First year teachers! Set a strong foundation for the road ahead

Congratulations, you made it! You now have your own classroom! You will probably spend the better part of your summer thinking about your classroom setup and decor. You are likely to purchase your first planning book and other teacher supplies. Even after 14 years in the classroom, I must admit I still feel giddy thinking about new supplies and classroom decoration ideas.

Your first year as a teacher will be both exciting and overwhelming. It will also be the best adventure you will take in your professional journey. As you embark on this endeavor you will want to examine and develop five basic “maps” to set you in a successful direction:

  1. Establish a support system: Whether it be colleagues within your grade level or a veteran on campus, these people will be your lifeline. One uniquely inspiring aspect about this profession is the willingness to share and mentor. Veteran teachers have all been in your position at some point in time and can ease confusion or unknowns for you.
  2. Ask a lot of questions: As educators, we are always reminding our students to ask questions, but we need to ask questions as well! You will need to know your school’s policies and procedures, school-wide behavior plan, schedules, and much more. I have taught in three different schools, each with a unique way of handling day-to-day tasks, so try not to assume too much!
  3. Developing a solid behavior management plan: Once you have established whether your school has a behavior plan, examine what your role is. Explore whether colleagues in your grade-level have specific procedures for handling encouragement and discipline. Hopefully teachers at your school are already using ClassDojo and you can jump on board. If not, there is no reason for you not to use ClassDojo for your own classroom. You might be the catalyst for change. Speaking from experience, it can happen.
  4. Establish strong classroom procedures: There should be a well-defined procedure in place for just about every classroom activity. This will save you an incredible amount of time that can be wasted during transitions. Your school might have procedures that all teachers must implement. If not, mentor teachers can help you develop procedures and there are plenty of ideas online. Whatever procedures you choose, put them in place immediately. Practice often with your students and maintain consistency. Both you and your students will be glad you did.
  5. Plan for more than you need: I develop detailed plans for the first three days. We practice procedures, go over the behavior management plan, gather materials, and perform icebreakers. I give a presentation about myself and students give “brown bag” presentations about themselves. We develop personal goals, class goals and set expectations. It’s always smart to plan far too many games and brain breaks just in case particular tasks take less time than anticipated.

Remember that you are setting the foundation for not only your first year, but for years to come. The goal is to establish who you are as an educator. Your methods and structures may change as you find what works or don’t work in your classroom, but your foundation will remain the same. Solid foundations support solid learning.