Words of Advice for First Year Teachers: Tip #1

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  • This blog entry was written by Dr. Mabel Franks, Professional Development Instructor for Continuing Education at FPU.

Tip #1: Believe You Can Make a Difference and You Will

August is here and teachers across the country are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new school year.  For first year teachers, it is an especially exciting time, filled with hopes and dreams. Everyone, from the school secretary to the school nurse, to the parent volunteer and seasoned teacher, offer friendly words of advice and encouragement to ensure that your first year in the classroom is a successful and memorable experience.  So, here’s my advice to you-

Ignore poor advice from colleagues who suggest that you:

Never smile the first 3 weeks. That makes a lasting impression—that you are unfriendly, inflexible and uncaring.

Instead, smile when you meet your new students, introduce yourself,  shake their hands and welcome them in.  Positive student-teacher (and student-student) relationships are essential to the development of a learning environment for academic risk-taking.  Development of that relationship begins the minute you greet students at the door.    During the day, engage students in getting-to-know-you activities and use the information to develop lessons that capture their interest.  Bring in special artifacts to share about you, your family and your hobbies.  Share your goals.  Ask them to do the same.

Save the best for last. Boy, is that backwards!

You have to reach the students before you can teach them.  If you save the best for last, your students will check out before you even begin.  Instead, check students in by giving them hints about the great learning ahead, what if questions to create a sense of wonder,  new technology tools to peek their interests,  choice activities to encourage engagement and real world connections to make learning inviting from the time they step in your room until they leave.  They will come more excited the second day than they did the first – and so will you.

Students forgot everything they learned.  Use the first 3 weeks to review last year’s skills.

Well… yes and no.  If it was learned, it’s probably stored in long-term memory, waiting to be  recalled.  Take advantage of  students’ real world summer experiences to problem solve, build background knowledge, create relevancy, spark new interests,  challenge their intellect and restart the engine.

So, you went to see your grandma! How long did it take to get there?  How many miles per hour were you driving?  At 25 miles per gallon, how much gas did you use?  What did it cost? Let’s look at the map and try to figure out the route you traveled and what cities you passed along the way.

Think-pair-share with a partner the best movie you saw this summer. Try to use all the elements of a great story to describe the plot, setting, main characters and climax.  Let your listening partner try to guess the resolution.

What was your best day this summer? Create a memorable newspaper headline. Be ready to share out the who, what, when, where, how and why of the experience.

Think about one thing you learned how to do this summer.  Create a graphic organize or diagram and use it to teach us, too.

Be sure you are ready for the troublemaker.

“Trouble makers” believe they are branded.  I was one of those “problem kids” in school-always talking, never focused.  I assumed my teachers would not like me, so I didn’t like them, either.  That was, until I met Mr. Barber, my 6th grade teacher.  He smiled at me the first day, ignored my interruptions and concentrated, instead on my strengths- which I discovered were writing, art, science and sports. He challenged me to do my best, helped me set goals and encouraged me to become involved in community projects.  From that point on, I soared. One great teacher can make a difference.  And you can be that teacher J

Fill your candy jar and keep it handy. Kids will do anything for candy.

I can guarantee they will perform, for a day or two.  Then, the desire to achieve diminishes rapidly.  Students know when they have earned something and when they have been given a “free pass” for accomplishing little.  Instead, set high expectations, provide meaningful feedback and celebrate successes earned – not given.  “Your paper is neat and easy to read.”  “Your question about the warrior traditions helped us all think more deeply.”  “You explained the math problem clearly.  Everyone got it.  Thank you!”  “You helped a classmate today with her backpack.  That was very thoughtful.”

Want my advice?

Make a pledge to make a difference, every day, in the lives of those you teach.  Show them you care, you are fair and that you know they can achieve.  If you believe in them, they will believe in you.  Welcome aboard !

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  • Adrian Zayas

    Make your neighboring teacher your best friend, and ask a lot of questions about school policies, copy machine, paperwork, and meetings. If your next neighboring teacher is one of those that complain all the time then you need to stay away as far as possible and find yourself a friendly teacher.