Another school year is beginning soon, but this time you are entering the new year as a full-fledged teacher and not an intern or student-teacher. There will be in-service training or meetings you will be required to attend, as well as other administrative duties before the students arrive for their first day of learning. You may be a bit anxious, nervous, and/or excited, which of course is normal for nearly every teacher, including the most experienced. A new school year means a fresh start for both student and instructor.
However, what sets you apart from the experienced teacher may only be the number of years in the field, but that does not mean you cannot be as effective and influential as the most experienced and competent teachers in your building.
First, since you have made it this far, it is likely you have chosen teaching and education as your career and this is simply not temporary employment. If you have any doubts as to this being your career choice, then you may want to back out now before the first day of school. Unfortunately, there is enough school personnel who no longer enjoy their careers resulting in children falling through the cracks of the education system. You do not want to be one of those educators.
There are several pieces of advice that are specifically useful for the new teacher, which can lead to a smooth start to a successful school year for you and your students.
- Relationships: Of course, teaching leads to students learning about a wide range of topics, but you must have positive and trusting relationships with your students, their parents, and your colleagues. The relationships you build will lead to a smoother transition to a new school year for students, positive connections with parents, and more productive interactions between you and your colleagues. Finally, you must love your students and your profession.
- Communication: Have you decided how you will communicate with your students and their family members? Everyone has their style and method of communication, but it is vital students and parents know that they can rely on you to effectively communicate with them. The communication now is important as it lays the groundwork for effective communication throughout the school year. You may decide to use emails, hand-written notes, texting, a web page, or phone calls, but you must be consistent and sustain the communication method you choose to use.
- Colleagues: There are colleagues who will be willing to mentor you throughout the school year, and then there are others who will not help you. It is okay to identify those who are willing to help and mentor you and turn to them when you need assistance. Take their advice or adapt it to your needs. Most likely, those willing to help have been there the longest and know the ins and outs of the school and the community. In addition, feel free to collaborate and share your ideas with other teachers, which will help you quickly earn their respect and trust.
- Classroom Management: By now, it is likely you have made some choices as to how you are going to manage your classroom. Whether teaching a single subject or in a self-contained classroom, it is vital that you have reflected upon what classroom management system you will use. What rules will you use? What are the consequences for students who break the rules? Regardless of the system you choose, it must be consistent and fair, and the students must be aware of the classroom rules and the consequences/rewards related to them, both positive and negative. In addition, discuss them with your students as soon as the first day they walk into your room. They must know what is expected of them and more importantly, what can they expect when they follow or not follow the rules.
- Flexibility: No matter how much you have planned for the first day of school or every day that follows, you must learn to be flexible. An assembly, snow day, problem at school, or just about anything can influence the best planned day. A teacher needs to be able to quickly modify plans when new unexpected situations arise.
- Your Role: You are a teacher, and you have a personal life, and you must balance those roles at school and at home. It is wonderful to have enthusiasm for your profession and to be optimistic, but do not allow setbacks to negatively affect your role as a teacher or your personal life. In addition, in your role as a teacher, you must also remain a learner, which means accepting advice from other teachers, attending in-service workshops, and using other opportunities to become a better, more effective teacher in the coming years.
The advice and tips for new teachers, or any teacher for that matter, could be endless, but the best advice is to be yourself and to be real with the students. You, as a new teacher, may need to establish yourself, especially with older kids, but once they realize you have a passion for teaching, love and care for them as students, and are willing to listen and learn, the new school year and your teaching career will be headed in the right direction.