This blog was originally published on Teaching Channel on August 3rd, 2021. It has been republished here with permission.
This may be stating the obvious, but being a new teacher isn't easy. Many new educators feel totally alone up at the front of the classroom, especially if they work in a smaller school without many other new(er) teachers. We received so many great questions for our Advice for New Teachers webinar that we didn't have time to answer during the presentation. We took your most frequently asked questions to Keely Keller, the Director of Professional Programs at Learners Edge and former Special Educator and Administrator, to get the answers you're looking for.
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If you could implement only one classroom strategy to start your year, what would it be and why?
Building relationships with and among students. This will set the tone for classroom community, classroom management, conflict resolution, etc. You need trust and communication with and among your learners to keep things running smoothly. This allows more time for learning and creates safety in your classroom.
This fall I will have my first experience with a student-teacher in my room. How can I help her find the most success but also allow her to learn from her mistakes?
Teach her about growth mindset as a professional. Try the gradual release of responsibility model with her (I do-we do-you do.) Focus on one thing at a time and provide feedback that includes 1) positives/strengths 2) her progress toward goal 3) next steps for learning.
What signs could mentors look for to know that a new teacher is struggling?
Watch for signs of emotionality or a look of being overwhelmed. Mentors can also listen to new teachers for similar verbalizations. They may choose to become more isolated. Some may appear tired and/or become ill.
How can mentors uplift teachers in meaningful ways?
Talk about why you became teachers! Focus on the positives, even if they are small. Celebrate victories. Bring them a coffee, write them a note, think about what would have been kind and helpful to you as a new teacher.
Most experienced teachers suggest focusing on setting up expectations and routines during the first week or 2. What type of "activities" would you suggest we plan for 1st graders as we focus on these? We want our classrooms to be engaging, fun, and educational during this time as well.
Talk to your first graders about you all being a community of learners helping each other and getting to know each other. Involve them in creating the “rules and/or expectations”. What kind of classroom do we want? Be sure to provide examples of what the rules look like and sound like. If you have routines and procedures you want your students to follow, you must teach those explicitly and provide practice. Make a game out of this. Read books about school and friends, etc. Take movement breaks. Go outside. Mix it up!
What are some supplies that every first-year teacher should have for themselves on day 1?
- Planner-electronic or hard copy (including day 1 or even week 1 lesson plans and a few additional activities in case you have more time with learners than expected)
- Water bottle
- Lunch box/bag (insulated to keep items cold in case you never make it to the lounge to eat lunch)
- A few band-aids
- Something interesting of yours that you can share with students to connect
How do you go about bonding with your students while remaining in charge as the teacher?
Build relationships first…think about the relationship bank account. Try putting five positives in as deposits, with each learner, in case you need to make a withdrawal (behavioral reminder, etc.) Involve them in creating community and expectations in your classroom. Allow every student to start fresh every day. Meet them at the door. Smile-yes, even before winter break. Talk about their interests and bring their interests into your instruction.
What is the best way to teach/establish classroom rules and expectations at the start of the year with a new class?
With your students! Ask them what kind of classroom community they would like. Let them be a part of the brainstorming. For younger students, explicitly teach them routines/procedures and include time to practice.
I am so nervous about teaching. I love it so much I want to do everything right. How do I calm myself down before my first class?
How do I make a good first impression on parents as a brand-new teacher? I will be working at a private school where parent involvement is very high.
Reach out to introduce yourself (find a template for that here), provide contact information, keep them appraised of what is going on in the classroom, call home with positive news, communicate often, and work to keep the child at the center of the conversations. Build relationships with them the same as you would with their child (find common interests, ask about weekend plans, etc.)
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