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Your first year as a teacher can be crazy. Scratch that. It will be crazy. A new job, new rules, new students, and a whole lot more than what they teach you in college equates to an exciting, scary and sometimes downright shocking experience.
Here are a few tricks to help you survive…and even enjoy yourself!
Making your discipline plan explicitly known to the class on the first day is key. Go over the rules as a class–or, if your students are old enough, involve them in helping create class guidelines, based on respect and responsibility. Be sure to send a note home describing the plan to parents, so they know what will be expected of their child.
Then, once the rules are covered, be consistent from day one. Students need to understand your expectations from the get-go, and they’ll feel more secure knowing that you are going to enforce consistent behavior guidelines.
A good idea for primary teachers is to send home a simple “reward” with the students every time they have a good day. It can be as simple as a skittle or a sticker or a paper star. At the end of the week or the month, allow students to visit a treasure box filled with small prizes if they received a certain number of stars or stickers or skittles (you can keep track with hash marks on a simple name chart).
Parent communication goes hand-in-hand with a good discipline policy. You want the parents on your side…and vice versa! To establish a positive partnership from the start, send home “happy notes” when students do good things. And, whenever a note needs to go home to communicate negative behavior, make sure you temper it with something positive the student did, as well. This lets parents understand that although there may be an issue, you’re looking for the best in their child. Of course, be sure to keep a copy of every note that is sent home. Although you might never need it, documentation is never a bad thing.
It’s also a good idea to send home a newsletter once a week. Parents appreciate being kept in the loop about what you’re studying, fun activities you did, and interesting conversations you’re having. They’ll also appreciate the opportunity to reinforce concepts at home.
Finally, you need to remember you. Believe me, it is so very easy to get caught up in paperwork and lesson plans and forget about the most important part of your job: yourself. If you are not healthy and happy, your class will suffer.
So, make balance a priority. Although there will be days when you have to stay late after school, try to leave on time whenever you can. It’s better to grade papers in your slippers, curled up on your couch, than sitting stiff-backed under fluorescent lights in your classroom.
Try to take a “breather” every day, as well. Get out and enjoy some fresh air after school: take a walk, go shopping, meet a friend for coffee, or participate in a form of exercise you enjoy. This will help you clear your mind and stay connected with your “non-teacher” self. It might sound silly, but it’s oh-so important.
And then, at the end of the day, after the papers are graded and the lesson plans are solidified for tomorrow, pick up your favorite magazine or a good book. End your day relaxed and refreshed, so you can wake up smiling, ready to make your students’ day a success!
This article was adapted from advice submitted by Sandra Jacoby. Sandra graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December, 2008, with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies. She currently teaches pre-kindergarten in Fredericksburg, Texas.