desk. So, when it was time to get our day started, I was ready to go. Maybe a fun name game or something to that effect. And lastly, I would always stand at my door greeting new students and parents as they walked into the classroom. I’d greet them with a warm “hello” and show them where the students needed to put their things and allow them time to look around the classroom. You will feel a little anxious on the first day, but that’s okay. Even veteran teachers feel a little anxious and excited on the first day of school—it’ll wear off soon though. Trust me. (insert laugh)
“There are three good reasons to be a teacher: June, July, and August.”
Getting to Know the Students
As the parents begin leaving and you start your day, as I mentioned before, have a fun activity laid out on their desks so the students are engaged as they settle in. These activities are an easy, comfortable way to start the day. Give them a set time to work on this. This should be no more than 10-15 minutes as you will have to move on to other things such as learning the students’ names among other “important” things. This is the part where I needed to make sure I was prepared because I am so bad with names and I indicated this to my students so that they knew early on. If I happened to call a student another name, they knew why. As you pan around the room, hopefully, you can see their name tags on the desk. This reminds the students and you, where they should be sitting. As each day goes by, you will become familiar with who’s who. Not to mention, learning who can sit next to each other and who cannot, but that’s a whole other story. So, to put all of the students at ease, you will begin with what you have in your lesson plans for the day. Usually, on the first day, you might have some name games to play or some getting to know you questions for the students This will vary depending on grade level. You may also have students to stand up and share a story of why they are excited about starting the new school year. These are just a few examples of how you can begin getting to know your students and your students get to know you.
“All students can learn and succeed, but not in the same way and not in the same day.”
~William G. Spady
“They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.”
Supporting a Positive Classroom Environment
A positive classroom environment is conducive to your classroom running like a well-oiled machine. Once this is achieved, your year will be awesome and will go so smoothly. “How do I achieve this?” you say? Well, there are a few minor details that I must divulge. The first thing to get you started on total bliss for the school year is to have classroom procedures and expectations posted as big as day in your classroom, mmkay! This will be your class bible. This is how you will run your class, mmkay. Without it, you are doomed to fail. This is where you will state what you expect from each student. List positive expectations only. Why? In classrooms with clear and consistent positive expectations, students know what is expected of them, which gives them confidence and gives you fewer headaches. For example, say something like, “Always do your best, Share with others, Be Kind.” Make sure that you clearly communicate these expectations to your students, as well as the parents. This way everyone knows what to expect in your classroom. One way to do this is to PUT IT IN WRITING and have the parents to sign it! They can’t say they didn’t know. Just saying. Create a handout, and distribute it to all students and parents. Post in a place where students can refer to them as often as needed. Even better post them where the targeted areas are expected to take place.
Another thing that you’ll need to make sure that you steer clear of is rewarding a student to control their behavior. Incentives of this nature, which include pizza parties, extra recess, free time, and the like, don’t benefit the students in the long run and make classroom management more difficult. Instead, focus on creating a classroom that nurtures intrinsic motivation. Click here for more information on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If you want a classroom that you love to wake up to every day, this is the way.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”
How to Support Collaboration and Engagement with Parents
Encouraging parent participation can be a breeze or it can be a burden, depending on what type of school you are at. I’ve experienced both. At one point I had so much support from parents it was bewildering. They wanted to do everything, even take over my job! On the other hand, I’ve worked at schools where I could never get in touch with the parents and have never even seen them. This was so traumatizing for me and the students. So, depending on where you are located, you will either have to be creative in getting to the parents to participate or schedule a specific day and time for parents to assist you as you will have an insurmountable amount of parents wanting to be involved in their kids’ classroom.
To engage and collaborate with the parents, you can set up a classroom website. I did this a couple of times and it worked like magic. The parents were able to actually see what their children were doing in the classroom. I posted pictures of them working and pictures of their actual work (you must get permission to do this before you post any pictures of children on the internet). The parents were able to communicate with me at any given time. They could email me from the website and send me the documents that I requested. This was awesome because it gives you and the parent an opportunity to engage and collaborate with one another. Big thumbs up for this very valuable resource. Another way to do this is Parent-Teacher conferences. Parent-Teacher conferences give you the opportunity to communicate about their child’s progress and develop strategies and plans for the student’s future. Again, this is dependent upon what type of school you are working at. Some parents show up with bells and whistles on, and some parents, well, they don’t show up at all. So, just do the best that you can in order to reach out to absentee parents. Here is more information for collaborating with parents.
“Students learn best when they feel welcomed, comfortable, and safe.”
How Veteran Teachers Can Help Foster Novice Educators
Yes, look to veteran teachers to help guide you in the direction that you want/need to go. These are your new colleagues and most—yes I said most, are there to help you succeed. Get to know some of your new co-workers and feel them out. Connect with the ones that genuinely love what they do. These teachers will be your life-line when you need to know what to do when you don’t know what to do. Set-up lines of communication with them, and voice your questions and concerns. Avoid trying to figure things out on your own, it’ll drive you crazy and will make you want to give up and find another career. Veteran teachers have been where you are, a first-year teacher. Who better to learn from than someone who has experience? Right? Even the ones that have been teaching for more than twenty years have excellent stories of how teaching used to be. You know, because you were in that classroom so long ago. Remember what it was like when the teachers used chalk? Man, those were the days. Find someone who will mentor you and keep checking in on you during the week to see how you’re doing or what you may need help with. You’ll be glad you did.
“This classroom is a mistake-making, laughter-sharing, independence building, brain-stretching, sort of place.”
Make a good impression on your students and parents on the first day of school by having a welcoming classroom. Good impressions go a long way. Have fun activities on the desks for students as they begin to settle in and give them a set time to work on them. No more than 10-15 minutes and then review it with them. Have classroom procedures and expectations posted as big as day in your classroom and only list positive expectations. Engage and collaborate with parents the best you can. You will either have a lot of support or some to no support depending on the area that you are in. Lastly, look to veteran teachers for help and guidance in your first year or find someone that will mentor you. These tips are coming from me, a veteran teacher who has been through all the ups and downs of teaching. I loved teaching. I loved everything about my classroom and my students. I loved to see their faces light up when they had their aha moment. It was amazing. I had a great mentor and other colleagues to help me during my first few years and as time went by, I became better and better and my classroom was a well-oiled machine. You too can become a master teacher. It justs takes a little time.
Tell me what brought you by and if this article helped you in any way? If so leave a comment below, I would love to know if this article helped you. Let me know if you understand these tips and how you plan to implement some of these tips. Can’t wait to hear from you.