Make the most of whatever it is that floats your boat.
Teaching floats my boat. Laminating gives me goosebumps. I love being a teacher. I will tell anyone I meet how amazing of a profession it is and likely won't stop talking about education until they change the subject. Don't even get me started on iPads! I wanted my first post of this year to be about all the wisdom (haha) I have gained over the last two years. Maybe because everyone kept changing the subject on me...so here we go!
My third year of teaching is upon me. It is both amazing and boggling to me that I was able to get through these past two years in one piece and with my sanity in check. I even managed to get married, buy a house and keep my dog happy (so I think anyways). When I was supposed to be resting and recouperating over the summer, I kept reading over some of my records and notes from the past two years. I have compiled a list of ideas and points about being a first year teacher that may be useful for those just beginning their teaching careers. This year, I get to be a mentor to a 'newer' teacher and a new addition to our district. I am very excited to offer up what I have learned and in turn, learn from my protege. Even thought I am beginning my third year of teaching, and finally in a position where I can 'repeat' a few courses, I am still humbled by how much I have yet to learn in this amazing profession and how 'new' I still feel.
Lesson 1: Organize Yourself
Make lists, color code things, find shelves, boxes and binders. Keep up on lesson plans and do not fall behind on grading or entering marks. It is not an easy hole to crawl out of. If you can organize yourself from day 1, you will keep your head above water. For staff meetings, have a specific binder that you collect notes, handouts and important documents. Take this with you to every staff meeting. Simple but effective. I think the most useful strategy for me was developing a system for marking and reporting was by using a system of bind and folders. When students hand something in, they put in in a green bin labled with their grade/subject on it. I then take it and file it in an accordion notebook at the end of every day that is divided by grade/subject. I make 2 times a week and 1 time on weekends. This system helped me stay on top of heaps of marking. ALSO, do not forget that not everything has to be marked. Formative assment is often a more useful tool to inform students (and yourself) of their progress and areas for improvement. Summative assments need to have value: DO NOT overload your students (and ultimately yourself) with repetetive and meaningless projects. Organize yourself digitally. Do not let your files go all willy-nilly. Just like a filing cabnet, make it a goal to put documents where they belong. If you being this right away, it is an easier process than having to go back through and sort everything. On googledocs, make your separate folders for each course you teach and save your docs and forms in their respective folders. It will make your life easier and also your days more streamlined. Get a photocopying folder going. When you have to go to the staff room for lunch, or on a prep take your folder with you. Then you are running to the copier less, and you have what you need when you get there. Laminate 2-3 file folders and label them either missing students/away student(s) and stuff things in there for those students who missed things (quizzes/tests, projects, articles, etc.)
Lesson 2: Get a Support Group (aka - cheerleading squad)
They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same idea applies to successful teachers. Especially beginning teachers. Find support networks within your school, but also tap those supports outside of the school. I can't believe that at 10 pm on school nights, my aunt or mom would come and help me photocopy or staple things. Have people in your corner so that when you feel like there is nothing left in the tank you can keep pushing on.
Lesson 3: Avoid surviving and seek striving
Surviving does not equate to amazing work. I know it is hard and exhausting, but ask yourself what is worth your time - somewhat okay work that took 10 minutes or great work that took 20 minutes? Best Practices are 'best' for a reason. Use them. Do not sell yourself short. That being said, you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Research and collaborate on projects with others in your subject area when possible.
Lesson 4: Let Go of Pride - ask for as much help as you can!
Teacher love coffee. You need help. Buy teachers coffee. I am not promoting bribery but I am suggesting that you go out there and find who you need to to get what you need. I bought multiple Starbucks and Tim Horton's gift cards for those in our district that offered up units, collaborative planning days, final exam help and long range plans to look at. Help is everywhere, you just have to go find it (and take coffee with you!)
Lesson 5: Take Care of #1
This is something I completely failed at. At least in my first year. I was a teacher. That was it. I did not do the things I loved to do - running, yoga, reading, cooking - and sacrificed my life for my first year of teaching. Let me tell you that it was not worth it or even necessary. The work will get done. Be efficient and try to eliminate as much 'make work' stuff as you can. Take care of yourself and your work will be better in the end. Set a goal for yourself that you will do 1-2 things a week that you love to do. I used this tactic in my second year of teaching and it was directly reflected in my relationships and my quality of life improving. My creativity improved in my lessons and project ideas, I was motivated to work more and I just plain felt better. Do it. No excuses.
So, that is the 'coles-notes' version of my first two years. It seems like only yesterday I was getting my first classroom ready and wondering if I would enjoy teaching or want to do it all. With the statistics out there about burnout for new teachers, a person can get pretty discouraged. The reality is that you will be tired, likely have a period of burnout and develop a caffeine dependancy. Enjoy what you have worked so hard to do. Find what floats that boat and make the most of it. B
Mrs. Katherine (Kate) Weber