Knowing Where to Start
This week one of the questions from our visiting college students was, "How do you even know where to start the first week of school?" My amazing teachers are hosting the intro session this week and it is a different topic, and I wanted to answer this terrific question, so here we go.
The moment of learning that you were hired to be a teacher is life-changing. It's a moment of fulfillment of a life dream, the joy of being picked, and the mother loving terror of wondering, NOW WHAT? Don't panic! Here's a starter guide!
• The advice I give more than any other is simple. CALM DOWN. I even have a hashtag. #CTFD. Fill in the blanks. Remaining calm is everything, and this is the first of millions of moments when you will have *that* feeling in the pit of your innards. Breathe, make a plan, make connections, and work.
• First, find your people. There are immediate connections you will need to make. If they are not made for you, find a way to do it yourself.
Get over it, they're really not that scary. Ask to meet with them right away. Here are a few questions to get you started:
--Who are my teammates/grade level teachers? How can I contact them?
--Where can I find the curriculum? Is there a pacing guide?
--What is my classroom budget? What, if anything is provided for teachers?
--Where can I find handbooks, policies, and safety plans?
--What are the expectations for my classroom? (Tape on the walls, bringing in seating or furniture, painting, organizational stuff, etc.)
--Who should my "go to" people be?
--Where and when can I access my class list?
--How should I dress?
There will be tons of other things you will need to learn, but these are classroom basics to get you in the door.
-Your grade level teammates.
These are your Charlie's Angels. They are the people who will have your back, stand by your side and get out in front for you. Listen to me. Make it work. You need to spend a whole year listening to and learning from them. Even if you are not nuts about them, fake it. In no uncertain terms, they have the power to make or break you. Not even kidding. Bring candy, make cookies, listen to their stories, show them respect and say thank you a million times.
-The secretary and custodian.
Learn their names, their birthdays, their favorite treats. Say thank you. Often.
• Get your room ready.
Don't overthink it, and for crying out loud don't over-do it. EDIT. Everything in your room should have a purpose. Pick a color theme. EDIT. You can't use every Pinterest idea all at once. Less is more. Don't personalize too many things for your kids at first. The way your class list looks on August 15 is rarely, if ever, how it will look on September 15.
• Ask what the other teachers in your building are doing the first few days. Do what they do. Keep up but don't one-up.
• Write things down. The hardest thing to do each year is to switch gears from summer brain to school brain. Summer brain is having one train on one track. You can do one thing at a time. When school starts your brain is definitely Grand Central Station. It's draining.
• Make time for the following non-optional things.
Some things will work, some won't. Keep track of them. You will think you won't forget. Grand Central Station will run train tracks over your brain and you will.
Get it. Sleep solves a multitude of issues, from keeping your brain calm and functioning, to health, to mood. Get it.
--Your friends and fam.
Don't be THAT person. Your job is what you do so you can live your life. Teaching is much much more than that, but you have to keep it all in perspective.
Here's a wrap up.
Ask questions. LISTEN. Heed advice and guidance. Work hard.
If you can accomplish those things, the rest will fall in place.
LOVE your kids.
APPRECIATE your coworkers.
What advice do you have for the first year?
What questions did you ask? What questions do you still have?