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Tips for New Teachers

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Stepping into the classroom can be extremely rewarding, and extremely stressful. However, there are some things you can do from the first day to make your teaching life a lot easier. This article will look at some tips for new teachers on their first classroom assignments.

Welcome to Teaching

Your first year in the classroom is like entering a new country. While you may feel excited about entering the classroom for the first time, it is also normal to be nervous. There is really no pinnacle of teaching where you are an expert at everything. Instead, every year you will be greeted with a fresh set of faces, and a new set of challenges. Part of teaching is embracing those challenges every year with a positive attitude.

Getting Off on the Right Foot with Students

The first day of school, and the few days after, are critically important to your success with parents and students for the rest of the year. Your choices those first days can make the rest of the year run smoothly, or they can make the rest of the year feel as if you are climbing Mt. Everest. It all depends on the choices you make in your classroom.

These choices begin from the moment your students line up for your class on the first day of school. What you want to remember is that it is always easier to loosen the reins in your classroom than it is to tighten them, so you want to establish early on that you are in control. Make sure you have clear procedures for the normal activities that go on in your classroom. Procedures are the steps you want students to take to perform specific tasks. For example, when can a student sharpen a pencil? How do they ask to use the restroom? You don't want too many procedures, but establishing a few clear procedures for common student actions on day one is a good way to set the tone for your classroom. You can review them with students and also have them posted in convenient locations in your classroom as a reminder.

Establishing classroom procedures
Establishing Classroom Procedures

Building Positive Relationships

Having positive relationships with your students and your family will go a long way not only toward your students' academic success but also toward alleviating stress in your classroom. A relationship is how you form connections with your students and parents. Students tend to be more motivated when they feel a teacher cares about them. Students who have positive relationships with their teachers have less behavioral problems, and their parents tend to respond more positively when issues do occur. Depending on what level you teach you might have twenty students or a hundred. In either case, you want to make an effort to build a relationship with each student.

One approach to building this relationship is to ask parents to write you a letter or email telling you anything they want you to know about their child. This is a great strategy to get parents involved in your classroom from day one of school. Sometimes you may only get brief notes such as 'Johnny is allergic to dogs,' but a lot of times you will truly get heartfelt information that will help you understand better how each student in your classroom ticks.

Finally, it is important to make positive contacts with each student you teach during the year. When you take active steps to reinforce positive behavior in your classroom, this is positive reinforcement. This is especially helpful if later on you have to make a call about something more negative in nature.

An easy way to give positive reinforcement is to just pick up the phone and call so that it feels more personal to the parent. Another strategy is to write a note and mail it to the parents or even to the child. Believe it or not, though we live in a technological society, people really appreciate the little bit of extra effort you took to send a note. This also works well if you have trouble getting in touch with a parent via phone. Send them a letter, explain you haven't been able to reach them, and give them your contact information. Most of the time it is a simple matter of they changed their phone number and forgot to tell the school. They will appreciate that you went the extra mile to get in touch.

Building student and family relationships
Building Student and Family Relationships

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