Know Your Students!
Take the time to learn your students names as well as their learning strengths within the first two weeks of the school year. When they tell you stories, express their likes/dislikes, or share personal connections to things that they learn in class, listen! By modeling genuine care and respect, you are teaching your students important life skills as well as creating a place where they feel comfortable expressing their feelings. A student who knows that you truly care about them as a person will be much more receptive to any curriculum. Not to mention, building community within the classroom will help the lay the foundation for a successful learning environment.
Data & Documentation
Getting used to all of the paperwork that accompanies the teaching profession isn’t a bowl of cherries. Between hall passes, homework requests, meeting minutes, progress reports and lesson plans, you’re hands will be begging for mercy. However, it’s VERY important to keep all of your ducks in a row. Having excellent bookkeeping skills will make your life much easier!
While you can buy research papers, a gradebook from your local office supply store, there are many online gradebooks that can help you keep accurate records as well as provide parents with assignment and class grades 24/7. The program I use (teacherease) also allows for announcements via email as well as a digital locker to house assignments that students can print from home. I really like the fact that the program creates graphs to show score trends over time AND printable progress reports that detail missed assignments. Knowing this information helps me better understand my students’ strengths and needs. Although I pay a small monthly subscription fee, I feel the price is well worth the product!
It is also important to keep a log detailing the strategies you have used to help struggling students (as well as contact with parents- dates, times, subject discussed, outcome, etc.) This will ensure that you can initiate the proper interventions if no improvement is shown. Also, don’t forget to make a “praise” call every once in a while. Parents are often on alert when a teacher calls home, so calling to let them know their child has done something especially wonderful is a good practice. After all, students are much more likely to succeed if they have a parent/guardian who is both supportive and involved in their education.
Although most schools will provide you with a first-aid kit of some kind, it is always a good idea to have a kit of your own handy. Since headaches can sneak up at the worst times, make sure to add aspirin/pain reliever to your kit. Also, have some bottled drinking water and a few food rations tucked away as well. These items will prove useful if your school has a long-lasting emergency lock down. I also highly recommend keeping a spare set of clothes in your classroom as well.
Remember to keep your first aid/survival kit out of the reach of students, and make sure never to administer medicine. If a child needs minor medical assistance, send him/her to the healthroom. If the situation is serious, follow the your school’s emergency protocol.
Keeping organized files of your hard copies, lesson plans, pacing guides, and other teaching materials is vital if you want things to go smoother each year. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have a lesson that will work perfectly and not being able to find it. I recommend keeping a binder with hard copies of documents you’ve created as well as a disk/flash drive copy on file.
It is also important to keep the classroom well-organized. Having an orderly classroom will help stimulate a positive learning environment, while excessive clutter can cause distractions. Always leave time at the end of the day/class for students to clean up and put away materials (crayons/pens, textbooks, etc.) If modeled properly and made a part of the daily routine, students will embrace the organizational system and will even begin completing the task without being asked.
Don’t Make It Personal
The best advice I’ve ever received on the issue of classroom management was from one of my college professors. “Never get in a power struggle,” she said. “If you do, you’ve already lost it!”
No matter how good you are, or how much your students like you, there are bound to be undesired bursts of insubordination every now and then. Although it’s difficult not to take things personally, it is imperative to your career that you do not MAKE it personal. Treat all threats to your authority like water off a duck’s back, as acting out in anger will only make things worse.
Have high expectations of behavior for your students and enforce the rules fairly and consistently. Be proactive and prevent outbursts before they happen. If a student seems very rude or disruptive upon entering class, address the behavior immediately. S/he may need to speak a counselor about something too personal to discuss with you. Remember that it is your job to provide a safe learning environment for all of your students. Thus, if a situation is taking a turn for the worst, call in help immediately!
Remember that your classroom is not a cave. Although it’s easy to stay under the radar by being antisocial, meeting and greeting your classroom neighbors is a must! Having a few colleagues to converse with will really help boost morale, plus you’ll learn some awesome strategies and techniques from veteran teachers. Making friends with another teacher ensures you will always have someone who understands when things are less than perfect. Your teacher-friends can prove to be drops of sunshine on the stormiest of days!
Secure Your Sub
When you aren’t going to be in the classroom, make sure to set up your substitute for success. A detailed substitute binder will ensure that your sub has the tools necessary to run the classroom properly. Also, remember to establish your expectations for student behavior ahead of time. If your kids know what is expected, it will be easier for them to deliver. Preparation and positive reinforcement will help ensure that your classroom runs smoothly whenever you’re away.
Perhaps the most overwhelming part of being a teacher is the responsibility. Besides just being in charge of the welfare of other people’s children, you are expected to complete massive amounts of work on a very tight schedule. Anticipate donating some of your free time to committee duties, open house, fundraisers, school functions, grading, and much more. Although your salary will compensate you for your time spent in the classroom, teachers end up volunteering many hours each week. So, if you got into the teaching profession because of the long vacations or steady salary, BACK AWAY quickly. This career is only for resilient, flexible, and nurturing individuals who possess a genuine love for sharing knowledge!