Reflections of a First Year Teacher: 8 Teacher Tips

I am calling these “new” teacher tips since I have no authority to be giving veteran teachers any advice.  However, they just *might* be a nice reminder or even a little laugh for someone who has been in the biz for…I don’t know…say 20 years?  This is what I came up with based off of my first permanent teaching year in the classroom.
1) Prioritize
A teacher’s to-do list never ends. Once you wrap your head around that, you have to decide what is most important.  Or actually, I will just tell you.  Balance.  Balance is most important.  Don’t work on that to do list all weekend thinking you are going to get caught up. You will never be caught up. PERIOD.  What is necessary to get you through your day might be all you get done.  Other days you will run around like the energizer bunny crossing things off left and right.  But it will never be done so don’t worry, just choose what is most important for you. {hint: it should not always be school}
To-Do List Pack: Get Organized!

2) Let go
Teaching is messy.  Your classroom will not look like your Pinterest board.  That is A-OK!

So the craft you spent two prep periods cutting out tracers and die-cutting letters for ended up looking like a heap of crumpled paper and crayon shavings. 

Don’t cry over spilled glue (once I actually did).

Let go of the visions you have in your head of beautiful bulletin boards and a calendar that always sports the correct date.  Will you have those moments where it all goes right and the craftivity is beautifully hung with an adorable, pun-ny title?  Yes, you will.  And it will feel great.

Then a month later, everything starts falling off the door and you are too deep into Christmas Around the World activities to give a hoot about changing out your door décor.
And for all those times, let go of expectations and remind yourself that you are doing your best.

3) Get to know your colleagues
With any luck, the people you work with will be your greatest support.  I have been blessed with an amazing team of teachers.  I realize this isn’t always the case. But still, take the time to get to know the people you work with.  Help them out, lend a hand, thank them for their advice.
Parent Volunteer Appeciation Gift Tags / Cards
These {free} adorable gift tags would be perfect to thank your teacher mentor or teammates.

4) Take it a day at a time

As teachers, we are natural planners.  And we love planners. {Like seriously I never knew a group of people who love planners as much as we do} We plan for the year, for the marking period, for the month, and the week, the hour and sometimes the really intense planners will write a script to the minute!! The big picture is overwhelming. 
If you delve into this all at once, you're more likely to fail. Start small and work your way up more and more everyday!:
I remember in March when we were nearing the last quarter, I started to PANIC. “OMG I still have SO much to still teach these kids!!”  It is intimidating to know you are in charge of preparing them for the next year (and ultimately, life).  But you can’t do this unless you are prepared for the day.  Focus on the now, the present, and try not to stress about the end.  Make each day count and it will all come together.
5) Pack a healthy lunch (and snacks)

I am guilty of not following this one.  Once I actually rushed out of lunch so I could get my Sour Patch Kid fix before the kids came in from recess #sorrynotsorry.  You must feed yourself so you can at least have 33% of the energy of those 7 (or 5 or 9 or 11) year olds. And you need to try not to get sick.  But I would put more energy into the eating healthy because you will get sick no matter what.  So in that case, have sub plans ready.

Follow this Pinterest board for Healthy Lunch Ideas

6) Have back up plans
Things will go as planned about 17% of the time.  You can prep your little heart out each any everyday to ensure the most perfect delivery of instruction. Inevitably, technology will stop working, there will be an unannounced fire drill, a kid will puke or the phone won’t.stop.ringing.  

Another great find on #zulily! 'Handle Plan B' Wall Sign #zulilyfinds:

In the beginning of the year, I prepped all of my Comprehension Skills Graphic Organizers.  These babies got me through so many times where the copier was jammed or I had to plan for a sub on a whim.  They are great because they go with ANY book.

I also keep a list of go-to no prep games to play like Sparkle, Stump the Genius or Trash Can Math
{click the link or picture to read more}

My advice: go with the flow, save the perfectly prepped craft for another day and pull out one of your go-to games, books or other easy peasy no prep activities.  You MUST have these stored on a shelf or in the back of your mind and be ready to use at a moments notice.  9 times out of 13 the kids enjoy the back up plan more than your original plan so it really is a win-win.

7) Do not make cupcake promises

I have to be honest, I learned this one while student teaching.  There was a time or two I would mention bringing in cupcakes as a reward or to share for my birthday or because it was Thursday.  Then, I would get home after a long day of teaching and just not feel like it.  I didn’t want to bake or go to the store or even move off the couch to plug in my phone.  But I knew that I HAD TO because I PROMISED and I couldn’t let the kids down.  So whether it’s cupcakes or cookies or candy–whatever–don’t make promises you don’t feel like (or can’t) keep.

8) Give yourself a break
At school: Join in on that brain break! Sit and take deep breaths during your teacher prep. Eat a piece (or 7) of candy after lunch. Let the kids partner read for an extra 10 minutes.  Take them out for extra recess (but make them “earn” it).  Pop on a Magic School Bus.
You can’t be a super hero every minute of everyday.
At home: Go home on Friday night and throw your teacher bag in the corner.  Pour your go-to beverage into your favorite glass {mine is white wine in a stemless glass} and eat your favorite snack (mine is chocolate).  Every finished week is a success and you deserve to relax. 
Teachers need to reward themselves, rest and recharge. 
If you are entering your first year, I wish you the best of luck. Whatever the year throws at you, just remember–June always comes : )


What is your favorite piece of advice for a first year (or any year) teacher?

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