Linky Party and Words of Wisdom to a First Year Teacher

Thank you Deb at Fabulously First, for this Linky.  What a great idea!  I remember my first year teaching and I wish I had this resource.  Just invaluable ;)

Join the party and share your Words of Wisdom...

Here are MY lessons learned...

1. Document EVERYTHING!!  Have a file folder labeled Parent Communication.  Keep every little note parents send in (including the ones that say: My son is going home with so-and-so and Sorry but she wasn't feeling well last night and that's why she didn't do her homework) and keep a record of every phone call.
     Here's a few anecdotes... First year teaching and I had a multi-age K-1 class full of 29 kids (with no aid mind you...).  One of my little girls said she had a "belly ache"and it was right before lunch time.  I figured she just wasn't used to our schedule. I had her eat and wait it out.  Day went on as planned.  The next morning, I get a call from the office that a parent would like to speak with me.  Well this little girl's Mom came to ream me out - IN FRONT OF HER DAUGHTER.  Needless to say, she went to the nurse almost every day and Mom picked her up early all the time.  Then our mid-year parent-teacher meeting comes around.  Well I had to break it to little What's-her-face's Mom that she wasn't reading on grade-level.  Her mom says, "How can that be?"  That's when I whipped out a handful of nurse notes and said, "THIS is why she isn't reading on grade-level."  Let's just say the nurse visits became less frequent after that.
     The next year, I taught kindergarten and bless their little hearts.  I had a doozie of a class.  One of whom was born addicted to drugs, was being raised by Grandma, and was diagnosed with ADHD and was clinically psychotic.  He was on meds and besides his little quirks was a good kid.  In November he and Grandma moved out of state.  A few weeks later, I got a phone call from his doctor saying that he was at an in-patient facility and she wanted to talk to me about his behavior in class.  My response was, "I need some sort of signed paperwork from his Grandma stating that she gives me permission to speak with you."  Paperwork was faxed and I spoke with his doctor.  June rolls around and it's the last teacher planning day.  I'm packing up my class because I'm moving out of county to start anew.  I get a call from the office to come down.  This boy's Grandma is on the phone saying, "Why did you talk to his doctor?  I never gave you permission."  Well, didn't you know, I kept that faxed permission form and faxed it over to Grandma.  That saved my a$$.  Good thing I kept it!
     Also with documenting, keep another file labeled IN-SERVICE, CERTIFICATION, OR SCHOOL-RELATED DOCUMENTS.  In this file, you should keep records of your in-service points, copy of your certification, copies of your observations, letters of recommendation, kudos from parents/principals etc.

2. Be a team player BUT... always go with your gut.  You are among the freshest of the fresh in the teaching field.  You have plenty to share and give.  And if something doesn't feel right, go with your gut.  If you work on a team where you plan together, don't be afraid to do your own thing from time to time.  Just because your team is more experienced, doesn't necessarily make them a better teacher.  Do, however, be respectful about ideas.  Once your door is shut, those kids are all yours so do your thing!

3. Classroom Management...don't take it for granted. Don't go trying a million things.  Stick with just a few.  One or two for consequences (here is a link to my ticket system - great for grades 2+...the other one I use is for behavior and it's from 1,2,3 Magic for Teachers) PLUS one or two for rewards like reward tickets, marbles, etc.  Don't make it overly complicated.  Make consequences unemotional and easy to manage.  Make rewards for long and short goals.  If you have too many classroom management techniques going on or you keep changing them, A. you'll forget, B. your kids will work the systems because they know you don't mean what you say, and C. it will drive you batty.  Then there are procedures and expectations.  Make them clear.  I LOVE the CHAMPS book.  It has great visuals and helps the kids understand what they are allowed and NOT allowed to do for any given activity.  When I get the kid who comes to my desk after the test and says, "Where do I put this?"  I don't say a word and just look up at the CHAMP... question answered :)

4. Delegate tasks.  Have parents come and help. Have them label books, organize papers, sit with kids at a center, do running records (THAT was a time saver!!).  Also, give kids jobs they can do too.  You can't do it all... believe me, I've tried...

5.  NEVER gossip.  Ok, maybe to your bestie but really, don't get caught up in the she-said, she-said nonsense.  It never turns out good.  Be confident enough to change the subject or excuse yourself when gossip rears its ugly head.  If you hear someone is leaving, or that this one is preggers, remember: it's not your news to tell so keep the zippa on your lippa.

6.  Communication is key but keep it realistic.  If you are fortunate enough to communicate via email - DO!  I send a weekly email telling the parents what to expect for the week, upcoming tests, things to study, announcements, spelling list etc.  I can't tell you how many times I got an email on my iPhone from a parent and answered it right away.  Yes, you do need to keep a balance between work and home but imagine what it's like to be a mom and you are trying to help your kid but are helpless.  A quick reply can go a long way.  Just do it ;)  I've taken pictures on my phone of a worksheet and sent it via email - I've done it all.  And believe me, my parents do NOT take it for granted.  They know I just want to help their child be successful.  They are more than appreciative.
     Keep a website if you have time.  Post pictures if you are allowed.  Parents love to see their kids learning.  Post homework if you agree with this philosophy... My school makes us have a website with homework - I, personally, don't think I should enable the kids anymore than I already do but I gotta do what I gotta do... I think they need to write it in their agenda... Just sayin'...
     Communicate often but don't go all crazy with FB and Twitter and a Blog, etc. Doing too much can be overwhelming and you don't want to quite mid-year.  That may send the wrong message to parents.

Sorry if I sound all rambly...

Best of Luck Newbie!!!!


  1. I have document everything too! It's so important to CYA! Great advice you have here! Thanks

  2. I really like the tip about not gossiping. I didn't really understand all I had read about staying out of the negative teacher lounge until last year (my first year of teaching) and the experiences I had in there. I think this year I'll be eating my lunch at my desk. It really does drag a teacher down to constantly be hearing about the bad things that happen in the school. Surrounding yourself with positive teachers excited to be doing their jobs is really the biggest tip I would give to first year teachers.

  3. Great advice! Found your blog through the linky and am your newest follower.

    Teaching Maddeness
    Come join my linky party!


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