Wednesday, June 24, 2015

ROCK Your First Year of Teaching!

Hi everyone! I'm linking up with Teaching With Crayons & Curls and My Mommy Reads for a great collaboration of tips for new teachers. I've actually been wanting to write a post on this topic for a while now so I'm excited to share some of my thoughts and ideas through this link-up!
Now I'm practically a new teacher still myself as I have only been at this for 3 years. But on the other hand, I feel like I have a very current perspective on this topic and there are many things I know now that I really wish I knew back when I first started. So without further adieu, here are my tips at-a-glance:
Now let's dig in a bit deeper...
1. Find a mentor.
This was one of the greatest assets to me as a new teacher. I was actually extremely blessed with an entire school filled with incredibly friendly and supportive staff, but one individual in particular was my go-to for support and advice. It was invaluable to have someone there to just bounce ideas off, ask quick questions here and there, but also to really dig in to planning, learning programs, seeking advice when it comes to student parents, etc. etc. etc. Seriously. Find a mentor...they may just become a fabulous new teacher friend for life!

2. Develop a solid behaviour plan & be consistent.
In my first year I *thought* I had a solid behaviour plan (don't even get me started on the dreaded clip chart) but I was not nearly as consistent as I needed to be in order for my program to be successful. I've tried many but my current preferred behaviour plan is 1, 2, 3, Magic! Find whatever plan works with you, your teaching style, and your students, and BE CONSISTENT. Inconsistency will cause any plan to fail, no matter how "fool-proof." Set clear expectations and stick to them. It sounds easy enough...this was actually something I "already knew" when I first started teaching. But I admittedly wasn't as strict with my plan as I needed to be at the beginning and it showed later. 
Clear expectations. Consistency. No exceptions.

3. Be silly with your students.
This is a big one for me and my Type A, slightly OCD personality. Now I don't mean be silly and inappropriate and fool around all the time. I mean that once you have established a solid behaviour plan and have a defined teacher-student role, have FUN with your kids! Be silly with them! The first time I did this was a snow day (for us that means school is still open but buses don't I had just a handful of kids in class). Because I didn't feel the pressure of curriculum, I was able to relax and have fun with my students. And the great thing was they didn't act out and chaos did not ensue like I had always envisioned it would if I ever let my "teacher" guard down. They didn't suddenly forget or chose to neglect our class rules and expectations. They enjoyed seeing a more playful side of me that they could actually relate to and I truly believe they respected me more for it. So go ahead, relax, and enjoy your time with your students!

1. Work every night & weekend...done is better than perfect.
Oh my. I fell into this trap and ran myself to the ground. To this day I have to consciously remind myself of this. If you don't learn to accept anything else as a teacher, this is the one thing you need to remember: 
You will never be completely done. And that's okay
Teachers always find something to do, make, create, mark, prep, etc. and the work is never completely done. There's always something to do! But in my first year, I wish I had convinced myself to simply do what my students needed in order to learn. I wish I didn't worry about how cute or colourful the activities were. I wish I didn't spend hours re-vamping anchor charts and trying to reinvent the wheel for every single lesson and activity. It doesn't make you a bad teacher if you don't work every night and weekend. In fact, it will make you a better teacher if you take care of yourself. So remind yourself that having the work done, is better than spending a ridiculous amount of time making it perfect. Enjoy your life!!! You deserve it.

2. Implement everything you learn at every P.D. session.
Aaahh. Another biggie. In my first year, one way to make me feel like an absolutely horrible teacher was to send me to PD. But that's only because I was taking PD way too seriously. YES it is incredibly important to continually learn and grow in this profession, but you will drive yourself mad if you try to implement every single thing you learn at every single PD session. I would just get started doing something one way in my classroom, go to a PD session, and then start doing it another way based on what I had learned. So it never had a chance to actually work and work well. The biggest thing I learned about professional development in my first year is the importance of listening, learning, but then selecting what strategies, programs, and resources you feel would benefit you and your students the most. If you focus on just one or two aspects of improvement at one time, you are far more likely to grow and develop successfully than if you try to juggle a handful of new strategies half-heartedly. Your time is way too valuable for that! 

Comparison is the thief of joy.
There is a fine line between admiring and learning from another teacher's lessons/style/classroom/etc., and comparing yourself to that teacher. It is SO easy to compare yourself to other teachers and feel like you are not doing enough, especially in this profession and in this day in age. Fabulous teacher-bloggers and social media (like Instagram in particular) often only show us very small and seemingly perfect snippets of an individual's life. A teacher's feed could display just a handful of images of cute activities, but suddenly we feel completely inadequate in our own abilities. Stop that NOW! First of all, everyone is at a different stage...don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle. Secondly, we all have strength and we all have weaknesses. Don't let someone's strength let you forget your own. Learn from others, but don't compare. Never stop growing but never forget your own fabulousness ;)

For more great advice, head back to read what other teacher-bloggers have to say!

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