Do you remember what it was like to be a “new” teacher? I do. I was lucky enough to have student taught for the campus I was hired on. The principal brought me my contract while I was in the cafeteria on lunch duty and I thought I was going to cry in front of all of those students — I was so excited!
Once I knew what subject I would be teaching, I started planning. I had to come up with every aspect and detail of my classroom. My classroom trajectory was a blank slate! How was I going to get kids to line up? Was I going to have classroom jobs? How would I hand out textbooks? Would I have a seating arrangement? I spent most of that summer thinking about my classroom — my home away from home. It was certainly an exciting two months. I had no experiences with uninvolved parents, so I designed elaborate newsletters that would share every detail of our classroom. From upcoming lesson plans to expectations at home, these newsletters were going to highlight the week’s happenings. There was even a section for a student-written piece each week.
I had no experience with unprepared students, so my plans were designed with the highest of expectations. Projects, collaboration, ideas galore…I had no concept of a district imposed testing schedule. Cross-curricular planning? You bet! We had science and math connections each week, with a student artifact as their summative assessment. My students were going to complete every assignment, on time, and perfectly… because I was going to teach content that thoroughly!
The novelty of being a “new” teacher is the absence of being jaded. You arrive with the best intentions and pie in the sky ideas since you have few past experiences to constrain or even ruin your ideas. You’re excited to have this job. You know and believe you will change lives.
I challenge you to start this new school year with that same mindset — the one that some may call naive. If you’re a veteran teacher, let go of the past. After all, every classroom is unique. Find that blank slate again, and be ready to change lives and conquer the world! How can you do that? Try to start with these classroom “refreshers”:
Change the layout of your classroom. Do something totally different with your seating arrangement. Dump your teacher’s desk. Change your “power zone” of teaching.
Start on a different foot. That first week folder? With those same “get to know you” activities you’ve been doing every year? Trash it! Do something new this year!
Block it all out. This year, don’t listen to anyone’s opinions about your upcoming class. Every year is a brand new beginning for every student and every teacher. Start with the highest of expectations for each child. You are the defining factor in how your students behave in your classroom, and you have the opportunity to set the tone for the year — make it a positive one! Let your classroom be full of good choices, mistakes, do overs, and grace.
The reality of my first year, obviously, didn’t pan out quite the way I was thinking it would. But, I came back the second year, just as excited, and full of even more plans and ideals. No matter how veteran you are, I hope that you can become a brand new teacher again this year!