SO YOU'RE A FIRST YEAR TEACHER...
...and you're trying to figure out anything and everything about your new profession.
Where do you begin?
What should you read?
What should you be preparing for first?
Is there anything you should buy?
I'm only going into my fifth year as a teacher and I still feel like everyday I learn something new.
That's the great thing about this profession, things are constantly evolving and so are you.
Before I get to the questions that were asked, here is some (unsolicited) advice that I am still learning to take myself-
- Never hesitate to ask for help. I've always been a bit of a control freak and like to think that I can figure it all out on my own, but this can get overwhelming. I had a wonderful mentor who I believe saved my teacher life my first year. Whether you have a mentor or not, find someone who supports you and is there to listen to you vent when needed.
- Please, take time for yourself! I only learned this last year, during my fourth year teaching. I finally understood the phrase "burnt out". I schedule two days a week that I leave school after our tutorial time and do not stay any later. My students are aware of these two days and know that unless there is an emergency, I won't be staying late after school.
- Turn off once you get home. Unless I get an emergency email, I don't answer emails once I am home, they can wait until the next morning.
- Build as many relationships as you can! With your students, teammates, secretaries, custodial staff, admin, parents, everyone you come across.
Now, time for answers to your questions!
Reminder, I do not claim to be an expert! These are my answers based on my experiences.
Q: How should I be preparing during the summer for the beginning of school?
A: Focus on your curriculum and lesson planning. Become familiar with what you have to teach and how to lesson plan. Does your campus have a specific format for submitting lesson plans? How often do lesson plans have to be submitted? Does your district/campus expect you to have objectives posted, if so what is the criteria for the objectives? How often will your team meet to plan (if you have a team)? Anything content related is important and what I believe is worth spending your summer time on. If you have yet to meet anyone on your campus/team I would reach out to your admin and ask who you could get in touch with on your team! This could provide you with some more insight on lesson planning.
Q: What to buy and not buy as a first year teacher?
A: This is totally up to you! That is probably not the answer you want to hear, but everyone is different. I believe that whatever makes you feel secure and prepared as a teacher is the right choice for you. That might mean purchasing books for your classroom, baskets for organizing, a cute theme from TPT, or more PD based books (or all of the above!)- again, the choice is yours.
Here are the items I purchased the summer before my first year teaching: a TON of curriculum books from Amazon. I am a high school FCS teacher, and I had six (yes, six) preps and my district did not provide any curriculum- it was just me and my TEKS. I spent the majority of my money on that, and I am so thankful I did. I then had a starting place for lesson planning. I also bought baskets from Dollar Tree (that I still use) for interactive notebook baskets for my students. Lastly, I bought borders for bulletin boards in my classroom.
Q: First day, first week, how to prepare for both?
A: First, by taking a deep breath! I can tell you that years into the profession, I still get anxious about the first day of school. It's more of an excited anxious though! Remember, your students probably feel the same as you do on the first day. As far as preperation goes, I prepare for the first day/week by researching ice breaker activities so I can begin to build my classroom community. This is really all I focus on the first week with my students. I also make sure to overplan- this way if an activity moves more quickly than expected I have another one prepared. You can also speak with your team to see what is typical on your campus in regards to first week paperwork so you can have that prepared as well.
Q: How to deal with difficult parents?
A: Always remember that you are the teacher of their baby, their child, their loved one. That is first and foremost. But, before you speak with a parent/guardian please know who are you are speaking to- what is their name, how do you pronounce their name, what is the language spoken at home? Gather this information first before proceeding to call, email, or meet with the parent. A word of advice that has stuck with me- the person you are speaking to might not have the same last name as the child, they could be divorced, or never married, or remarried, or could be an aunt or an uncle, or a grandparent. Your knowing their name shows that you care enough to prepare to speak with them. At the start of the school year make a goal of placing ___ number of positive phone calls home. I learned this at a training before my first year of teaching and my goal was two phone calls a week- sometimes I was able to meet this goal and other times I was unable to. But, I know it made a difference. I remember making a phone call home and left a voicemail for a parent who didn't answer. I left a message about how their daughter, Jordan, was a great student because ______ and ______. The very next day Jordan came into my classroom and said that her mom played her the message the night before and that she had never gotten a positive phone call home. If you start with this technique you can begin to build relationships with your parents and potentially less issues could occur throughout the remainder of the school year.
Q: How do you 'justify' that their (parents') kid will be okay with a first year teacher?
A: If your school has an open house/meet the teacher night be prepared! Take your time greeting your parents and speaking with them about their child, show your enthusiasm for the school year and your students. Remember, everyone starts somewhere and you can't know everything at the very beginning so don't be hard on yourself. Also, keep an open line of communication and be consistent in your communication. Ask your teammates how they communicate with parents- do they send home a newsletter, emails, utilize Seesaw? I believe if you are consistent in your practices this will build trust with your parents and there will be no need to justify that your students will be 'okay' with a first year teacher.
I hope that these answers provide you with at least a small amount of insight into preparing for the upcoming school year!
You wil do great things!