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First Year Teaching Advice

by Maria Shaw about a month ago in teacher
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Things you need to figure out

You've decided to become a teacher and devote yourself to student learning. The problem is the things you learned in school hardly prepares you for education today. The theory and perfect classrooms you've seen in study don't really exist or if they do I'm not sure where they are. Today I'm going to focus on what you need to know to start the school year off correctly.

1. Develop a seating chart for the first day. I number my desks then when I get my classlist the first morning with students I put the first person in seat one. I greet them at the door and tell them their number. This way they pronounce their name, I check them off for attendance, and they have met me individually. I have never received a complete class list prior to the morning students start, sorry if you expected more.

2. Develop a routine for students with images of how to do it correctly (if possible) for the following

Entering the classroom

How to get materials

Warm ups


Exit tickets or ending class

Leaving the classroom

Passes out of class

How to use materials (electronics/pencil sharpening/cell phones)

Reflections out of class

How to behave with a substitute

Students have to know what you expect for how they move, how they speak, what the task should look like or they will not do it correctly.

3. Test your equipment prior to your lesson - I can't tell you how many teachers I know who have had a hot mess of a day because they didn't test things out. If possible have a back up for if your equipment fails.

4. Have an emergency folder that is easily accessible in your room

Class lists

Where to go for Tornadoes

Where to go during a fire


Most schools already have these plans and you just have to ask for a copy. I put a red folder marked emergency right by my desk so anyone can see it.

5. Discipline

Quiet redirects - If you publicly discipline a child you have now given them the attention of the whole class which is probably what they wanted.

Give clear consequences and follow through

Contact home - Don't expect the office to do this for you, I've often found that even if I write a referral for the office they still don't communicate with home.

Documentation - Communicate with your team if you have one and know where you are documenting contacts to the student’s home. If your team doesn’t have a system, keep your own log with the date and issue.

6. Get help - Ask other teachers, find out who your mentor is (most schools have a program), ask the school secretary they know so much, ask custodians (most people are not the nicest to them but my 3rd year after befriending the custodian I found out that he talked to all the heads. When I was without lights for 3 weeks I complained to him and they were fixed in 24 hours)

7. Know what program to use when you need to be absent. Have sub plans ready that are easy for students to do without instruction. Packets, Peardeck, Kahoots, Blookets, News ELA, Edhelper, etc. are all things I've used.

8. Work completion activities (when they are done what do they do?)

- Reading

- Booklet/Kahoot

- (social studies games)

- Design Squad (science games)

- Nitrotype (typing practice)

- Print off word searches or shoes for them to color (yes even 8th graders like these)

9. Know your evaluation goals right at the start of the year and what you have to have to show at your end of the year evaluation. What assessments should you have? How much student work should you show? What professional development or how much should you have?

10. Student interaction/issues

We use a reflection form for students on their 3rd warning for not following procedures. Students go to a classroom near you and fill out the form. They come back and should get back on task.

If a student doesn’t get back on task you should inform them they are being retained (this can be holding them for 2 minutes of their passing time, having them report to you for 5 minutes before lunch, or holding an after school detention in your room).

If the behavior continues, write a referral and call student services to let them know the student is coming down and you are writing a referral. Write the referral at your earliest convenience but by the end of the school day.

By contract you DO NOT have to take a student back until you have a disposition (consequence) on the referral.

Make sure you are contacting and documenting home contacts (emails are easiest for me but calls are easier for others)

Honor Guard - at the end of every marking period an honor guard list is created for students who almost always follow expectations. Your team will plan a reward for students on this list each marking period.

No referral parties - at the end of each marking period students without a referral get to choose a location for a non referral activity (gym, movie, games, computer lab, etc.)

POSITIVE/NEGATIVE ratio - Try to strive for a 5 to 1 ratio. If you correct a student or the whole class try things like “I see (name) on the correct page, Look at (name) actively reading, etc.”

11. Supplies/Lesson Plans

Check with the school Administrative secretary about your budget for ordering supplies

If you don’t want to pay for it first and be reimbursed then use the place the school orders supplies from. Usually they will give you a code or something to be able to order.

If you buy things yourself make sure you keep the original receipt to submit

Lesson plans must contain the state standard being taught. I do this by day, some people do this by week depending on what format you are using. I use a modified Madalyn Hunter format tailored to me but this format isn’t required.

If you are using or similar you can submit the link once to your folder in the share drive. (note you can submit your cost for a digital lesson plan program for reimbursement)

12. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO - build relationships starting on day 1. Search out your kids who are struggling and praise them for every correct action. Make a connection as soon as day 1 so you can use that to engage learning. If students don't trust you they don't believe in what you're telling them.

13. Brain Breaks - You may want to schedule brain breaks regularly in your room. Look them up online for quick 1-2 minute things you can do to let your kids take a time away from everything. I know you have a lot to get through but you won't get through any of it if your kid's brain is overloaded.

Good luck this school year, comment for more advice or topics you'd like me to address. I've taught preschool, elementary, and middle school in an inner city district so don't be shy to ask.


About the author

Maria Shaw

I have had a roller coaster of a life and would love to share some of my real life and my imagination with others through stories.

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