It is still hard for me to believe that I am not a new teacher...I'm about to start my fifth year! I feel like just yesterday I was nervously leading my first class on a tour of a school I didn't know!
Here are some tips I hope will help all the new teachers out there:
1. Don't expect to be perfect. You will make mistakes. We all make mistakes. So don't beat yourself up when something unexpected happens or a lesson doesn't turn out the way you expected.
2. Do make a personal connection with every family and every kid during that first week. It's hard because the first week of school is crazy, but your families will love it if you make a phone call home to compliment their child. Just set up a schedule to call 4 or so families each afternoon and tell them something positive about their child. I also give out awards during the first week of school, for friendship skills, being helpful, good listening, etc. My students are so proud to feel like they achieved something BIG so soon in the year.
3. Don't assess during the first week. I understand that many teachers want to jump in and get data for all their students as soon as possible. I am all about data, however, I've found that testing during that first week will give you very skewed data. Students are making a huge adjustment - coming back to school (or to school for the first time), learning a new classroom, meeting a new teacher and new classmates. It's a lot. Any kind of testing can add undo stress. And, because you haven't yet built a relationship with your students, they may not perform to their full ability. I would wait 1-2 weeks to start assessing, giving your students lots of successful experiences and chances for relationship-building before then.
4. Do begin with academic activities where everyone can succeed. In kindergarten, we start with lots of name activities and a focus on fine-motor development. Most children already have some background knowledge in writing or at least recognizing their name, and we can build from there. Here are some examples of the activities I do that first week.
5. Don't cover your walls completely with commercial materials. There is so much cute stuff out there, and it's easy to fill up all your bulletin boards before the kids come in. But wait and let the kids create artwork to fill your walls. Do shared writing and anchor charts. Add photographs of your children and their families. It helps them take ownership over their classroom.
6. Do have fun! This is such a special time and you will make memories you will never forget. Enjoy it and remember why you became a teacher!
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.