Looking for some advice for your first year as a teacher? In the third in this series, I’m sharing my best tips for what you should know for teaching during the winter time.
Miss the previous teacher advice posts?
Revisit Your Classroom Management Plan
When we come back from break in January, it’s the perfect time for a classroom reset. Students will return from break and often act like they have forgotten the rules and routines. Going back over these items will help start off the second half of the year on the right foot.
January is also a good time to reflect on what is and isn’t working. Most students (and yourself) might enjoy a new take on your current classroom management strategies. This would be a good time to inject some fun by using a seasonal strategy such as collecting snowballs for a classwide reward.
Templates are your friend!
The more templates you can create, the easier you will make things for yourself. Having a report card template is the first template I would recommend. Templates for your report card comments will not take away from the individuality of the comments.
Report Card Comments
The first sentence in your report card comments should offer a positive sentence about the student. Next, you’ll want to have a few sentences specific to grades or student progress on a subject. I usually highlight reading and math in my comments as this is what my administration requires.
After talking about grades you’ll finish the comment with another positive sentence specific to the student. This creates the common compliment sandwich.
I like to go a step further and create a template for a student on grade level, one below grade level, and one above grade level. Then I will choose positive phrases specific to a student to create my report card comments. This makes writing the comments go much quicker.
Another template you should have is a lesson plan template. I’ve written about this before but having a set format to your lessons makes writing them each week easier. You might even consider writing your lessons in batches.
For example, write all the introductions for your reading lessons (or another subject) at one time. Then, go back and write all the student activities. Doing all of one section of your lessons across the week can make writing your lessons go faster.
When I’m writing my lessons I like to jot a quick note in a planner that is divided into subjects. Then I can easily type up my lessons by looking at my planner. I also teach most of my subjects using the I Do, We Do, You Do model of gradual release.
Don’t Try To Do It All
Social media and Pinterest makes it seem like many, many teachers have it all together. Believe me, we don’t! Those that seem to do it all have most likely sacrificed another part of their life to be able to accomplish what they have.
As a first year teacher it will be very tempting to try to do as much as you see others do - even teachers within your school. My advice is to slow down and concentrate on one thing your first year and do it well. Maybe it’s running centers in your classroom or your small reading groups.
Ask other teachers within your school for help. If they are doing something really well, like math, and you are struggling to get your students to the same level, ask them how they are doing it. Most teachers are happy to share their ideas and if they are not, you know to steer clear of them. They are not your people.
Take time as well for yourself. Pick a day that you will not stay past contract time. The rest of the week maybe set a goal to only work 45 minutes late. There will ALWAYS be plenty to work on and it will always be there. Your health and well-being may not be. Learn to set healthy boundaries in your first years of teaching.
Have Frequent Parent Communication
As a parent myself, frequent communication from my child’s teacher is appreciated. Pick a day you will send a quick note to parents. Maybe it’s a Monday overview of what your class will be learning. Or maybe it’s a Friday recap of what you learned. Either way, be consistent with your parent communication. Parents will love knowing that there will be a note on a specific day of the week.
Don’t leave it up to the parents to reach out to you and ask what their child is doing in class. Being proactive and telling them updates each week will go a long way to build a positive rapport with parents.
Pictures can also go a long way towards making families feel involved. Even upper elementary parents still enjoy getting a picture of their child at school.
Mistakes Will Happen
Know that not every teacher is perfect and we all make mistakes. There is a lot to teaching and things are bound to be forgotten or missed but especially when you are new to the job.
My last piece of first year teacher advice is to be upfront and honest when you make a mistake. Go to your administration if a mistake happens that you feel might become a bigger issue. They will appreciate hearing it from you first before hearing it from angry parents! Often having your side of the story first can also help your admin explain the situation to parents.