Hatorade must have been on sale when I published Part I of my New Teacher Tips because a couple of Crabby Abbys attacked me after reading it. Because of this, I will start Part II with the following disclaimer:
I am the kind of person who values straight up, truthful advice. I am also a bit of a realist. If you fall into any of the categories below, please X out of this blog post immediately:
-detached from reality
-lacking the part of the brain that gets sarcasm
6. Stop Grading Everything
Just stop. Put your red pen down right now. It isn’t physically possible to correct everything without going utterly bonkers. There was a time when I thought that I just HAD TO correct everything. It got old really quick, so I made a better system.
I call it the Pick and Choose system.
The Pick and Choose system involves grading student work that is easy to correct, like my assessments below. There are 4 or 5 questions. Each question is either right or wrong. No blurry lines. No going bonkers. Yeehaw!
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 1
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 2
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 3
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 4
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 5
If you choose to ignore this tip, that’s fine. Have fun going completely crackers as you find yourself mulling over how to grade one paper for the next 16 hours. Oh, and have fun with that helicopter parent who disagrees with how you graded the paper as well.
(I know you’re probably wondering how I grade writing. Please don’t. I can’t help you because I still don’t know how. I have been in the bonkers phase with this one for the last 3 years.)
7. Don’t Get Too Comfortable With Your Current Assignment
I’m going to tell you a little story. If you aren’t sitting down for this one, you probably should because it involves my biggest FAIL as a teacher to date:
It is a brutally hot week in the month of August. My current assignment is a 3rd Grade Academic Interventionist.
I am in great spirits considering I have just moved all of my classroom materials up and down 2 flights of stairs… for a 4th time… in the last 2 months. I find this completely acceptable though, since I overate this summer and can’t afford a gym membership anyway. To me, this is a gift.
Students arrive in 5 days and my classroom looks like this:The best thing about those 5 days before student arrival is the great abundance of time you are given to prepare your classroom. I mean..I love professional development and I do appreciate the importance of number talks and inferring, but can’t this be summed up in less than 8 hours?
So I do what any sane teacher does in that week before school: Show up at 5am to work on my classroom for 3 hours before attending an 8 hour long PD session to let me know that I suck at guided reading.
It is at some point this week that I completely lose my shiitake mushrooms. My number 1 priority turns into painting this disgusting bookshelf, because I figure, “Hey, why set up a 4th classroom when I can make this bookcase pretty?”
Not only do I paint this bookcase, but I decide that it would be a magnificent idea to paint over every bulletin board in the room. I stay at school until 8pm every night sweating bullets in 90 degree heat. I manage to get it all done before the students arrive.
So, why was this such a fail?
Well, the principal entered my room with some wonderful news while I was cleaning up paintbrushes, folding up drop cloths, and admiring my masterpiece: “We have to open up another first grade classroom because the numbers are too high. Your new classroom will be downstairs.”
Moral of the story? Don’t get too comfortable in your classroom.
8. Have a Sub Tub Prepared/Take a Mental Health Day at Least Once This Year
Taking days off can be a nightmare for a teacher. This e-card sums it up pretty well:If anyone needs a mental health day, it’s a first year teacher. There will be at least 1 day this year where you will completely question your sanity. If the 25 students in front of you start to look like a blurred carousel and/or you find yourself helplessly throwing your hands in the air, this is probably a good time to take a mental health day. Don’t fight it; just do it.
When I discovered the Sub Tub on Pinterest, I needed to make one. It took about 5 minutes to put it all together. I believe I got the white tub from Target for 3 bucks. (It’s actually a mini trash bin. Fancy, eh?)
The greatest thing about the sub tub is having everything set up for the sub weeks in advance. Say goodbye to those last-minute-planning-panic-attacks!
If you are confused about what you should put in your sub tub, don’t be! There are some amazing resources on Teachers Pay Teachers that will get you started. All you have to do is the following:
1) Go to teacherspayteachers.com
2) Type “sub plans” and your grade level in the search.
3) Immediately watch your blood pressure go down.
Last year, I kept my sub tub on a book shelf behind my desk. It was ready to go and I never had to worry about making plans last minute!
9. Be Gracious When Another Teacher Shares with You
I know there are schools out there where everyone is hunky-dory with each other and this would never be a problem, but I’m still throwing this tip out there. (Maybe it’s for my own venting purposes. Sue me.)
If another teacher in the building shares a resource with you, do not do either of the following:
1) Be a jerk.
2) Be a know-it-all.
When I was a K-5 intervention teacher 3 years ago, I had to make lesson plans for every grade in the building. Because of this, I had the opportunity to share resources with almost every teacher in my school. These resources were usually awesome printables that I found by utilizing my amazing Google skills.
What annoyed me about sharing resources was the general response I received from colleagues after I extended out this good gesture to them. It was…baffling, inconceivable even. I can only equate their response to someone showing up to my classroom and handing me a free coffee. Not only would I fail to say thank you, but I would also take a sip of the coffee, dump it all over their new Ann Taylor shirt, and tell them that the coffee sucks as they are heading out the door.
Sorry… sidetracked. How did they actually respond when I gave them free resources? Noses would turn up. Know-It-All comments such as “This is too easy”, “This isn’t rigorous enough”, and “My students are SO beyond this” would fly out of their mouths.
My response usually looked something like this:
..but what I really wanted to say was, “Apparently you didn’t get the memo in kindergarten that sharing is caring….but hey, it’s okay. I appreciate the extra couple of minutes that I get to myself now because I don’t plan on ever sharing with you again.”
10. Let the Parent Speak First
I have always found communicating with parents to be one of the most frightening aspects of teaching. During my first year, I really struggled on days where I had a meeting with a parent. If the conference was in the afternoon, I would have crippling anxiety for the entire day because I was hung up on how each meeting would turn out.
I always reflected long and hard after each parent-teacher conference since I knew I wasn’t the best at them. What I can tell you is this: Talking to parents becomes much easier over time, even if you’re socially awkward like the best of us.
One of the biggest things I learned through reflection is that I needed to chill out when the conference started. As teachers, we have a lot to say about our students, but you’d be surprised at how well a conference goes when you let the parent speak first. My worst conferences were usually the ones where I was too eager to tell Mrs. Johnson about the 10 gray hairs I had developed that week because of her son.
So do yourself a favor and start the conference off by asking parents about THEIR questions and/or concerns. 9 times out of 10, they will have something they want to talk to you about. The moment I started doing this, conferences immediately became easier and less tense.
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