You're a Teacher...Now What? Advice for New Teachers

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.
I was so excited with my first teaching job. There was never a doubt I'd be a teacher and it was all coming true. However, my first year wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I was told the week before school started the job I thought I was going to have, wasn't going to be filled. I had to wait and see what openings would be available in that school division. I was ultimately assigned to two schools and I had to travel at lunch. I had two principals who were polar opposites of each other and were not easy to get along with. That being said, I was a teacher. Now, I'm starting year 30 of teaching and I can't imagine doing anything else. I have been a mentor to many fantastic teachers over the years, and I hope to help many more to come.

Own it!

Don't be ashamed you are new to teaching. We need you. We need teachers who want to be teachers. We need teachers who have up-to-date training with best practices. We need teachers who are excited to teach. DO NOT let the anyone take your joy or your enthusiasm. Let me tell you a secret: there are too many people teaching who haven't had quality professional development since 1984, teachers who haven't forgotten why they wanted to be a teacher, and teachers who don't actually like children. I call those teachers M.G.O.Ts. (Mean, Grouchy, Old Teachers). These teachers are the ones who are "sick" on a work day or have an "unexpected doctor appointment" during professional development. I have literally had a teacher turn her back to me during a training and NEVER look at the materials or the presentation. Own your love, passion, and enthusiasm...we need it. Ignore the teachers who want to temper your enthusiasm. Honestly, they are afraid of it. They know how bad they look, especially around excited people. I would highly recommend reading The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King. This book spoke to me so boldly by combining passion, student engagement, growth mindset and teaching into one easy-to-read book. (I don't have an affiliate link for this book and I'm not compensated in any way.) The best part of this book speaks to allowing your light to shine.

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.Beg for Forgiveness. 

You've heard the saying, it's better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. I realize this is odd advice, but do what you think you need to do what is best for your students. If you believe your students can benefit from flexible seating, do it. If no one else in your building is doing this, start slowly. Maybe you only have one alternate seating area to start and make a plan to add some later. BUT you have to be clear in your reasons. Someone will question your reasons for flexible seating, so know your reasons and what research says about it. You don't have to blend in or back down, but you will find someone willing to be brave with you. You may want to ask your principal for a go-to person in your building that can be your mentor and your partner. You need to find someone in the building you feel comfortable asking real questions. Hopefully, this person is your mentor. Hopefully, you have been matched with someone who wants you to succeed. If not, find someone else. The saying, "Be the energy you want to attract." If you are excited, you will attract excited people.

Have a Feel Good File

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.I know this sounds silly, but it's not. I have a hanging file in my room labeled "Feel Good." It is filled with notes, pictures, and love notes that make you feel good. When you get a note from your principal for a job well done, put it in the file. When you get a love note from a student, put it in there. When you get a letter from a parent thanking you for a good job,
put it in the file. When your mom gives you a card congratulating you on your first job, put it in the file. There will be a day when nothing is going right and you question why you chose this job, you need to spend 5 minutes before you leave for the day and read EVERYTHING in your "Feel Good" file. These are two pieces in my "Feel Good" file. The letter is from a parent thanking my teaching assistant and I for teaching her child to read. "Thank you so much for giving ... such a great gift." The note at the bottom clearly says "I love you Mrs. Collier." This student had been practicing "writing what you hear" in his journal and he wrote exactly what he heard.

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.Finally, Give Yourself Time

I was born to be a teacher, but that doesn't mean I didn't struggle some days. Anyone in a new profession needs time to learn. Some college programs are limited to a few weeks in a classroom with a veteran teacher, which is vastly different from 7 hours a day, every day. It takes time. Focus on small wins and small routines. Routines are the key to success and one small routine added to another routine, creates success. The quote to the right is from Hope and Wade's book, The Wild Card. They have a free download of quotes from the book on their Teacher Pay Teacher store. Clicking the link on the book title will take you to the store.

Write it Down

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.I find myself keeping more and more notes on my phone, but I also know if I write it, I remember it. Keeping a desk calendar can help keep us focused on small tasks or a small length of time. There is a goal box at the top of each sheet. We can't achieve a goal, if we don't make a goal. Goals can be as small as "Get to PE on time" or "Write in journals daily." There are spaces for notes each day of the week, a Things To Do list, and a Special Events box for writing notes unique to the week. Each of the 6 pages has a different encouragement quote. For a colorful weekly calendar put 6 alternating colors of paper in the printer and print pages 2-8. Clicking the Desk Calendar FREEBIE or the picture gets you a set of desk calendars.

Bonus Advice...Be Nice to Everyone...

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.
Being nice to your co-workers always wins. Even if you don't have anything in common or don't agree with what they are doing, be nice. Nicely ask if they would consider doing something differently. Maybe suggest you and a partner try a new approach to a lesson while others do the "traditional" lesson and check out the results. This is a non-confrontational approach to change. I also suggest being especially nice to the M.G.O.T. If you are especially nice to someone who is generally grouchy, you may just throw them off their game. It's easy to be mean and grouchy when everyone expects it, but if you are given nice, it's hard to be mean and grouchy. But, it's hard. Finally, the most important people in your building are the custodian and the secretary. Be nice to them, give them compliments, give them small tokens and surprises. You want them to have your back!

Celebrating our FREEDOM on the 4th with 4 FREEBIES!


Here are 4 Freebies to celebrate FREEdom on the 4th of July.
America celebrates her birthday

on the 4th of July.

We'll pack a picnic

and watch fireworks in the sky.

Virginia's history standards for kindergarten includes teaching about Independence Day.  It's a little more difficult to teach about Independence Day when you aren't in school in July...so, this was always my last shared reading of the year.  It is completed with a student art activity showing a skyline and fireworks overhead.

Growing up, the 4th of July meant camping and a peach cobbler.  My birthday is the 2nd of July, but we always celebrated with my extended family at a campground and a peach cobbler for dessert.

Today, it means FREE things for your students.

FREEBIES ON THE 4TH

Here are 4 Freebies to celebrate FREEdom on the 4th of July. 1.  America 4 Square

I have included a 4 square writing template and a student-made 4 square with a July 4th theme. Typically this format is used with early readers and writers as predictable text. Students could make sentences, "We love the USA. We see the fireworks. We see the flag. We see the parade. We the military." Students who are writing independently can use the 4 square format to write stories similar to: "We love the USA. We see the fireworks. They are above the city. We see the flag is it red, white, and blue. We see the parade. We like the band. We see the military. My dad is in the Navy. We love the USA."

Here are 4 Freebies to celebrate FREEdom on the 4th of July. 2.  We Love the USA! Word Card

This word card can be put in a writing center. Students can use the word cards to write about the USA. They can also use the words to sort words by syllables or sort by person, place or thing. Students can also use the words for an alphabetical order activity.

Here are 4 Freebies to celebrate FREEdom on the 4th of July. 3.  Famous Americans

This is a set of Famous Americans.  It would be great for writing biographies, non-fiction text, sorting, creating a timeline, or other activities.  I’m sure you can get creative.  There are 16 Famous American cards.

Here are 4 Freebies to celebrate FREEdom on the 4th of July. 4.  Red, White, and Blue Alphabet

This contains alphabet headers for a word wall or sequencing activity.  There are 26 cards with a red, white, and blue design.

The 4th of July FREEBIES can be downloaded by clicking on the title picture, or the picture below.
July 2018 FREEBIE

Enjoy the 4th and thank a veteran for your FREEDOM!


6 Reasons Teachers NEED the Summer OFF

There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.
First let me say...every teacher knows they don't have summers "off."  We do things all summer to prepare for the next year, work with curriculum, participate in professional development, teach summer school, and more. BUT, if someone out there would like to know why we need summers off and what we do in the summer, here it is.
There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.

Recharge.

We must recharge. I have had the conversation with my husband that being a teacher is being "on" for seven hours a day, five days a week, for 36 weeks. If you don't feel well, it doesn't matter. You can't go into an office, shut the door and do your job. If you are upset about something outside of school, it doesn't matter. Those children need you and you have a job to do. You are "on" and you are responsible for those 25 kids that day, just like every other day. Honestly, there have been days I have loved the distraction of the classroom...bring able to turn off the outside world, while turning on for students. However, at some point your battery needs recharging. You need to live for you...for a bit. My recharge is at the beach. I can breathe deeper and find me again.
There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.

Rearrange.

It is strange to me to think there are teachers who have the same class set up for years and years. I never had the same classroom arrangement from year to year. I was always thinking about a better way to have small group or a better place for my classroom library or a better way to set up centers. The best way to set up a classroom is to wait for the room to be all packed up and empty, then I go to town. I want to think of the a better way to make my classroom the best.
There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.

Re-energize.

When you get on an airplane the flight attendant asks for your attention for the emergency procedure speech. I have always thought it was ridiculous to think I would put my own mask on before taking care of a minor child in my company. It is counter-intuitive to do so. However, I completely understand the need to take care of yourself so you help those around you more effectively. The summer is a perfect time to take care of myself. I don't have to be "on" in the summer. I can allow myself downtime. I can say unequivocally I am ready for school to start back and I am ready for the year of being "on."
There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.

Relax.


That's right, I'm not going to deny it. There are days and weeks when I am up early, home late, and "on." It's nice to relax. I tend to be a night owl in the summer...staying up late, watching movies, reading books, and getting things done. I have stripped wallpaper (I think it's relaxing, even if no one else does), cleaned out cabinets, and leisurely walked around a mall. I have also eaten lunch at mid-day and I have gone to the bathroom when I wanted/needed to. (You can laugh, but every teacher is shaking her head and saying, "Amen.") I also tend to make doctor appointments in the summer for check-ups...sometimes it's harder to make sub plans than take the time during the school year.
There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.

Re-evaluate.

I have always known I would be a teacher. I knew it when I got carbon paper and I could make my own worksheets. I knew it when Mrs. Welsh (4th grade) would roll the chalk in her hands and make it click as she was talking to use. I knew it when Mrs. Stiff (6th grade) would move our desks to the edges of the classroom and roll out plastic to have us use clay. I knew it when I volunteered in a special education classroom and had preschoolers hang on my every word. I knew it when I was in college. I have always known I would be a teacher, but as the years came and went my role in education has shifted. I may not have my own classroom, but I feel like I am in a position of helping classes of children. The summer is the time to re-evaluate not only who we teach and how we teach, but why we teach.

Remind.

There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.
Finally, remind yourself. The best book for teachers right now is the Wild Card by Hope and Wade King. I don't get any kick-backs or affiliate fees, but the book was soooo meaningful to me. It combines all that is right with education: empowering students, student engagement, growth mindset, and finding your passion again. What is your "WHY?" I have stated before Dr. Steve Perry (not from Journey) said, "If you can walk away tomorrow, you should walk away today." Teaching is more than a job. It's more than a profession. It MUST include passion. It MUST include compassion. It MUST include love. If it doesn't make an appointment with your HR department and figure out if there is something else for you.
There is so much talk about teachers having the summer "off." There are 6 good reasons we do...except we aren't really off.

The Importance of End Marks (4 Ideas for Emergent Readers)

Talking about end marks from the beginning of reading instruction can be a powerful tool to enhance fluency and comprehension.  There are 4 activities for using end marks with emergent readers.
No one can argue that punctuation is important. It's important for clarity, understanding, and fluency.  It effects voice and comprehension.  It changes a situation with intonation and inflection.  I was reminded of this when I was eating my favorite donuts.  Donuts?
Talking about end marks from the beginning of reading instruction can be a powerful tool to enhance fluency and comprehension. There are 4 activities for using end marks with emergent readers.

The best donuts in the world are Duck Donuts...in my opinion.  I love them...and donuts make me smile.  As I was eating Duck Donuts for the millionth time, I was reminded of punctuation.  As you can see in the picture above...I saw the t-shirt on the wall and starting laughing.  I turned to my husband and said, "DUCK! Donuts."  Then I laughed again.  This made me realize 3 things:  1.  Only a teacher would laugh at a punctuation joke. 2. Duck Donuts obviously has a great sense of humor. and  3. My husband is a saint for putting up with me and my punctuation jokes.
Talking about end marks from the beginning of reading instruction can be a powerful tool to enhance fluency and comprehension. There are 4 activities for using end marks with emergent readers.

1.  Which End mark?

When students are first learning about ending sounds, we have to practice reading with intonation and inflection.  Starting this practice from the beginning can be powerful for emergent readers.  Using cards with the same sentences and 3 different endings, students can play "Which End mark?"  They choose a card and read it with the ending in mind.  Their classmates need to guess the end mark.
Talking about end marks from the beginning of reading instruction can be a powerful tool to enhance fluency and comprehension. There are 4 activities for using end marks with emergent readers.

2.  Sing It!

Everyone knows it's easy to teach early emergent and emergent readers a skill when it's set to a tune.  These punctuation songs are set to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot."  Whether they are singing about the little period, the exclamation mark that yells or the curvy question mark they are sure to make a connection with the punctuation through song.
Talking about end marks from the beginning of reading instruction can be a powerful tool to enhance fluency and comprehension. There are 4 activities for using end marks with emergent readers.

3.  Do it.

Another sure fire way to get students to learn punctuation is to involve their whole body.  The same cards from the "Which Endmark?" can be used for this.  Students will listen to the sentence and decide what punctuation is at the end.  If it's a period, they squat like the cutie in the picture above.  If it's an exclamation mark, they stretch their hands high above their head and clasp them together to make a tall exclamation mark.  Finally, if it's a question mark, they will 'hula' their hips to show the curvy question mark.
Talking about end marks from the beginning of reading instruction can be a powerful tool to enhance fluency and comprehension. There are 4 activities for using end marks with emergent readers.

4.  Raise it up!

Finally, this can be a quiet game.  Everyone gets 3 signs glued on to tongue depressors.  As the teacher reads the sentence, the sign is raised.  It's a great quick assessment without paper and pencil.  You can quickly see who knows the answer, who hesitates and who watches others.

Duck! Donuts.
If we want our students to understand endmarks from the beginning, we need to teach it from the beginning.  Likewise, in the land of flying donuts, we should do this to protect our students.


If you would like, CLICK HERE for the Freebie about End Marks or the cover below.
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Introductions Aren't Just for People...They are for Books, Too.

Introducing a book can make or break a small group lesson.  Make sure your introductions remind students of strategies, introduce vocabulary and support comprehension.

Hello, my name is...

Introductions are very important.  Every good guided reading lesson starts with a great introduction. Unfortunately, it can be easily overlooked and taken for granted.  I actually observed a teacher hand out books and say, "Look at the pictures quickly, so we can start reading." That was her entire introduction. Taking time to write your introduction assures you can present a meaningful introduction that supports and ensures success. There are many ways to introduce a book.  Here are four.
Introducing a book can make or break a small group lesson.  Make sure your introductions remind students of strategies, introduce vocabulary and support comprehension.

1. Vocabulary Sort

Before showing the students the book, I showed them the vocabulary words.  First, we just sorted by syllable.  After the words had been sorted, I asked for predictions.  Students had to make a prediction and add a "because" statement to the end.  "I believe this book will be about bees because 5 of the words a bee words."  "I think this story will be in a garden because that's one of the words and it's where I would find honeybees and blooms."  You can sort by known and unknown, similar meanings, characters v settings, and any other way you can think to introduce the words.
Introducing a book can make or break a small group lesson.  Make sure your introductions remind students of strategies, introduce vocabulary and support comprehension.

2. Pictionary

When possible, use a picture to help introduce words.  When introducing a story about a farm, I drew the farm on the board.  I included the settings for the book that would be necessary for success in the book.  As the students add the words to the picture, they are helping to introduce the book to themselves.  We also discovered the water in the picture COULD BE a lake, but also COULD BE a pond.  We discussed we needed to use our letter cues to determine which word is used in the story. We have to get out of the habit of telling them everything.  If they know all the answers, they don't have to use any strategies. Using this picture as a reading strategy for struggling readers is a bonus.  The picture above is the final product AFTER the students had added words to the picture.
Introducing a book can make or break a small group lesson.  Make sure your introductions remind students of strategies, introduce vocabulary and support comprehension.

3. Prediction Detective

Remember the old game show. One person gave clues about a word and the other person guesses. This is actually a great game of making predictions and drawing conclusions. Do not show them the cover of the book. Choose specific vocabulary from the story that will lead your students to draw the conclusions about the story. Write one word at a time and discuss what kind of book would have this word in it. Writing words like "seed, Sally, grow, daisy" can be a great introduction to the Rigby PM Platinum Level Reader, "Sally and the Daisy." As you add a word, ask students what the book might be about. Finally, ask for the predictions.  During the picture walk students can continue to confirm ideas about the story.
Introducing a book can make or break a small group lesson.  Make sure your introductions remind students of strategies, introduce vocabulary and support comprehension.

4. Make a Connection

At the Emergent Level, students are beginning to make personal connections to text.  One way to introduce a book is making the connection for students prior to reading the story. "One day last summer I went to Busch Gardens (or the state fair or carnival).  Have you ever been to Busch Gardens?"  Remind students there are rides at the park. Show the students the cover of the book.  "Who has been on a merry-go-round that would like to share your experiences with us?" After a student or two share their experiences, remind them to look for connections when you do the picture walk.

Do you have any ideas about Introducing a Book?  Let me know!

Introducing a book can make or break a small group lesson. Make sure your introductions remind students of strategies, introduce vocabulary and support comprehension.