So, you finally landed your first classroom, and your head is swimming with new teacher advice and recommendations for your first year. You have probably gotten a lot of great new advice for your first year! Listed here are 10 things that you may not have heard yet but that will hopefully reduce your stress as a new teacher.
10 Must-Know Tips for New Teachers
1. Sub Kit: Prepare a substitute kit before school starts and keep it on file with the office secretary. Don’t be surprised if you get sick the first month of school. Stress, long hours, and new germs are swarming during back-to-school. Prepare ahead of time so you don’t have to come in to school when you are not feeling well.
2. Make Friends: Make friends with the school staff! Janitors and school secretaries are a huge asset during the school year, and you need to be on their good side. Be kind, courteous, and patient in the first few weeks of school. Everyone is asking for their help, and they are doing their best to accommodate you in a timely fashion. Remember, they have the keys to the castle.
3. Library Books: As a new teacher, your classroom library is probably going to be very sparse until you have time to hit up those yard sales. Offset this by checking out books from your school library. It is always a good option to have an alternative activity for early finishers. Include nonfiction and fiction titles in your selections. (As you delve into your curriculum, you could include titles that support your science and social studies topics.)
4. Parent Contact Info: Prepare a sign-in sheet for back-to-school night where you can get names, phone numbers, and other contact information for each student. Your school will provide what they already have on file, but the information may not be current. Offer multiple lines under each student’s name to accommodate blended families. To save time, you could ask a veteran teacher if he or she would be willing to give you a copy of his or her sign-in sheet to get you started. This is also the best time to ask for classroom volunteers and room parents. (Parents are still fresh from summer, and this is your prime opportunity to ask for things before the school year swallows up spare time.)
5. End-of-Day Transportation: This is especially important if you teach the younger grades! You should know how each student plans to get home on the first day of school. Depending on your school’s set-up and routine, this will be different for every teacher. Create a classroom list, and as parents drop off students, ask them to fill out the form indicating how their child will be getting home that day. (This way you don’t end up putting little Jeremy on the bus when his grandfather is picking him up…not a great way to start the year. You laugh now, but this has happened to many teachers.)
6. First-Aid Kit: Check your classroom first-aid kit before school starts. Make sure it is well-stocked with Band-Aids, ointments, etc. If it looks like it hasn’t been touched for years, talk to your school secretary about getting a new one before school starts. You may even want to purchase an extra box of Band-Aids, especially if you teach in the primary grades.
7. Fire Drill: This may sound a little elementary, but you will be so busy the first few weeks of school you probably won’t even think about it. Train your students ahead of time how you would like them to line up and where to go before your school has a practice run. Explain that this is a safety procedure to be taken seriously and that there is no screaming, running, or talking. If you are teaching kindergarten, this could be their first fire drill ever. Prepare students by explaining it is just a practice run, and they don’t need to be afraid. Trust me; I learned this the hard way. (30 screaming little children tearing out of my classroom in different directions…and yes, the entire school was my witness.)
8. Morning Work: Create calm transitions in your classroom by incorporating morning work into your daily routine. Giving the students a short review activity in the morning will give you time to take attendance, talk to lingering parents, and deal with any crises that arise first thing in the morning. Train your students on your behavior and lesson expectations for this time, and you will set the tone for positive morning interactions all year long.
9. More Than You Need: When you are creating name tags, homework folders, and classroom lists, create more than you need. Most teachers will get new students added to their classroom within the first few weeks of school, and it is a headache to go back and make more copies of items you thought you were done with.
10. Anytime Activities: Prepare, prepare, prepare! Create plenty of extra lessons and activities to keep your kids busy those first few weeks. The lesson you thought would take 30 minutes could only take 5! Always have back-up activities ready to go. Unstructured activity in your classroom is a recipe for behavior disaster.
As you navigate your first classroom, always remember, the first year of teaching is the most difficult. Have grace for yourself, your students, and your peers. Listen, learn, and know that you are not alone.
About The Author
Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.
10 Things Your Teacher Training Won’t Tell You: Tips for New Teachers