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The week before Christmas break was hectic. It included my first PTA performance, my first field trip, eight parties for good behavior, 43 Christmas sing alongs, three songs sung in front of the church (twice!), a church Christmas party, one dress rehearsal, and two concerts. And that is not to mention the actual teaching part of my job.
And then it was over.
And I realized that the end of the second marking period means that I am halfway through my first year of teaching. Yay!
And I haven’t even killed anyone yet.
I have done some things well, and a lot of things not so well. Not necessarily badly, but I can definitely improve.
So here are some lessons (and things that need improvement!) from my first semester teaching.
Classroom Management is Everything
Now, I had heard this in student teaching. During student teaching, we worked a lot on classroom management. My classroom management is decent for a first year teacher. It could definitely improve, but for the most part my classes are good.
This is more of a lesson I have learned from watching other teachers.
If you are a teacher, I am sure that you can already think of a few teachers who have zero classroom management. I am thinking of one in particular. Her students do not respect her, they look like wild animals in the hallway, and they are ridiculously late for EVERYTHING. And all I think is that there is no way that learning can happen in that classroom. I have been in there, and there is very little learning happening. I hope that it was just the day I happened to be there, but I doubt it.
Don’t let your classroom be like that.
Need help with classroom management? There are a few key aspects.
- Clear expectations
- Consistent follow through
- Rewards for good behavior
Kids have to know what is expected—in every situation. The more specific, the better. And they need something to work towards.
Check out my classroom management posts here and here.
If you have read this post (Best Classroom Purchase Ever!) or this post (Traveling Teacher: What to do when Not in Your Room), then you know that my classroom got flooded this year. I spent two weeks travelling to classrooms, a month in another classroom, and two weeks where we were in my room but it was a disaster.
My lesson full of Kidstix Stations was not going to work.
I learned flexibility really quickly.
My dad is an assistant principal in our district. He says, “We make the lesson plans due before we tell teachers about all the things that mess up their lesson plans.”
And it is so true!
Assemblies, field trips, testing, etc. All of these things are told after the fact. I cannot tell you how many times I had my lessons all ready and only one class actually had the lesson due to all of the other stuff.
My suggestion? Have some ideas like anything from this book or this book that you can whip out when things are not happening like you want.
Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Lessons
I thought I had all of these ideas about lessons and games. A few weeks into the school year, I realized that I had very few.
Which makes lesson planning difficult, because I need to find more lessons every week.
To make life easier on myself, I teach the same thing to K, 1, and 2 and then the same thing to 3, 4, and 5. The kids don’t know and it makes my life way easier. Especially because I only have to have two sets of instruments out instead of six. It also allows me to really know my lesson. This helps me to teach to the best of my ability, and is especially helpful with classes that have more severe behavior issues.
You can read more about my lesson planning tips here.
Kids Get Rhythm Faster than Anticipated
I do not know what it was about rhythm, but I could not figure out how to explain it. I was fine with the older kids, because they already had the foundation for it. If they already know about beat and quarter notes and eighth notes, then explaining sixteenth notes is easy.
But I was stumped when it came to kindergarteners.
How do I explain rhythm to kids who barely know their letters?
I finally got over myself, and did this lesson featuring a Halloween song and Popsicle sticks.
And y’all. They got it. Immediately. Even the lowest achieving kindergarteners got it.
Then I got stuck teaching other lessons in preparation for a field trip (like this scarf routine and some of the ideas on this list) so rhythm took to the back burner.
A month and a half later (I know, I’m terrible!) I pulled rhythm back out and added rests and they got it immediately.
Moral of the story: don’t be scared to teach something to the kids. They are smart. They will get it.
And if they don’t, then you can try again next time!
Hold onto the Good Stuff
Teaching is really great. It is also not always so great.
I keep a journal where I write funny or touching things that kids say. This way, when I have really crappy days where everything goes wrong and no one learns anything, I can go back and read them.
We all know those teachers that are just way too worn out. They are tired, frustrated, and generally done.
Those teachers have lost sight of the good parts of teaching.
Don’t be like them.
We all know that not all parts of teaching are good. Some parts really suck. And some days really suck.
But you know what? A lot of parts of every job suck.
Don’t let yourself think that it is just teaching. Or it is just this school. Not every day is going to be good.
So don’t forget about the good things. Hold onto them.
And when a day really sucks, try some of the things on this list to help you get over and move past it.
Remember that every day is a new day.
I don’t want this list to be too long, so I will stop there! There are a lot of things I can improve on, like having my lessons more connected and incorporating more instruments.
The good thing is I have another semester to work on those things!
What have you learned this year? What did you learn your first year? Let me know in the comments!