Friday, July 29, 2016

Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Teaching!

My first year of teaching was wonderful, but I struggled!  I loved my students, and I worked really hard. But, I had a lot to learn.  This fall will be the start of my 19th year of teaching, and I LOVE my job! I'm truly excited to go to work every single day. (Okay, ALMOST every single day. Some winter mornings are dark and cold, and I'd rather stay home in my sweats!)

I thought I'd share a few of the things I wish I had known nineteen years ago. My first year would have been much less stressful.

1. Sleep! Rest! Balance!

4:30 in the morning... Still dark outside... I sat on my couch bawling like a toddler with my plan book on my lap. It was my first year of teaching, and I was a wreck!  I was sleep-deprived and ridiculously stressedThe year got much better once I learned to SLEEP and balance my priorities.

Teaching is a job that requires a great deal of patience and quick thinking. It can be stressful. You can spend almost every waking moment working and thinking about work, but it isn't good for you OR for your students. You'll be crabby. You'll feel frustrated. 

You will need to work hard, and you will need to work outside of school hours.  Remember though to give yourself breaks and take care of yourself!  Balance your job with the rest of your life. 

Now onto more practical, how-to tips! 

2.  The Magic of Calls and Responses

Get your students' attention and be thought of as the most delightful teacher alive! Try calls and responses. 

I read Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids  by Chris Biffle last summer and read about Class! Yes!  Basically, you say, "Class!" Students use the same voice you used to respond, "Yes!"  There are endless variations! You could say, "Classity class!" They respond, "Yessity yes!"  You can whisper. You can cheer.  There are lots of other fun variations, too. 

Macaroni & Cheese - Everybody freeze!

Hear ye, hear ye - All hail the queen!

Skunk in the barnyard - Pee Yew!

Mama mia - That's a spicy meatball!

OH, my class - Oh, my yes!
If you use these all the time, they lose their magic. But throwing them in now and then makes your classroom a fun place to be.

3.  Throw out classroom job charts! 

I'd always forget to switch the jobs and our already-limited learning time would be wasted while kids called out things like, "But I was the paper passer yesterday!" Without fail, a student would TRY to change the jobs for me and they'd get all mixed up. Or, you'd have those sly "helpers" who would manage to make themselves line leader 17 times each month if you didn't watch them.  

An easier way to get tasks done is to pick two helpers per day and let them run errands, organize the book baskets, etc. I keep a class list handy and check off kids' names once they've had a turn. 

4.  Make To-Do Lists

Believe it or not, I only started making to-do lists a few years ago. Before that, the things I needed to do would swirl around in my brain in a muddled mess! Just writing things down works SO much better and keeps you focused and organized.

I make lists as I plan.  I place a sticky note for each day on a piece of colorful paper. As I plan, I jot down what I'll need for each day.  Then I can easily prioritize if my prep time is limited. And our prep time is always limited, right?  

5.  Refuse to Be Negative

Teaching is hard, and there are lots of things outside of your control. I don't agree with every state-mandated decision. I don't agree with every curriculum shift. I don't love that I seem to test more than I teach sometimes. However, I can't control everything. Complaining and getting angry about what you can't control is not helpful. Focus on what you can control, and spend your time with people who do the same.  It will make you happier, you'll accomplish more, and your students won't get stressed out by an irritated teacher.

Do yourself a favor and read "Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers" by Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy. I won't spoil it by trying to explain it here. Just go and read it. Really. Whether you're new or you're a veteran, read it! It's a post for everyone.

You can get a beautiful color reminder to "Be Someone's Marigold" by visiting this post by Lisa at Second Grade Stories. I'm going to print one out to hang near my desk. 

Thanks for stopping by. I'd LOVE to read about the most valuable things you've learned about teaching. PLEASE share by leaving a comment!

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