Over the last week I was thinking about my last ‘Tips for Graduates’ post, and realised there is a great demand for practical information aimed at graduate teachers. All of the tips below are things I did not realise until later than I should have, and all of them made my teaching life a lot smoother, so I am posting them below. Hopefully they will help make someone’s first teaching year a little easier and more enjoyable.
1. Plan, plan and plan.
It is easy to look at more experienced teachers who may not make any solid plans for the first couple of days and decide that it is not important to plan as well. It is. You will want to know exactly what you are doing so that you can focus on learning your students’ names, your way around the school and all of the administration rules. Even if you are going to plan it as a team, make sure you have your own ideas that you can bring to the table.
The same holds true for the first year. More experienced teachers may choose to have very basic planners, but these are not great for grads. You do no want to spend your break times figuring out exactly what you are going to teach. Do this in your planning time and plan in detail – the more the better. I regretted not including more information, but never including too much. Learning intentions are your best friend!
2. Establish a classroom agreement.
One of the first things on your planner should be setting up your classroom agreement. Establish what type of class the students want, and how they need to act to ensure that it happens. Work out consequences together as a class, so that if you need to use them everyone knows that they were agreed upon at the beginning. Having the students sign the agreement is a nice way to end it.
3. Find a mentor.
Or two. Find someone who is the kind of teacher you want to be, and learn everything you can from them. You are going to learn a lot from numerous people and it is easy to lose your direction. Having someone you can model from is very useful, and helps keep you on track. You may even find someone who teaches literacy brilliantly and someone else who is amazing at maths, so talk to both, and find out what they know! They should also be someone positive, who will show you that it is worth persisting, even when you’re exhausted and stressed.
4. Create a Pinterest account.
Pinterest was my lifesaver more than once last year for creating anchor charts and an organised classroom. It is fantastic for seeing how teachers around the world create vibrant and informative classrooms. I learnt how to store all the little bits of stationary that seemed to accumulate out of nowhere so everyone could find it when they needed it, create posters that helped direct students back to their learning and resources that I could use in future lesons.