What first year teacher doesn’t need some great tips to survive the school year? I’d say a good hack is way more valuable than all the Target Spot back to school goodies in stock right now! I’m sure all the adorable ‘school is in session’ decor and bins are calling your name and reminding you that summer’s end inches nearer and nearer. With school starting soon, I wanted to share with you 10 MUST KNOW tips to help make your first year a little less stressful! If I were you, I’d also save this post to revisit it in October, January, and March. If those months seem random to you, it turns out those are some of the most stressful months of the year! Who knew, right? These tips can help ground you back to what’s important in education and how to continue pushing through learning and growing with your kiddos!
1. Get To Know Your LEARNERS
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s definitely a number one priority as an educator. When I say get to know them, I mean learn about who they are, what their interests are, who is in their family, and how they learn best. Truly knowing your students will help them trust you, and ultimately, help you teach them. Students can’t learn from you until they feel loved, respected, and have trust. By spending the time getting to know them, playing with them on the playground, talking to them about what their life is like outside of school, and doing activities where you can really connect, you will find that you can achieve almost ANYTHING with your students!
2. Build a Positive Classroom Community
Right at the top of the list with getting to know your students is building a positive, kind, and healthy classroom community. This takes time, energy, and work. However, taking the time to do this at the beginning of the year will make for a classroom that works well together and helps lift each other up throughout the entire year. There are a number of ways to help build your community. Engaging in Team building activities, Morning Meetings, Connection Circles, and targeting Social and Emotional Skills are just a few of the great ways to start out strong and build a foundation. Starting from day one and continuing every day will ensure a strong, healthy classroom community. Always remember to greet your students with a smile EVERY DAY. It may be the only one they see all day. A great and easy way to connect with students is with morning greetings! Check out the FREE one below!
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3. Take TIME to Establish Routines and Procedures
Routines and procedures are like the glue that keeps your classroom together. They are both things to not only plan out, but to spend ample amounts of TIME establishing and practicing with students. They should be very EXPLICIT and CLEAR and modeled by you as many times as needed. Getting these crucial components down at the beginning of the year will save you for the REST of the year. Plan to spend the first SIX WEEKS with students building those rules, routines, and procedures and this will help your students hit the ground running when it comes to instruction, because they know what is expected of them. Thinking through things like carpet time procedures, hallway procedures, and bathroom procedures, are just a few but very important things to think about. Check out this blog post HERE to learn more specifics about teaching routines and procedures to students.
4. Be Creative in Engagement
Your students have you as their teacher and do you know why that is special? Because no one else is YOU! No one can do things the exact way as you, nor does anyone have the exact same passions or interests as you. So USE THAT! Be creative!! Engage students with YOUR bag of tricks. This will take some time to build, but think about what you’re already good at and use those skills to your advantage! Are you really funny? Use that as an engagement tool. Love to sing or rap? Add music into your lessons! Build your bag of tricks and engage students with YOUR passions and interests. Chances are… if you’re into it, they will be into it too. This also allows students to freely be them and makes them feel comfortable bringing their own creativeness to the table. It’s an overall fun time!
5. Learn the Standards
This will take time to do and years to get really good at, but LEARN those standards! This is one of the best ways to ensure you are covering things students need to know and that you’re not creating unintentional gaps. Curriculums for subjects may get outdated, but your state standards typically won’t. They may shift and change some, but learning the standards will help you understand the what, why, and how of teaching skills and strategies to students.
6. Utilize Your Families
Your families will be your partner in growing and learning with their kids so UTILIZE them! Get to know who is a part of your student’s family and who helps care for them to foster connections. They typically know your students better than ANYONE so use them for information, ideas, and even help in the classroom if they can! Share the positive with them and keep them in the loop of what goes on in your class. This will help you have a smooth year and build even stronger connections with your students!
7. Take Care of YOU
While all the things are important, nothing is more important than your mental health. It is SO easy to get consumed and say yes to ALL the things. HOWEVER, it is important to set boundaries for your time outside the classroom, know your limits, and set clear expectations for the extra duties you do pick up. The first year is HARD. So don’t forget to take care of YOU. Know when to leave and put things down for the day. Try to stay around the positive energies and not delve into the drama. Set timers to do things like drink water and take deep breaths. Don’t feel guilty about using those personal days. Take a mental health day when you need it. I know it’s hard to step back, but sometimes it’s not only the best thing for you, but also your students.
8. Organization is Key
This is a HUGE one. There are SO many things in the classroom. Between your things and the students’ things, needless to say- it is A LOT. Try to create spaces for things at the beginning of the year so that they can stay organized throughout the year. Sometimes even having a place for miscellaneous things can be very helpful! Also spending some time in the middle of the year reorganizing can really help get you through the end of the year. Things WILL pile up, but that’s ok! Just try to organize as much as you can. Even if you don’t think it needs to be organized, chances are, it does.
9. Ask for Help
This is something I wish I would have done more of my first year. Do not be ashamed or afraid to ASK FOR HELP! There is SO much to learn and it is VERY overwhelming. Find a few teachers who can help and support you in times of need. It may end up being some teammates, someone in administration, or even people on the opposite side of the building from you. Whoever it is, build a support group of people who can and will help you. Sometimes you even just need someone to talk to. The first year is not easy, but you DON’T have to do it alone.
10. Have Fun!
The last and probably most important tip of all is to HAVE FUN! While the first year is full of many challenges, lessons, and yes even tears…try to make the most of it and have FUN with your students. You will only have this group of students one time so make the best of it! Be silly, laugh, and enjoy your first year. It only happens once in a lifetime and believe me, it is a year you will NEVER forget.
Are you feeling completely overwhelmed and not sure where to start as a first year teacher? Check out the Beginning of the Year Teacher Survival Guide. This guide goes into extensive detail on how to successfully set up your classroom for the entire year. You’ll learn how to successfully set up your classroom in a way that flows and stays organized, strategies for building a positive classroom community, and all kinds of information on classroom management and instruction! This guide will have you SET and help take some of the stress and pressure off. For a more interactive version, you can check out my brand new Building a Student Centered Classroom HERE!
I really hope you enjoyed learning 10 must know tips to thrive the first year! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including the Morning Greetings FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how-to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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