Friday, August 2, 2013

First Year Reflections and Advice for New Teachers

I spent the last two days working in my classroom and WOW! it is so much easier the second time around! This led me to think about just how different I feel going into year two. I am so much more relaxed and calm and minor details seem to matter a whole lot less.

So, this post is about reflections but also about what I learned and the tips I can share.

1. Pace Yourself...and your students.
You won't be a master teacher on your first day. In my first weeks, I had my (very detailed) lesson plan right next to me during every class. By Winter Break, a lesson plan was no big deal! It was all in my head and if an activity didn't go as I planned, I had a similar activity instantly. You will develop an arsenal of activities based on topic and student interest. Give yourself time.

1a. Give your students time to learn from you.
You have no idea what the teacher before you taught and what their teaching style was. I was lucky that I took over for a great teacher! However, they had to get used to me, my personality, and my teaching style. It took time to see their progress based on the goals I had set for them.

2. Remember why you love music.
I guarantee there will be days that you would rather be anything than a teacher. There were days when middle school attitudes drove me crazy, but there were also days when my students made me so happy and proud. In my opinion, the good outweighs the bad (but be prepared for the bad.)

3. Change is good!
Just because something has been done the same way for twenty years doesn't mean that it is necessarily the easiest or best way. Use your new, fresh ideas and energy for the good and don't be afraid to at least try.

4. Mistakes are the best learning tool.
This is just common sense, really.

5. Invest in a personal laminator!
When you spend so much time creating resources you want them to last! Personally, I don't care for the school laminator. It is very temperamental and if it isn't hot enough (aka you don't have 30 minutes to wait) it doesn't seal well.

So, invest in a personal laminator for home use. I got one from Wal-Mart for 30 bucks! The best money I've spent on my classroom.  Also, if you have a Sam's Club membership, check for the laminating pouches there. I found a pack of 200 for $20.00!!! At Wal-Mart, a pack of 50 is $14.00.

6. Be a friend, especially to the custodians and the secretaries.
These people run the school! And if you need something, they are the ones to ask. It is good to have them on your side. Thank you notes and appreciation gifts go a long way, especially around concert time when stress levels are already high (winter break, testing, etc).

7. If you can't be nice, be quiet.
Again, common sense. You don't know who is friends with whom. It is best to just keep quiet and observe. When in doubt, be quiet and smile.

8. Comfort before the case of shoes!
Let's be honest, high heels just aren't made for this job! Cheap flats aren't either. I learned that really quickly. Invest in some quality shoes that you can stand in all day, because you will be standing all day.

9. Embrace Technology!
Technology is here to stay so the more you know about it, the better. iPad apps, Interactive Whiteboards, Document Cameras, Powerpoint, graphic design software, sound equipment, Netflix (documentaries/rockumentaries), and a VGA adapter for iPad/Pod/Phone are all things I use everyday in one way or the other. It makes my life so much easier! Technology is awesome.

9 a. Sound Equipment
If you don't have quality sound equipment in your classroom, invest in some NOW! A boombox will not cut it. My wonderful, rocker husband loaned me his portable Marshall guitar amp and it has been amazing. I use it all day, every day (choir practices and performances, ipod with aux cable, iPad with aux cable, computer speaker for videos, microphone plug in)

10. Always have a Plan B.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Think ahead.
Be prepared.

Something will go wrong and if you think it won't, you are in for a rough year. Always having a plan B will save you from those "uhhhhh" moments.

Plan B Tips
*Arrive early.
*Have the classroom set up for the day (to avoid any "unprepared" surprises)
*Write out your lesson plans and PLAN MORE ACTIVITIES THAN YOU NEED!
*Practice your songs, instruments, dances, etc.
*Test your technology.
*Save multiple copies in multiple places.
*Check the compatibility of those saved copies.
Have all the necessary cords at your disposal and within arms reach.
Establish classroom routines and practice them to avoid chaos in the event of an "uh-oh" moment.
 (entering the classroom, Hello Song/Bell Ringer, passing out instruments and supplies, etc.)
*Know your IEPs and Allergy Care Plans
  (especially for walk through observations and to avoid health emergencies)
Keep your keys around your neck. Don't lock them in or leave them somewhere!

*These tips are all first hand experience that I observed and helped teach my student intern this year. Take this advice, things will go wrong! Be prepared.

As much as I've learned last year, I'm sure there is more coming this year. It is just so wonderful to have the stress of the first year over with. Looking back though, it was nothing to stress about or worry with. In the words of my college professor, "if you love music and you love kids, you will do great."

Be patient, be creative, be positive. The rest will fall into place.

1 comment:

  1. This is spot on! While I was reading I was reminiscing. The first year is tough but so fantastic at the same time. I love that you included give your students some time to learn from you. At my first school there was a case of inconsistency. There had been many fabulous teachers before me but for short periods of time. It took the kids awhile to get used to me and for me to assess what they knew.

    Plan B is so important. I'd also say being flexible is important. You never know when some one is going to commender your room or have an event that interrupts the regular schedule. Have some portable resources for these kinds of disruptions and a plan on how you will fit everything in when you see those classes the next time.