There are so many things I’ve learned from teaching, honestly. I’m going to start with what I think should truly be #1, and then the others will come in no particular order of importance. 🙂
#1 – Do what you KNOW is best for your students. I know this sounds like a “duh,” but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to get caught up in what everyone else on your grade level is doing (or on a blog, or on TPT), but might not be right for your own kids. You are the expert in your classroom!! Sometimes, I just have to tell myself, “shut the door and teach.”
#2 – Humor is a great teaching strategy. Example: When I taught first grade, it never failed… someone spelled “put” like “foot” because they rhyme. All I had to do was tell them we don’t “poot” on our papers, and they never misspelled it again! And they laughed and laughed and laughed. 🙂 On that note… Kids will be kids. They think words like, “but” and “nuts” are funny (even when you aren’t talking about a butt or… well you get it). They think it’s hilarious if you have to spell something that has a double-p or a double-t aloud. Just roll your eyes and keep moving along!
#3 – The students who make you want to pull your hair out are the ones you just have to remind yourself to love. Every day. Maybe every minute. 😛 When we got in this profession, we knew we would not get to “choose” our students. We agreed to love any and all students that walk in that door. But a reminder never hurts. Time-out in another room doesn’t either.
#4 – Classroom Management Is Key. That would be the title of my book if I ever wrote one. Setting expectations on DAY ONE and staying consistent all year is so important. And sadly, we were never “taught” this in our college classes. In fact, there are a lot of things I wish they’d teach us, but then again, I guess the only way to learn those things are with experience! But I think one thing they SHOULD teach us when it comes to classroom management is that the best plans are ones that don’t just punish for negative behaviors. This was how I started my plan when I first started teaching, and I noticed I was only ever saying names for bad behaviors. My mentor swooped in and told me, “kids are looking for attention. They don’t care if it’s positive or negative! Rewarding students for the positive, though, will make those kids who generally receive negative think twice about their behavior.” I changed my management plan right then and never looked back. Will you still have “those kids?” Of course. But I AM A HAPPIER TEACHER because I look for the good instead of the bad!!
#5 – Parents can make or break your school year. Get them on your side!! I like to follow the compliment sandwich rule in conferences – (positive) (concern) (positive). I also like to send something home in the first week of school praising something their child did that week!
#6 – Pick your battles. Some things you are very passionate about just aren’t valuable to others. Don’t let that devalue you, though. Keep doing what you know is right and only “fight” for what you feel is absolutely the most important.
#7 – Be realistic about grading. I can’t tell you how many times a week I carry my school bag home full of papers, and there it sits on the floor until I walk out with it again the next morning. I do a lot of work at home, don’t get me wrong. But you know when you just aren’t in the mood. Save your back some strain. Or even better- grade one stack before you leave school. You feel good that you accomplished something, and you can leave the rest!
#8 – Vent. No one likes a constant complainer, I know. But if you keep all of it bottled up, it makes a not-very-nice teacher. Find someone who will listen, and who will vent back. But just remember, that can’t be the only conversation you have! Share positive stories, too!
#9 – Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are SO MANY great resources out there, some free, and some not. Don’t spend every waking minute creating or thinking up lesson ideas. I’m not saying don’t ever create. I’m saying, COLLABORATE. There are many ways to do this. With your grade level of course, but also through the online teacher community! I’m a part of several great online Facebook groups for teachers, and of course…. BLOGS! I have gotten some of my best lessons from teachers who share their ideas on blogs. Just be sure when you enter these communities, you are willing to share ideas too, and not just take from others.
#10 – Maybe this last tip should be tied with #1 actually, because it’s pretty darn important. Make learning FUN. You know the feeling of sitting in an inservice, totally bored because the presenter reads every slide, never lets you talk or get up and move around… don’t do that to your kids!! Let the kids TALK and SHARE with each other. That’s actually proven to be the best way for students to learn! A quiet room is a boring room. And make them move! Those kids who never want to stay still will thank you.
I hope you were able to learn and reflect on these tips- or maybe they were just good reminders to you as you prepare for your next school year!