Guest Blog Post: Tips for a First Year Teacher

We are so thankful for this newbie teacher Janice. Not only is she young, enthusiastic and talented, but she is willing to run races and watch movies with us! Many would be surprised to find out that she originally wanted to teach in the elementary classroom. Currently she teaches high school chemistry, AP chemistry and creative writing at our school. 

Tips for a First Year Teacher

1. Take Deep Breaths

Let’s face it: there are days when all teachers think to themselves, “am I cut out for this?” The answer: YES!

The teaching profession comes with many challenges, all of which I am convinced happen in your first year. Whatever your frustration may be, do yourself (and your students) a favor and take a deep breath (or two).

Then, ask yourself this question:Why do I want to be a teacher? I always think back to a quote my grandfather once wrote me on a restaurant napkin. I’m sure you have one too; if you don’t, you can borrow mine:

“Teachers work in the most noble profession, as they are the engineers of the human spirit.”

2. Set Small Goals

Develop small, achievable goals for yourself on a weekly or monthly basis. My goals usually focus on improving classroom management, establishing classroom routines, and incorporating differentiation strategies.

Here are some of my goals from this year:

  • Having students ready when the class bell rings
  • Taking time to focus on literacy
  • Using the 2 Buddy Rule (encourage students to ask 2 classmates for help before asking you)
  • Using tiered problems – I structure my practice problems in 4 categories (knowledge, comprehension, analysis and application). I encourage students to start at the tier that is most suitable to their understanding level. This gives your lower-level students more time to focus on the basics, while still challenging your higher-level students.

3. It’s About Equity, Not Equality

We think that each student must complete the same assignment and take the same test. Not true.

Think about how each student is going to use the concepts you are teaching them in the future. Create different options for assignments and projects – have some that focus on the more advanced abstract theory and others that center on the everyday applications of that concept.

For example, my Chemistry class just did a project on Chemical Reactions. Option 1: Should high-school athletes be allowed to drink energy drinks during games?

These students researched the chemical compounds in energy drinks, communicated their side effects, and shared their arguments in a creative presentation.

Option 2: Research and design an experiment that tests the effectiveness of different substances at neutralizing acid.

These students researched the process of neutralization reactions. After completing their research, they designed a lab to test the effectiveness of different substances. They carried out the lab, analyzed their results, and shared their conclusion with the rest of the class.

4. How Can I Make This Fun?

Sometimes, students just need to practice. One of the things I often struggle with is trying to keep students engaged and interested while still having them focused on the content and curriculum.

Here are some things I’ve tried:

  • Silly examples – believe it or not, using students names (or my own) in silly situations actually makes Practice Problems a hundred times more enjoyable
  • Cooperative learning games –Pair students; have Partner 1 complete the first part of the question and Partner 2 complete the second.
  • Demo-of-the-day / Activity-of-the-day –Even if your demonstration or activity is only 15 minutes long, students will appreciate your effort to do something hands-on and fun

5. The Only Way to Grow is to Reflect

Take some time at the end of each day (or each week) to think about your lessons. I leave a section in my lesson plans for my reflections – I note everything from an activity that took too long, to a mistake on my handout. These notes will help you tremendously in the years to come!


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