Monday, August 1, 2011

The Top 10 Things I learned During My First 5 years of Teaching

As I head into my 6th year of teaching, I found myself thinking back to the first 5... especially that very first year. I entered my school with rainbows and gumdrops dripping from my ideas and was ready to change the world... only to find myself in survival mode and almost defeat by Christmas. I still remember when my principal escorted me to my very own classroom. My eyes bugged when I walked in and saw my classroom was one of the few that were two rooms opened into one. It was huge! I was so excited! (Still there today and loving every minute of it!) Despite some trials (like a brown recluse spider bite the first weekend of school starting, walking pnuemonia, etc...) I learned some things along the way that I thought I would pass on to those who are just starting out. There are some amazing blogs out there covering this very thing. If you are a first time teachers, this blog would be an amazing resource of advice for you to check out! Click here!

So here goes:

My Top 10 Epiphanies During my First 5 Years of Teaching:

Number 10: Let's start off with an encouraging one... I had a student this past year. He was one of those who was always the "problem kid" and decided he had to be the trouble kid because that was his persona. At the end of the year, he came to me and asked if I would help him create a Power Point. He told me he wasn't good at typing but had something he wanted to share with the class: so I was to type and he would dictate. On this Power Point he thanked his classmates for believing in him, thanked everyone who helped him through and when he got to the slide he meant for me he broke down into tears. When I asked him what was wrong he said, "I'm going to miss you so much Mrs. Richards. You were the first teacher who believed in me and made me feel like I was worth it." I just recently ran into a student who was in my first year of teaching class. He ran up and gave me a hug and couldn't wait to brag about how well he was doing and he was going to invite me to his graduation when he gets there.

When you have your moments: thank you's, graduation invitations, thankful tears, letters of thanks, or whatever a child feels in their heart they want to share with you... you will know... it is all worth it and more.

Number 9: Be consistent!!!! If you fail to be consistent in your rules or procedures, it will take them all of 30 seconds to figure out the loopholes. Either spend good time in the beginning making a solid commitment to the rules or spend the whole year nagging about them.

Number 8: This relates to number 9. Set the expectations in your classroom quickly. Make sure they understand you are not their friend but their teacher. Be confident, they sense fear. lol

Number 7: Your work will follow you home in the form of graded papers, lesson planning, or planning your next course of action for a struggling child. Make sure you set aside time for yourself and your family so you don't burn yourself out.

Number 6: Find a mentor teacher or group of supporting teachers in your school (and hopefully your grade level) that can help you through when you feel lost or overwhelmed. They are a wealth of knowledge and you might just teach them something new and fresh! Create a learning community around yourself!

Number 5: Document!!! Document anything to do with Modifications, Tutoring, Discipline, Parent Contacts. You never know when something could come back and bite you if you don't protect yourself with what you have done in the classroom.

Number 4: Your principals should be there to support you but also to guide you through the learning process. They will give you constructive criticism (take what they say and learn from it). They are there to make you the best teacher you can be.

Number 3: There is a crap load... yes I said it... crap load of paperwork and I'm not talking just grading papers. It's required... just be prepared.

Number 2: Be Flexible! You need a well developed plan to back you up but be prepared to have to modify, change, add, or delete within a moment's notice.

Number 1: Let what you learned in college motivate you but be prepared to throw the imaginary classroom you had built in your head out of the window as soon as you walk into a real world classroom! :)


  1. Very well said. The one I see most new teachers struggling with is "You are not their friend..." When they come to me that is one of the first things I tell them. They have hundreds of kids in the school to be their friend. They don't need a friend they need an adult teacher.

  2. I am about to begin my first year teaching... this blog was great for me to read! I am so nervous/anxious/excited for this wild journey!

  3. Congratulations Mrs. Snow! It is wild but so much fun and very satisfying!