I survived my first full year teaching 6th grade Language Arts! Here’s what I learned:
1. No one knows what they’re doing, it’s not just you.
2. That being said, the most important thing is confidence. The kids will know if you’re freaking out, so smile big and pretend you know what you’re talking about. (That’s not to say you shouldn’t know what you’re talking about, but we all have those days)
3. It’s important for students to like you, but you can’t win them all. Don’t get too hung up wondering why some students dislike you.
4. Don’t take bad behavior to heart (I’m still working on this one).
5. Be friendly with your coworkers; learn their names and make small talk. Being able to vent or have a light hearted conversation in the copy room can really brighten the day.
6. Send handwritten thank you notes.
7. The internet is filled with endless ideas for lesson plans and activities. Take advantage of this, but don’t drive yourself crazy. Sometimes simple works best.
8. Remember that two heads are better than one; collaborate with your coworkers – we are in this for the students, not to one-up all of the other teachers.
9. Continuously seek meaningful feedback- from your coworkers, from administration, and yes – even from students.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. More than likely, the person that you ask will be flattered that you thought to ask them.
11. Procedures are important (possibly more important than rules). Set them, practice them (a lot), and redirect the students who don’t follow them. At the start of the year I thought I had all of my procedures ready, but I was wrong. Even the smallest things, like when to use the pencil sharpener, needs a procedure in a busy classroom.
12. Kids appreciate honesty. If you make a mistake, own up to it. They also love to find your mistakes – so check any materials you create multiple times for errors before you hand them out!
13. Follow through! If you say you’re going to call home – call home. Create a discipline plan and stick to it. Kids learn quickly whether you’re serious or “all talk” (I learned this the hard way).
14. Be organized. It doesn’t stop at teaching a lesson – there are papers to grade, meetings to attend, grades to enter, and parents to call (s.o.s.). Find a system that works for you. I write on multiple calendars and a to-do list. During extra-busy-weeks, my desk is filled with colorful Post-it notes.
15. Understand your own rules and reasons for doing things and be confident about them. You will have students and parents who will try to challenge the way something was graded or the reason a detention was given, but if you have confidence in your decision, it will show.