building community, collaboration, new teacher, new year

If You Have One Hour with a New Teacher…

We’ve all been there; arms full of papers, books falling out of our bags, and so many questions that we hardly know what to ask – ahh, the plight of being a new teacher.  Or at the very least, a teacher switching schools, or jobs, or grades.  So who do you turn to, where do you find those elusive answers that will make you sleep more easily at night before the big show?  And mostly, which answers do you really need?

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with a great friend from college who just landed her dream job in a 5th grade classroom.  Previously she has taught as an ELL teacher but had the opportunity to switch jobs and switch schools.  Prior to our meeting, I asked my PLN what I should share with her and had some fantastic responses.  So here is what I thought was important.

  1. Sign up for Twitter!  If you need to know why, read this post or read the Innovative Educator’s fantastic blog on how to use Twitter.
  2. Start a classroom blog; Tumblr or Blogspot are just fine – my classroom blog is is well visited by parents and they love how everything is accessible to them.
  3. Start a professional blog for your own reflections, this can even be tied in with your PDP and you will be amazed at the thinking you end up doing.
  4. Meet with teammates, ask questions but don’t forget yourself, after all, you will be teaching your own class and must be able to stand behind what you teach.
  5. Think about a morning and afternoon routine, or coming and going routine if you are non-elementary.  I explain and establish this on the 1st day of school and it sets the tone for the rest of the year’s expectations.
  6. Reflect on your hidden rules of your classroom.  We all have pet peeves, figure your out and then share them with your students!
  7. Come up with community building projects.  Although curriculum will need to get started quickly, make sure you have opportunities where the kids are engaged in something creative to establish trust and excitement in your room.
  8. Send home an introduction letter to students and parents.  Give them insight into you and your classroom.
  9. Don’t waste too much time on your hallway bulletin boards.  Spend the time in your classroom instead, setting it up for great learning and collaboration.  Cybraryman has a wonderful webpage with great resources for how to set up your room to boost learning. 
  10. Laugh, joke, smile, and most importantly be yourself!  You were hired because you were a great candidate, so go in there and show it.  Curriculum will be taken care of but those first few days set the tone for the year so have fun with it!
I know there are many more important ideas to add, so what would you tell a new teacher they should focus on?  What did I miss?

13 thoughts on “If You Have One Hour with a New Teacher…”

  1. Great post! As a former school Principal,Instructional Coach and now Consultant would love to add a few hints. I would encourage them to seek out and find a mentor. this is a critical piece to the success of all new teachers or new to the profession. Anyone saying other wise is "just blowing smoke". Mentors can be the linchpin to the success of new teachers. I thoroughly believe in this practice. Join us at this site http://www.edutopia.org/groups/new-teacher-connections. My goal in partnering with Edutopia to moderate this groups was to have a place where new teachers could share and connect. This is my passion. We had less than 100 ppl in Jan. Now up to 259!Join #ntchat on Wed.Here's the info~>http://newteacherchat.wikispaces.com/ Its a smaller intimate chat. Perfect for new teachers, focused on their needs. Lastly speak up and ask for help. So many times my new teachers would wait till their observation time to tell me they were struggling! Be brave, step up and speak out! All the best to you on your journey.

  2. Thank you Lisa for sharing your great resources. I have been participating in #ntchat, and even though I am not completely new, they are still incredibly valuable forums. Also thank you for bringing up mentors. In my district they are required but even then, just making connections with others so your custodian, your secretary and specialty staff is incredibly important. You have to reach out to build your own community and they can be your safety net!

  3. I would have to piggy back onto the introductory letter idea, but actually call the parents. I would always call each family and introduce myself and ask, "What is it that you think I should know about your child before the school year starts?" Parents love to talk about their child's individual needs and it gave me a lot of insight into my class. It takes some time, but by calling each family you are saying, "We are in this together." It also starts off your interactions positively, so that if/when you have an issue during the year you won't be kicking things off in the negative!

  4. It would vary…sometimes it was a 5-10 minute call…other times it would become a longer call. Sometimes parents would seem surprised to receive the call, but most of the time they were really receptive and excited. Often they would hand the child the phone and they would say hello, too. I think the whole thing made me more personable, and it was time WELL spent before the hullabaloo of class began!

  5. Love this post! This is one that I need to bookmark as a reminder of the things I need to do when getting back to the classroom. Much like your fifth grade friend, this year will be my first year of starting a school year off in a classroom (after four years of teaching specialty positions/part year positions).Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Thanks so much for linking to my Twitter post in this great list for new teachers. Now I feel obliged to answer your question, "so what would you tell a new teacher they should focus on?" I think I'll continue with the comment thread and share two great ways to reach out to parents. 1-Set up a class Facebook page like first grade teacher Ms. Schoening did. You can read how Facebook enriched Ms. Shoening's class and helped give parents an eye into the success of the students here http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/07/8-real-ways-facebook-enriched-ms.html. 2-Piggybacking on the phone call idea, why not send a group text instead if you don't have time to speak with each parent individually. Doing so enables you to quickly and easily stay in contact with parents and you can also start introducing them to ways they can harness the power of their cell for learning. Read step three in this post for ideas: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/06/5-steps-to-harness-power-of-cells-in.html

  7. This is a great list that I plan on sharing with the next new teacher in my building.I would add this: take the time before the first day with kids to introduce yourself to the main office secretary and to the day custodian. You will need these people frequently; better to meet them before you need to ask for something. I would also try to meet the folks in the kitchen early as you never know when you will forget your lunch and need something to eat.Thank you.

  8. Fantastic comments both from Larry and one of the people I look to for inspiration, Lisa the Innovative Educator. The idea of using Facebook intrigues me as I feel myself pulling away from that media myself due to privacy concerns. So thank you for sharing the link on Facebook, I will be pondering whether to use or not. The comment about reaching out and connecting in your school really strikes a chord with me as well. Other people have been new as well and so they more than likely are open to new people. You would be amazed at who can help you out and more importantly, make you feel welcome in your new environment. And even non-teacher staff can have great ideas to share related to education and classroom. Thank you so much for your comments on my blog.

  9. I heartily second Larry's suggestions about getting to know (and respect) the janitors, secretaries, and kitchen staff. I would add take the time to REALLY know your students and be wary of basing your assessment on them on any one piece of information (be it test data or last year's teacher).

  10. Yes, particularly be wary of last year's teacher. It is not that they don't mean well, because they do, but we all know that kids responds differently to each year's teacher so even if they had a rough year previously, they may connect differently with you. That also means that some one who had a great year can change their personality too! Thank you for the comment!

  11. As someone who just finished her first year of teaching, I can stand by these tips as quality pieces of advice. If I could offer one thing back that I think veteran teachers could do that would help new teachers: just stop by and say hi. There’s so much that is new and overwhelming as a new teacher, especially if you are walking in unfamiliar with the district. And you hinted at it early in your post – there were many times this year I knew that something was off or could be done better, but I didn’t know where to begin in pinpointing the problem. I think veteran teachers can help new teachers diagnose problems and work together to come up with solutions, but this will never happen if new teachers do not feel comfortable exposing their insecurities and have the time and space to do so.

    Thanks so much for all you do. Your posts have been helpful and comforting. 🙂

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