Before I earned a PhD in education...
Before I traveled across the country giving presentations to help support thousands of new teachers...
And before finally unlocking all of the secrets that experienced teachers knew but weren’t sharing with me...
I felt like a failure as a teacher.
NO classroom management.
NO idea of what I was even doing wrong.
Scared to death that I would lose my job or not be able to actually do this when I had dreamed of being a teacher since I was seven years old - (even bribing my little brother to play school with me for hours in our little playhouse).
I didn’t have a smooth transition into teaching.
While I had traveled the world and taught in Japan and in Hong Kong, the shift into having my own 4thgrade classroom was anything but successful.
Though I had dreamed about it for years, when I finally did get a full-time teaching position, I was plagued by a chronic sense of overwhelm and fear that my university education had not prepared me AT ALL for the realities of teaching.
I didn’t just graduate from university and then create a perfectly run elementary school classroom.
Every day, every small “win” was plagued by an even bigger feeling of self-doubt, a to-do list that I could NEVER accomplish, and a deep feeling inside that I would never be able to figure out how all of the other teachers seemed to run their classrooms with ease while mine felt like chaos.
Parent volunteers saying things to me like, “They don’t ever listen to you, do they?” (Gulp.)
Embarrassed to take my kids in the hallways or to the library because they were so “free-spirited.”
Afraid that any day now, someone would find out that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and that I’d be fired.
Constantly feeling like I could never catch up or be or do enough.
And even worse – I was too embarrassed to ask for help because I didn’t want my peers to know I was drowning.
And when I finally did feel like I was getting a handle on things, our district would announce ANOTHER new curriculum change, policy change, PD requirement, or I’d get another new student, complete with their own special needs.
I was burning myself out trying to live out some imaginary vision I had written in my portfolio so I could prove to myself that I was going to be a great teacher.
But in reality, I knew that I was spinning out of control, trying to be and do everything for everyone else at the expense of my own health and sanity. I was sick almost every weekend and holiday, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
In fact, in addition to a too-common lack of support, I learned that the top five problems of beginning teachers were:
Classroom management and discipline.
Dealing with individual differences among students.
Inclusion and special needs.
Involving and communicating with parents effectively.
Do any of these sound familiar?
And, I learned that nearly 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, never having had the support they needed, when they needed it.
I learned that mentoring programs are great when they work, but other times mentor teachers hadn’t volunteered for the job and didn’t really want to be doing it, or the personality and teaching-style clash made this partnership less than ideal. You might be able to relate. 😳
I read everything I could get my hands on; I interviewed “Teachers of the Year” and spent countless hours in their classrooms; I researched, and I wrote.
I couldn’t believe how much we hadn’t been taught in university.
And finally, after successfully implementing, testing, and refining all of the incredible ideas and systems I was learning into my own classroom teaching, I put all of it into my book, The Beginning Teacher’s Handbook for Elementary School.
And best of all – I’ve now had the honor of helping thousands of beginning elementary teachers across the country to sidestep years of struggle and create the classroom and teaching experiences of their dreams.
Not just step by step, but action by action.
By laying out a clear roadmap that will take you through the dozens of small but essential details you will need to think through and prepare as you set up your classroom – without the crippling overwhelm.
I’ve shown beginning elementary teachers not only how to set up their own classrooms, but how to do it better than any university education ever could.
I teach what finally worked for me, and for thousands of other beginning teachers just like you - providing a blueprint for an incredible elementary school classroom experience.
If you like what you’re reading and want to get started with my free beginning teacher resources right away, check out my "Beginning Teacher Podcast" below.
If I hear one more person drop the old line, “you have to be willing to do the work,” I’m going to scream.
Because I know you’re ready to do the work.
That’s why you’re here.
You aren’t in teaching for the money. Ha ha.
You’re here because teaching is your passion.
That’s why you’re online, searching for the help you need because teaching is an incredibly isolating profession and you are afraid to ask for help.
That’s why you spend every waking hour on evenings and weekends trying to figure out how to make sense of this job and how to do it better.
That’s why you stay up all night wondering how you are going to help “that student” or get it all done.
I created a 1st and 2nd grade literacy program called Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, inspired by my doctoral research (and my two little dogs, Tango and Sparky), that over 3,200 families have experienced in elementary schools.
I am a Canadian who feels much more at home living in Southern California.
I’ve published numerous articles that most people will never read in international, peer-reviewed journals.
I’ve written a (hilarious) memoir about when I took my senior parents backpacking in Greece called Larry and Jo-Jo Do Greece: When Family is Funnier than Fiction.
I secretly hope and believe that Jane Fonda and Robert DeNiro will play my mom and dad in the movie of this book someday. 😉
And I will always, always be an elementary teacher at heart, addicted to first class ideas and children’s laughter.