Hi, everyone! Say hello to Elizabeth, the author of Common Core Galore and More. She is an elementary teacher, blogger, and writer, and she is here today to share with you all some new teacher tips to help you survive the rest of the year!
1. Keep Your Lesson Plans Simple
The year is 2011. I am an overzealous first year teacher. My daily routine involves arriving to school before everyone else in the building and being the last one out the door in the afternoon. We are halfway through the school year, and I haven’t even figured out how to manage a classroom yet. These are all just minor details though. You want me to run successful literacy centers in my classroom? Sure! No problem!Looking back on this, I can honestly say that I spent about 90% of my free time setting up centers. If I had to do it all over again, I would have ditched the centers and planned lessons that required little to no prep. I created some Winter No Prep Math Packs for Grades 1, 2, 3, and 4 for this very purpose!
2. Keep Class Skits Short and Simple
At some point in the year, teachers are usually asked to prepare some kind of skit or concert piece in front of the whole school. Whether you have to arrange one by grade level or classroom, do yourself a favor and keep the skits short and simple.What do I mean by this?
Last year, each grade level team in my school was asked to arrange an end-of-the-year skit. I was clueless about coming up with ideas for a skit, let alone directing one. Luckily, there was a veteran teacher on my 1st grade team who had a few more years in the saddle than myself. She suggested a simple song that was sung to the tune of the Hokey Pokey, which was good enough for me.
(Side tip: Don’t challenge a seasoned colleague’s suggestions for events like this. They have experienced way more school events than you have and know the correct route to take.)
- One grade level neglected to make their skit SHORT. Not only was it 15 minutes too long, but two kids also fell off the risers.
Shorter Skits = Less Time for Error and Severe Humiliation
- Another grade level seemed to be training for a Broadway show, because they neglected to make their skit SIMPLE. The kids had to remember and recite lines that I wouldn’t even be able to memorize as an adult.
3. Find a Happy Hour Mentor Buddy
The morale at my last school was extremely low. No… Like… So low I was afraid that if I coughed or dropped a pen at a staff meeting, it would set someone off. If the morale at your school resembles even a hint of this scenario, I suggest seeking out a Happy Hour Mentor Buddy immediately.
Your Happy Hour Mentor Buddy should be someone that works with you, because the best people to vent your frustrations to are the ones who can directly relate. Your significant other at home probably won’t understand why Timmy ruining your word work center is such a big deal. Mrs. Johnson down the hall will understand, because Billy ruins her life on a daily basis.
You might be thinking that there is no one at your school with whom you can have periodic whining sessions. You’re wrong. You can find at least one person who isn’t a horrible human being at your school. All you have to do is look carefully at staff meetings. The quiet ones are probably much like yourself, screaming from the inside, wanting out, and wishing someone would ask them to go to the bar for 12 white zinfandels.
(Side tip: Make sure you go to a bar that is at least 15 miles away from the school. There is nothing more awkward than running into a parent as they are about to shoot a double of Jose Cuervo.)
4. Avoid Field Trips Your First Year
When I think of field trips, I get this constant loud, hazy fuzz in my head that refuses to go away until somebody says “tacos.” To be blunt, I don’t like field trips. I have psychological scars from my own 5th grade field trip to the Whaling Museum, and I will share them with you right now.
If you are unfamiliar with what the Whaling Museum is, I will enlighten you. The biggest attraction involves an 80-year-old man standing behind a boat-shaped podium reading Moby Dick all day to a room predominantly made up of senior citizens. (Apparently my teacher didn’t get the memo that we weren’t 80.)
The best part of that field trip was purchasing a GIGANTIC blue whale lollipop that looked to be made around the time Moby Dick was written. I didn’t care that it was growing sprouts or the fact that it was forming a soft, moldy outer-layer; I was 10 and I inhaled it.
On the bus ride home, I had the pleasure of sharing a seat with my crush Johnny. Unfortunately, I also had one of those “Uh-oh, oh boy, I’m in trouble” moments after inhaling the blue whale lollipop.
I don’t know if it was the lollipop or the bad bologna sandwich I ate sitting next to Old Man Jenkins in the museum cafeteria, but I knew that I was not going to make it through the entire hour-long bus ride home without hurling.
So it happened.
We were 10 minutes away from home when I barfed all over Johnny and forced the bus driver to break out the ol’ sawdust bucket.
I believe it was this single event that ruined my chances of ever having a blossoming middle school romance with Johnny (or any other tween boy within a 20-mile radius of me).
Okay, I was going somewhere with this babbling story. Ah yes. Now I remember.
Field trips are often glamourized as a must-do activity for all teachers. I don’t want you to feel guilty if you decide to not plan a field trip your first year. It’s okay. The kids will survive one year without a field trip. Most of them probably have more fun in the classroom anyway (as you can see, I did).
If I haven’t convinced you at this point to avoid field trips your first year, I’ll give you a few more reasons:
- You know how you’ve been working on techniques for controlling your class all year? Yeah, well…this gets completely thrown out the window on the day of a field trip. The kids turn into absolute aliens when they are in a setting outside of school. I’m pretty sure none of my students even knew who I was at the science museum last year.
- Most teachers plan field trips near the end of the year when it is scorching hot, right? Unless you live in Beverly Hills, your city probably doesn’t provide you with air-conditioned buses. Sweltering Heat + Disgusting Sweat + Loud Children Crammed into 1 Bus = Crabby Teacher(s)
Bottom Line: Bus drivers should be paid more.
5. Reflect Every Day
When I was student teaching, I was blessed to have an amazing mentor teacher who would sit down with me at the end of each day to debrief. One afternoon, she gave me the best piece of advice that I have ever received since I started teaching.
She told me that I needed to take a minute or two at the end of each school day to reflect.
When I asked her about the easiest way to do this, she said: “All you need to do is ask yourself one question: ‘Did I laugh today?’ If the answer is yes, keep on going. If the answer is no, you need to change something.”
I implemented my mentor’s advice right away, but I didn’t realize then how much of a chord it would strike within me in the years to come.
6. You Might Not Like the School You Are Teaching At
Okay, I’m about to reveal a startling truth to you for which you may or may not be prepared. It’s a little secret that will probably provide many newbie teachers with outstanding relief. Do you want to know what it is? Okay. I’ll tell you…
There is a possibility that you will NOT like the school at which you are teaching. In fact, you might not even like many of the teachers with whom you work. Do NOT feel guilty about this, and do NOT let it brainwash you into thinking that you are a bad teacher. It’s not YOU. (Well…I guess it could be you, but it probably isn’t.)
If you work in an elementary school, the majority of the staff is female…right? Well…if you are able to make it through each day in a building where 98% of the people are female, that is an absolute miracle in itself. (Just wanted to throw that positive out there.)
If you love the school you’re at, then this tip isn’t for you. This tip is for teachers who are experiencing or will experience the harsh reality of not liking the school they are at. I am sharing it with you because I experienced this harsh reality, and I now live to talk about it.
Go ahead and ask me what my proudest accomplishment in life is so far.
Graduating from U-Mass alive? Nope.
Getting my Masters? Close, but nope.
Taking control of my life and leaving a place that was making me unbelievably miserable day in and day out? Yes. This one. It would definitely be this one.
Many people have asked me how quitting was even possible without having another teaching job lined up. If you are interested in finding out how I did it or just want to read more new teacher tips, you can hop on over to the Tips and Tricks section of my blog.
Elizabeth is the author of Common Core Galore and More. She is an elementary teacher, a blogger, and a writer. She has a passion for developing classroom-based resources for teachers. These resources can be found in her Teachers Pay Teachers store.