Well, as the title says, I am long overdue in writing this final post.
The day after school got out, I flew to Boston to watch my fiance (now husband) graduate from MIT. After we got back, we went into wedding prep mode. After the wedding and honeymoon, we headed back to OK to finish packing our things and then made our way to MD, where we will now reside. Our apartment is still in shambles, with much to be unpacked, but the need to wrap up my thoughts on this blog has been nagging at me.
I have interviewed for a position here in our new town, and it got me thinking about everything I wanted to remember from last year. I know I won't remember everything, but I'm going to do my best. It is also giving me a chance to step away from the emotional challenges I felt while I was in the job, giving me a more objective view of the year. I feel like the following items would also be very helpful to someone getting ready to start their first year of teaching.
1. I never felt (or probably ever will feel) completely ready and prepared for a school day. It's just not possible. Do the best you can, and be ready flexible for where your students go with it.
2. OVERPLAN. There were so many times when lessons ran shorter than planned. Be ready. That's when the discipline problems really kick in.
3. Most of my challenges this year were not academic. Strictly disciplinary. Unfortunately, college classes don't cover how to handle discipline problems very well. They do, however, spend lots of time talking academics. But without the classroom management down, little academic progress is made. That being said, there will always be some problem--find a way to solve it or work around it and keep teaching. I think I was guilty of letting some of those problems outweigh my teaching time, which is not fair to the students.
4. Stay as organized as possible. There needs to be a place to put every type of paper in the room (completed student work to be graded, completed student work that just needs a check mark, student work that doesn't need to be graded, graded student work to go home, parents' notes to you, notes to your parents, copies of things you used and liked, resources that other teachers give you, scrap paper for kids to draw on, etc, etc). I also have a habit of putting things off. In relation to paperwork... not a good idea! Don't put things off and reorganize if needed so that you can stay on top of things!
5. Arrange a schedule that works for you, and don't be afraid to rearrange it if needed (just be sure to give the kids time to adjust before you decided it doesn't work). I made a major change in how our day was arranged right after Christmas break and it seemed to lessen some of the behavior problems because our time was managed more efficiently.
6. ASK QUESTIONS! The best teaching resources I had this year were the teachers around me! I am fully aware that I don't know how to handle all of these problems and teach every new topic where the kids will understand it perfectly. It only makes sense to ask people with experience. They will be glad to help! My best friends this year were the special ed teacher, the other 4th grade teacher, the reading specialist, and the librarian. They have so many ideas and they WANT to share. Don't be afraid to ask!
7. You are not in this alone. This piggybacks from #6. There were many times when I felt like I was in this crazy struggle alone, and that's when it is most important to go talk to someone. They will give you the encouraging hug, the laugh, the lesson idea, or whatever you need to get you back on your feet!
8. I love my kids, but they will drive you crazy. It's amazing how, now that school has been out for 2 months, I wonder how they are doing and what drama is going on in their lives today. It's weird to spend 10 months out of the year, hearing every detail of their lives. They really tell you EVERYTHING! You hear things about their home life that you don't want to know, drama with their friends that changes by the minute, and their hopes and dreams for the future . . . every day. And then suddenly, they're gone, and the stories end. It's just a weird feeling, especially since I moved and won't be returning to that school.
9. Try not to get involved in faculty drama. We try to teach our kids to get along with each other even when it's difficult, and we should do the same. Set the example.
10. Save things that your kids write to you. I have already dug through a few this summer and they really do brighten your day. "Miss Davis, to me, you are the teacher of the year, and the greatest teacher in the world."
And my final piece of advice to every first year teacher out there . . . (as a wise teacher once told me) . . . there will only be one first year of teaching. Only one. It will be tough, but make it through, and you will never have another first year.
Thanks for following along, caring, and encouraging me along this rollercoaster of a year. I wish you all the best and hope that God blesses your day!
From the desk of,
(now) Mrs. McLaughlin!
And so, I suppose that wraps up most of my main lessons from this first year of teaching.