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Complete Show Notes:
I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited! 💕
As I walked down the hallway to my new classroom, I almost danced because I just couldn’t wait to get started. 😊 I had waited SOOO long for this moment.
But then, I opened the door to my classroom and my panic started like a little seed taking root in my belly, and then grew and grew until I felt like I was going to throw up.
In front of me was a huge, empty room (that doesn't seem nearly big enough in hind sight).
The magnitude of what I needed to do hit me like a ton of bricks.
There was SO much to think about, and I felt such overwhelm because I just didn’t know where to get started.
I would have given anything for someone to remind me to just breathe.
To take me by the hand and tell me not to worry - this is all do-able, and that I've got this.
So, in this week's episode, I share 6 things you can do this summer to ensure that you are ready for your first year.
And don't worry. This is all do-able, and you've SO got this.
Let’s dive in:
The first thing you'll want to do is create clearly organized spaces for how and where you will keep all of your curriculum planning and student data organized throughout the year.
There are two binders I highly recommend that you create to keep you organized: First, a Student Data Binder.
I love this binder because it allows me to keep all of the most recent student data in one place and doesn’t require that you go into your filing cabinet to find what you need for last-minute meetings.
Creating sections where you can keep individual student data, resources, intervention information, and student medical information all in one place is a great way to keep the information you need at your fingertips.
Learning to manage the paperwork is a HUGE challenge for beginning teachers, and this is one way that you can easily keep it under control – especially when schools are becoming increasingly data-driven.
The second resource I would recommend you get organized is your Teacher Planning Binder (or Curriculum Binder).
This is where you can keep calendars, schedules, lesson plans, curriculum maps, meeting notes, and pacing guides all in one place.
These binders are great because you can easily bring them back and forth to meetings when you need to, rather than keeping all of your important documents and plans in the filing cabinet, AND for during report card time (which is one of those rare times I actually recommend for you to bring some of your work home).
However, as you gather more and more documentation throughout the year, you may want to transfer student data and planning documents into files by the same name so the binder doesn’t become too heavy!
For example, each month I would transfer my lesson plans out of my teacher binder and put them into a file for that month in my filing cabinet labeled “September” or whatever the month was that had just passed. That way I had a clear record of all of my lesson plans that I could go back to each year and just revise as necessary.
Then, every reporting period, I would transfer student data out of my binder into a file labeled with that student’s name so I could easily refer back to previous assessments and cumulative data.
Start planning early. If you already know your assignment, the first thing you need to do is to get specific information about planning and pacing guides and start creating your year plan so you can paint the year in broad strokes. (We’ll talk more about how to do this in my second recommendation to you in a minute).
However, a word of caution: don’t over plan! SO much changes during the school year – new initiatives get announced, new curriculum gets adopted – you never know. Again, think of planning your year in broad strokes.
Start getting to know them BEFORE the incredibly busy back-to-school rush so that you have the foundation of your relationship laid before your school year even begins.
You don’t realize how busy you’re going to be until you start. AND one of the biggest challenges for beginning teachers is a feeling of isolation because you’re new and haven’t formed these relationships yet – but you can prevent that by reaching out during the summer months to start to get to know your new colleagues.
My advice with getting to know new colleagues is to NOT just talk about school – remember, this is their vacation, and although you are feeling especially nervous and excited about the new school year, they may really want to just enjoy their vacation.
Make sure that you are genuinely reaching out to start building a relationship outside of school, and wait to ask for help until you have met at least once or twice and have started to develop a friendship.
Once you’ve begun to develop this relationship, get super clear about your most burning questions about the grade level you are about to teach, and then ask for help in these areas early.
Let’s talk about some of the things you will want to ask your grade level team:
Also, meet with your school principal.
Questions to ask your principal or vice principal include:
Next, FIND OUT who your custodian is, your school secretary, your librarian, and your tech support person and introduce yourself and begin to build these relationships because believe me, these people are going to be incredibly valuable in your life as you need them throughout the year.
One thing I did the summer before my first year was to pay attention to what the janitor and the secretary really liked, and then bring in goodies like cookies I’d baked or iced coffee for them as a surprise when I was coming to school anyways to work on my classroom.
Small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness will go a long way towards getting the help you need later if you’ve invested in building these relationships already.
The summer is the perfect time to think through what your rules, routines, and expectations will be in your classroom so that you can clearly communicate and begin to teach the way your classroom will be run to your students and to their parents on meet the teacher night.
To help you get started in thinking about what you might want to include in your classroom management plan, I created a comprehensive three-part guide for you called the Ultimate Classroom Management Checklist so you can begin to think through what kinds of rules, routines, and classroom management system you want to include in your classroom to suit your individual teaching style and personality.
Just click the image below to download your copy and get started with thinking through how to organize your classroom space and which rules and routines you will establish in your classroom:
Think through things like “What 3 rules do I want to have in my classroom?” and "How will I teach these rules to my students and practice them in a way that I know they understand them?"
Ask yourself “What kinds of routines do I need to think about to keep my classroom running safety and efficiently?”
What will the routine be in my classroom for when students need to get a drink or use the restroom? When they have a broken pencil?
How will I ensure that my students will walk quietly in the hallways and behave like little superstars at whole-school assemblies?
If you’re on my email list, you have probably already heard the story about how I finally figured out how to get my kiddos to walk in the halls quietly (and I used this same technique for when teaching my students my expectations for behavior during school assemblies).
I used to be SO embarrassed every time I took my students out of our classroom because I just didn’t know what to do before our class even left to ensure that they not only knew what my expectations were, but that they were highly motivated to exceed them.
PLEASE don’t make the mistake that I see so many beginning teachers make by going into your first year thinking of yourself as your students’ friend – I just did an entire episode that I highly recommend you listen to called “They’re Just Little: That’s Why You Aren’t Their Friend.”
It’s all there in Episode #13, so go back and listen to that one if you haven’t heard it already.
Again, downloading my Ultimate Classroom Management Checklist will get you started towards thinking through all of the essential rules and routines in your classroom that will make a dramatic difference to your everyday stress levels and ongoing classroom experience.
Do not wait until the last minute to do this if you already know your grade level.
And - you do not need to re-create the wheel in planning for both of these events.
My first suggestion, as I mentioned, is to talk to your grade level team and ask if they would be willing to share any resources they have that they use and are successful with your grade level.
PLEASE don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Your fellow colleagues are often a GOLDMINE of information and support, and they’ve been where you are, so they’re very often willing to share, especially if you show that are feeling a little vulnerable and that you would be incredibly grateful for their support and expertise.
Secondly, I highly suggest that you join teacher-focused Facebook groups or Instagram teachers who are teaching at your grade level and see what they are offering and what ideas they have for planning for the first week of school and for Meet the Teacher Night – and of course, I’ll be sharing some great ideas for preparing for Meet the Teacher Night as well in a future episode.
And finally, although it will cost you more, check out top-reviewed teacher-created resources on sites like TeachersPayTeachers for lots of ideas and resources you can use to get ready for your first week of school.
Start thinking about and making a list of everything you think you’re going to need as you set up your first classroom – and you’re going to love this – because I’ve created another awesome freebie for you called The Elementary Teacher's Ultimate Back to School Shopping List that you can customize for your own needs.
Then, watch out for when the Back to School sales start – it’s amazing, they actually start as early as July now with so many schools starting again in early August, so be sure to check these sales out early so you don’t miss them.
The summer before you go into your first year of teaching, you really don’t know how much support you are going to need until you’re fully in the year.
It’s usually around mid-September to mid-October that you begin to realize that things aren’t quite going as planned and that being a great teacher isn’t as effortless as you might have hoped.
But the very fact that you are reading this blog post now tells me that you want to be as prepared as possible heading into your first year, and that alone is a fantastic first step.
Finally, I really hope you tune in for next week’s episode, where we will talk about The Best Classroom Theme EVER: Beautiful & Authentically You Bulletin Boards that Save You Time & Money.
Don’t worry, you’ve got this. Take a deep breath, and we’ll get there. It’s going to be an amazing year!
I hope you have a wonderful week! Bye for now.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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