1. Get excited!
We are coming off a break, refreshed and renewed. This year has everything to offer! Come in excited to meet your new students, and ready to conquer this year! Expect the best year ever and see what comes with this hopeful, go get it attitude! Get the kids excited, too- this is the best year ever for all of you! What are we all going to do with it?
2. Stay positive.
Have you ever heard a laugh that is just contagious? Positive attitudes can be just as infectious. Come in smiling! Have fun with your teaching and activities. Watch how your students mirror your smiles and enjoy learning. They will reflect your attitude, so have a good one!
3. Set your expectations, routines, and procedures.
Explain them, model them, and follow them. Kids need these every day. It brings a feeling of security, especially to students who are having troubling situations at home. Every student wants to know what is expected of them, so tell them. Keep it simple and, if you can, involve the students in the rules. They are more likely to respect them if they helped to make them.
4. Dig in.
Get to know those kids! Each student is unique, with their own personalities, skills, quirks, and backgrounds. Classroom activities and lesson plans are more motivational when they follow the interests of your students. It takes some time and effort, but their behaviors, attitudes and performances are often attached to these subsurface details.
5. Try something new.
Don’t go crazy, but try to pick a manageable amount of things to try- maybe it’s once a year, once a quarter, once a month or once a chapter. Try that new technology, that new textbook, that new lesson. Ask your co-workers about the how tos, and how not to. Ask your supervisor for some suggestions about what is being used successfully in other classrooms, or needs that they have identified in your classroom. Change can be hard, but as educators, these are the things that grow and improve us. (Need some inspiration for fresh ideas? Check out these teacher-recommended books and videos)
6. Keep it balanced.
I know you love your students- but, as teachers we have lives, too. We have families, friends, and hobbies. Make sure you are recharging and spending some time away from the planning and grading. I know it’s near impossible to leave our work at work, but a lack of work/life balance is a sure way to drain you. Take some “me” time. You deserve it, and your students will get a better, rested, more relaxed teacher.
7. Let your students do things.
Students do better if they are invested in the classroom. Give them jobs and responsibilities. Set stations where they can figure out what they need, and get it themselves. AS much as your routines, teaching style, and their abilities allow- let them do it. It provides students with ownership, worth, value- and… it makes our life easier as teachers!
8. Get organized!
It’s the beginning of the school year: clean out the closets, set up the classroom, hang the posters, review the emergency policies, set the subfolders, and make your copies. Students do better in a neat and organized room. Start the school year this way- and maintain it.
9. Set your career goals for the year.
Can you increase your salary? How many hours of professional development do you need- or want? What kind are you looking for? Are you ready to pursue another degree, need a class or workshop for a certain skill? Go look for opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to you. There are awesome experiences for teachers, that often come with stipends, meals, and housing. Go find them, because they fill up fast! There’s always a bunch listed in the NJ Teachers’ Lounge calendar.
10. Remember why you are a teacher EVERY DAY.
In time, the schedules, grading, planning, and policies will exhaust us; negative behavior and difficult students will frustrate us; parents will drive us crazy. Remember why you do what you do. You are shaping the future. Many of these students will NEVER forget you. For some of these students, you are the safest, most loving and enjoyable part of their day. Some of these students will model their behaviors, routines, and work habits around your expectations. Some will follow your career path. For a few, you will change their life forever. Don’t let that truth be lost to those difficult days that we sometimes face as teachers. We truly do have amazing jobs.
Jessica Cicalese-Kurtz, MA in k-12 Teaching and Technology, BA in k-8 Education, BS in Biology, Science and Engineering. Jessica is a middle school teacher at Toms River Schools, K-8 Science curriculum writer for Toms River Schools and Ocean County, an independent Science workshop creator and presenter, freelance writer.