How to Prepare for Your First Year of Teaching (When You Can’t Get into the School)
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Let’s dive in and talk about 8 things you can do right now to prepare for your first year of teaching:
Connect with Your Grade Level Team:
The first thing I recommend you do is to reach out to your grade level team and start asking questions about what curriculum is provided for your grade level so you will have a better idea of curriculum you may want to invest in.
Don’t wait to connect with your grade level team, even it’s through Zoom during these crazy times of social distancing, and start building relationships BEFORE the busy back-to-school rush starts.
Choose your Perfect Teacher Planner.
Few things are more important when it comes to your day-to-day life as a teacher than figuring out a planning system that makes sense to you and determining how to organize all of the paper that is going to come your way this year. New teachers are so often caught off guard by the sheer volume of paper work that comes with teaching elementary school.
So, besides your individual lesson plans (for those dreaded observation lessons as a new teacher), you’ll also need templates to create your daily plan, your weekly overview, individual units, your year plans, your scope and sequence plans, and your curriculum maps and pacing guides.
You’ll also need to start thinking through other templates you’ll want to have on hand, like first-name checklists of students, a master calendar that you can keep everything on, as well as how to organize all of the very many meeting notes you’re going to have, from staff meeting and grade level team meetings to individual conferences with students.
Now, if that feels like a lot to you and if organizing paperwork is a bit of a challenge to you, inside my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, I show you how to create that coveted clutter-free desk and classroom, as well as give you all of the planning templates I just told you about. If you want to get on the waitlist for the Academy and be notified the moment the doors open, just click here to get your name added!
Or, check out my New Teacher Planning Binder, available on TpT:
Find Out How Much Instructional Time is Required for Each Subject.
Next, go online on your school or district’s website to find out the amount of time you’re required to teach each subject each week and make a draft of your weekly schedule and of your year plans.
So first, your weekly schedule: Many districts have very specific guidelines in terms of exactly how many minutes of instructional time is required for each subject within each grade level, so I recommend that you go online to find out what the requirements are for your district.
Also, in terms of getting started on your year plans, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the common core standards for each subject area in your state (U.S.) or province (Canada) and start drafting your year plans so you can get a birds-eye-view of what your year is going to look like in terms of topics and content in each subject area. Also, be sure to find out what is provided for you in terms of scope and sequence plans or curriculum maps in your district.
Start Thinking Through How You will Track and Organize Student Data.
Now that we’ve talked about your planning needs, you’ll also need a clear way to organize student data for all of those assessments you will be required to give to your students this year. So, first go online to get a copy of your school’s report card, and then find out how your school wants you to track data.
Some schools, for example, are taking everything online, so your school might require that you record all of grades directly online.
Other schools might allow for a combination of classroom assessments and observations that vary quite a bit by teacher and by grade level, so you might record some grades on paper, and then later transfer them online.
Or, in still other schools, teachers do all of their grading on paper, and then only input grades online when it comes time to do report cards.
So, I recommend that you find out this information for your school and then start thinking through how you will track and then record data for your students.
You may want to check out my Student Data & Assessment Binder:
Start Thinking Through your Classroom Management Plan.
Specifically, start getting clear about which rules, routines, and class jobs you’ll want to have inside your new classroom.
Here’s what they don’t teach you in university:
Classroom management is NOT something that you need to be afraid of or that you need to be nervous about when you have a clear, simple roadmap to follow – and when you stick to that roadmap and don’t waver from it.
By the way, that’s what I will give you inside the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy when I open the doors in June – my crystal clear classroom management roadmap that you can easily customize to suit your own teaching style and grade level.
Start Thinking Through your First Week of School Plans.
More specifically, start thinking through what kinds of activities you’ll want to do during that first week of school to start building a caring classroom community while teaching your expectations.
If you decide to join my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, I give you my almost-done-for-you back to school plans that I perfected over my ten years of teaching and that I simply adapted each year when I changed grades from 2nd grade to 4th grade to 6th.
I’ll show you, step-by-step, how to create a wonderful, caring, classroom community using highly engaging activities that kiddos love, all while clearly and systematically teaching your rules, routines, and expectations.
So, whether or not you decide to become part of my community inside the Academy, start thinking through what kinds of activities you’ll want to do during the first weeks of school – but that first day especially, to set the tone for your classroom in a calm, loving, and clear way that naturally builds respect for you as the teacher, and helps students to start building care and respect for each other.
Find Out what Your School Does for Meet the Teacher Night.
Start gathering information about what kinds of things do they want you to cover, and is there a list of information that your school requires you to share with parents on that night.
There are also a lot of creative ways to involve your students on Meet the Teacher Night, and if you decide to become part of my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, I will give you EVERYTHING you need to look like a rock star on Meet the Teacher Night.
As I’ve talked about what feels like many times on this podcast, I’m still good friends with many of the parents whose children I taught more than 15 years ago, and I’m pretty sure that a big part of the reason why we’re still friends is because I took the time and made the effort to truly involve parents as partners in my classroom.
I know that’s an expression we hear a lot, “parents as partners,” and it almost loses its’ meaning because it’s so over-used, but I can’t emphasize enough the power and importance of knowing how to get parents involved from the beginning of the year and truly getting off on the right foot with parents, and I show you exactly how to do that, even when you may be younger than many of the parents of the children you’re teaching. I get it, I’ve been there, and I’m confident that I can help you. I think you’re going to love it!
Start Thinking about Bulletin Boards and Classroom Organization.
What do I mean by that? Well, you probably took a LOT of notes about how the classrooms were set up that you were in as part of your student teaching placement. At least, I hope you did.
And, even if you didn’t take detailed notes, think back to a typical day inside those classrooms. What were the common things that every classroom had on the walls? What were some of the displays and ways that those classrooms were decorated and organized that you loved, and what are some things that you would change?
This is finally your opportunity to design your own space, so this is a wonderful chance to get clear about exactly how you want to organize your classroom and what you want it to look and feel like – even if you can’t physically get into the room to set everything up.
Again, because I know that this top of mind for you as you prepare for your first year of teaching, my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy Members get over 70 products to organize and decorate their classrooms, from classroom calendars to happy birthday bulletin boards to labels for EVERYTHING, it’s all there for you.
Or, invest in one of my complete classroom themes so your classroom has a unified, customized look and feel (without all of the overwhelm that so often accompanies setting up a new classroom). Save yourself time and a whole lot of expense with this awesome investment that I really wish had been available when I first started teaching!
You have the luxury of time right now, so start thinking through the kinds of things you’ll need to decorate and organize your classroom right away. Believe me, you don’t want to leave this one to the last minute!
So there you have it. I hope that this has been helpful for you as you start preparing to teach your first year – it’s such an exciting time, and I’m thrilled for you if you’ve already landed that contract.
And, if you haven’t been offered your first teaching position yet, no worries at all. Just keep this list handy for when you’re offered that position so you know what to do to get started right away.
I hope that you have a wonderful week, and remember: Just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one!
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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