My first year of teaching was difficult (more like unbearable), but I was blessed to be at an amazing school with incredible support to guide me through it. Here are 3 things that I learned all those years ago:
1). Reach Out Right Away to ParentsBeing a parent myself, I admit that I walk (okay, maybe I march) into my child's classroom at the first opportunity possible to respectfully remind his teachers to treat our child like the precious, innocent, angelic creature that we've raised him to be. (That last sentence is quite ironic, as I'm writing while my "angelic" son fakes his a nap - instead he's doing cannonballs off of his top bunk. I digress.) Listen, parents are not blind to the fact that their child has issues, and most of us are willing to take ownership for the parenting mistakes that we've made along the way. But what we parents really want our child's teacher to do is appreciate how special each child is. We get that they spend more time with you than they do with us each day. It matters to us, too.
It's easy. Communicate with parents THE VERY FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL. Don't wait! It can be as simple as a hand-written note stating how helpful their child was carrying the lunch bin, or passing out materials. It can be a heartfelt email or note at the bottom of their child's planner just letting them know how much you appreciate their child. But teachers should be the first ones to open up the line of communication in a POSITIVE way early on in the school year. After all, parents need reassurance in the beginning of the school year, too.
2). Send Home Weekly Progress Reports
I know what you're going to say about this one.
I don't have time for this!
Click here for a link back to my post on how I use a Self-Reflection FREEBIE in my classroom. It's been a lifesaver! Holding students accountable for their own learning releases you from the responsibility of more work to complete. However, I cannot tell you how many times parents have thanked me for keeping the family updated on how successful their child has been in school. Remember that parents need reassurance, too.
3). Keep Your Cool.
In other words,
One of my very dear friends loves to tease me about how I metaphorically vomited my first-year-teacher woes on her in the copy room at school... The. Very. First. Time. We. Met...Sigh. Lucky for me, she looked past my lack of judgement and decided to be a friend anyway.
Look, we all struggle during our first year of teaching with classroom management, pacing, home/work balance, and school responsibilities. No one has an easy first year. I wish I would have told myself to keep my mouth shut at school (unless confiding in my principal, coach, or mentor about a specific problem).
The reason is that, no matter how much (or lack of) control you might have during your first year of teaching, just a little slip could put you in an awkward situation real fast, such as being called into an emergency meeting to try and defend yourself. You never know who might be nearby, and if your seemingly innocent complaints or frustrations fall upon the wrong ears, you might find yourself in hot water. Not that I speak from experience, or anything. (J/K - I was in the principal's office at least once a month during my first year of teaching... again, I digress.)
Well, there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed reading my post. What advice would you give to yourself as a first year teacher?