When I was handed my diploma on the stage at K-State's Bramlage Coliseum last May, I thought I was set. I was going to start my job and be the best teacher ever. I had all these awesome lesson ideas swimming around in my head and I was going to see to it that they happened. However, although the year has been great, I've learned a lot that they never taught me in college. Not even the most amazing program can prepare you fully for the first year of teaching. So if you're starting your teaching journey next year, here's my two cents. Enjoy!
1. Lessons are not set in stone. I can't tell you how many lessons I've done where I've gone back into my computer and typed in all caps, "NEVER AGAIN." Remember to make notes on your lesson plans about how each thing went. You think you'll remember next year. You won't.
2. Speaking of remembering, teaching does this thing to your brain where you can't remember many things anymore. You should have a calendar that's linked to your school email...use it or else! I put everything on there and if it wasn't there, it wouldn't get done. Believe me, I missed my first day of bus duty because it wasn't on there :(.
3. Students are flexible, especially if you teach older kids. When I student taught I'd freak out if my lesson didn't go well. I am learning that sometimes it's okay for both you and your students to have a laugh about something you screwed up. I think it shows them that you're human. For example, yesterday I passed out a 3x4 Bingo card. WHO DOES THAT?! Who makes a 3x4 Bingo card? Where was my brain? We all had a good laugh!
4. Classroom management doesn't have to be absolutely horribly difficult. Yes, it depends on your students, but here's the thing: If they know that you're usually laid back and nice and things usually run smoothly, all it takes is maybe raising your voice a little and putting on your "I-mean-business" face. If they're not used to it, they'll know you're serious.
5. Of course, I've had more extenuating circumstances, but I do not send students to the office unless I cannot handle what they're doing or they're completely throwing off the whole class. Principals truly appreciate it when you don't send kids to the office for every little thing. If it's something I can handle by calling parents or talking with the student one-on-one, then I just do it myself.
6. Have a very good plan in place for consequences. This is something I will be working on next year, because I haven't had a great plan this year. Honestly my kids are really great kids so I haven't really had to have a plan. The stuff that has happened was enough to call parents, but how are you planning to deal with the in-between stuff? One plan I like and may try is a three-strikes plan. Three strikes and your parents get called tonight.
7. On calling parents, call them when their kids do something great too! I could do a lot better at this, but I at least email them when something good happened in class.
8. Make charts for students who need accommodations and keep track of each thing you do for them. Did it help? Did it not? What can you try next time that will help them? If you're going to teach a foreign language, this is really important because most of the time for foreign language you don't get a para to help you. It will take some time, but you'll figure out how to work with a student one-on-one while keeping the class going.
9. In your spare time, look up games that can be "fillers". Sometimes if we finish a lesson early I let kids do other homework if there's like 5 minutes left in class, but I also really like filler games!
10. Use brain breaks. These are all over Pinterest and kids need them. Remember in college when you would start to daydream after like 15 minutes of class? I don't like to do a lot of lecture, but sometimes it's necessary to learn a new verb tense or something. Kids need a break for their brains!
11. Some days will suck. Maybe lots of days. Have a treat for yourself waiting when you leave. For me it's a stop at Sonic or a snack I can only have on my "bad days."
12. Don't forget to pray for your kids. Pray over your classroom. I could definitely get better at this. Sometimes I wonder why I have days on end that just plain suck and are really difficult...and it's like God pops in and says, "How about asking me for help?" Now, of course, sometimes even with prayer things aren't going to go my way, but it's so important to pray for these kids!
I think that's it for now...I have a ton more, but I'll have to add them later! Let me know if you have any other advice you'd like to add!