From the Trenches: Advice for New TeachersBy Danica Murillo
My first year in the classroom was an endless parade of challenges and triumphs. I felt pulled in every direction by the demands placed on me by students, colleagues, parents, and administrators until I was thoroughly overwhelmed. I had been warned, but I really didn’t believe that teaching involved a world of meetings, paperwork, frustration, tears, collaboration, growth, laughter, and joy until I experienced those things for myself. I doubted my abilities throughout the course of that first year, but by the end I realized that I had learned so much and that teaching was indeed my calling.
As a new teacher, you now belong to an exclusive community of professionals dedicated to fostering growth in young minds. Teaching is a rewarding field that will challenge you and change your life, but you must survive the first year in order to develop into the phenomenal teacher waiting to emerge. Those of us who have made the decision to remain in the classroom year after year have learned several things along our journey that allow us to continue to enjoy the work we do. The advice below is merely that—advice, but the hope is that you take some of it to heart so that you enjoy a first year less challenging than mine was.
Organize yourself before the year starts. One of the biggest problems I faced my first year was establishing several organizational systems that worked for me. You’ll be faced with a mountain of paperwork, resources, and other important information that you’ll need to keep track of, so having a good system in place is a must. If you’re not used to carrying a calendar, train yourself to use one since you’ll have various meetings, parent conferences, and lesson planning sessions to attend. Organizing yourself also means thinking about the systems you’ll utilize for classroom and behavior management before students walk through the door on the first day. Routine and structure are extremely important in a classroom, so take the time to teach students about your particular expectations. Review these with your students and review them often, especially after major breaks such as Thanksgiving, Winter Break, and Spring Break.
Make sure there is a focus for the day’s lesson. Routines and structures are one piece of the classroom puzzle, but the most important one is the content of the day’s lesson. Your students need a clear picture of what they are expected to learn in class. In order to give them is picture, you need start by learning your content area standards and breaking down the information students are expected to know. Use your break down of the standards to establish the focus for the day’s lesson and post it at the front of the class. Refer to the focus at the start of the lesson and throughout the course of the class. Students need a road map for the day’s learning, and your focus will help guide them and ensure they don’t stray off the path. Be sure you assess your students at the end of class to determine whether they are ready to move on or require a re-teach of the information the next day.
Involve parents in student success. Student success is a partnership between teachers and parents. Dealing with parents can be the toughest part of teaching because you’re never sure what to expect when you call home. You might reach a parent that is extremely supportive, but you could also reach a parent who is [continued on page two >>>]