I was beyond excited when I accepted my first teaching position. I had worked hard all of those years, completed my student teaching, passed the certification tests and was ready to start out in the world. The only problem was, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing! I did not know where to begin.
There was a lot of curriculum I was unfamiliar with, a school I had never been to before and a town and students I have not met yet. Now that I have been at this a while, I realize all of this is normal and eventually you gain a wealth of understanding during that first year of teaching, but there were some things I could have done that would have made the transition to my classroom easier as a I started out in the fall. My hope is that you find some of these useful as well as you start to think about your first fall as an educator.
You Landed The Job! Now What?
Reflecting back on what I know now, I think I would have done some things differently as I prepared for my first school year. I spent a lot of time worrying about what my room would look like rather than what I would be delivering to the students and the culture I wanted to create each day.
At this point in the summer, your classroom will likely be in disarray for a while because the custodians will be cleaning and preparing your room for the fall. If that is the case for you, don’t stress out about what it will look like as you can tackle that later on in August. Now is a great time to tackle some items that will be hard to fit in your schedule once busyness of the school year starts.
What You Can Do Now To Prepare For The Fall
Meet With Your Mentor: If you do not have a mentor teacher set up for you already, get in touch with your principal for someone to work with you within your department or grade level. Take them out for coffee or meet up at school one day to go over curriculum, scope and sequence, and what to expect the first days of school regarding routines, taking attendance, etc. If they could show you around and help you fire up that copy machine that would be even better!
Make Some Copies: Once you have been given the scope and sequence for the first month or two, return to that copy machine and make some copies! Keep a master copy in a binder and store the other copies in a cabinet for later. This is the time of year to make copies in bulk as no one will be at school and you might be able to utilize multiple copy machines for efficiency. After the first month or so, you can get with your team or department and job share the responsibilities of making copies for the group to save time.
Sit Down With Human Resources: While this does not affect your day-to-day teaching, you want to make sure you do not have stress related to finances, insurance, etc. later on while you are teaching. Make sure you understand and have them walk through the various health, vision and dental insurance options. Also, seek guidance for setting up an HSA account and your allowances for taxes. If they can, have them help you establish your take home pay so you can start to plan out your monthly budget.
Check in With Service Providers: Whether you are teaching in a private or public school, there is a good chance that you will have students in your class with special needs. Send out an email to the special education teachers, school psychologist, social worker, speech/language pathologist, and physical and occupational therapists to get a pulse on what needs and accommodations you may need to make in your classroom.
Become Familiar With the Building: The summer is a great time to wander around your new building. If you are able, have someone show you around and let you know where the lounge is located, bathrooms, copy machines, etc.
Send Out a Welcome Letter: This could be a digital letter, one you send home to students the first week of school, or a post card to send to your new students. In the letter describe that you are new to the district, some of your hobbies and interests, as well as how excited you are to meet them in the fall. My son got one of these from his teachers and he kept it all year long!
I know that you are probably pretty busy with working and possibly moving this summer to where you will be teaching in the fall. If you are able to tackle a few of these items above prior to school starting in the fall, your stress level will be way down and you can focus on organizing your room and getting ready for your new students!
Tyler Harms is a special education teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has over 10 years of experience teaching at the elementary and secondary level. To follow Tyler or find out more tips for teachers check out www.teachforgodsglory.com