In the Classroom
10 Things I Wish I Knew As a Beginning Teacher
October 4, 2017
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Dr. Beth Gotcher

Candace Hines

10.Speak up: Your voice matters! In a room full of veterans, novice teachers often tend to take a back seat. New teachers may get overlooked due to their lack of experience in the classroom. As a beginning teacher, you may be hesitant to ask clarifying questions or contribute new ideas. However, when beginning teachers speak up, they can benefit the whole group by sharing new concepts. Mentors are also able to see their growth areas and refine their mentorship to allow new teachers to gain knowledge. So don’t be afraid to share your ideas!

9. Do not try to mimic your mentor teacher: We are all different, and because of this we will all have different teaching styles and teaching strategies. Teaching can be stressful enough without the pressure of being something that you are not. Always gleam best practices that will benefit your students and implement them in a way that works best for you and your classroom. Students will know when you are being authentic and your true passion will shine through.

8. Stay organized: A little organization goes a long way and is key in helping teachers maintain order. Make time to develop a personalized organizational system that works for you. For example, create separate files for different purposes: file, copy, print, send home, office, etc. These files can alleviate stress and help minimize mistakes in our hectic schedules. As teachers, organization helps us maintain all the elements of our job, while experiencing less stress.

7. Work smarter, not harder: As educators, we must make every minute count. Be sure to use small blocks of time wisely. In fifteen minutes, you can create a quiz, compose a newsletter, or grade a set of papers. In ten minutes, you can call a parent or complete part of a lesson plan. In five minutes, you can write a positive note to send home with a student or review key points in a lesson. As teachers we often spend as much time preparing to teach as we do actually teaching. Find strategies to save you time such as enlisting parent volunteers to help prepare lesson materials or laminating activities to be reused in the future.

6. Foster relationships: Developing rapport with students is as important as creating engaging lessons. Students must first feel safe and valued in their environment before they can experience success academically or behaviorally. Strive to establish positive relationships with families as well. Then, if a problem does arise, you will have the relationship established to be able to communicate openly. Finally, maintain positive relationships with your colleagues. Teamwork is immensely important in any school. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is very true! Be courteous and cooperative and work toward shared goals as a team.

5. Lessons will fail: You spent the whole weekend planning a perfectly designed and timed dream lesson that come Monday is interrupted by a fire drill, bathroom break, and an unexpected visitor. Fifteen minutes later when you finally get your amazing lesson started, you realize your class is nowhere near ready for the content you’ve so diligently prepared. It happens, even to the best of the teachers. Our days very rarely (ok, never really) go exactly how we have planned. Don’t beat yourself up about it. That is teaching. That is real life. It is how you adapt and move forward that is important.

4. Differentiation is not just for students but for parents too: As you begin teaching, you have been taught that you must differentiate based on the individual needs of the students in your classroom. What is often left out is that you must also differentiate for parents too! There are various approaches and styles to parenting. One is not better, but just as you take time to get to know the needs of your students, you must also recognize the needs of your parents. Taking time to do so will help your year go much smoother.

3. Find a mentor: Each school has its own climate, culture, routines, and procedures. So many of the day-to-day aspects of teaching are not part of your teacher preparation. The best advice is to connect with a mentor teacher in your grade level that you can go to for those questions that you may be embarrassed to ask you administrator such as “how many copies do I have” or “what do I do if I’m sick?” Having that go-to person can make the transition to teaching so much easier. Then remember that feeling of being a brand new teacher and pay it forward down the road to a future new teacher.

2. Our job never ends: Our school day may end at 3:00 or 3:30 but our job does not. There are so many nights you will lie awake thinking of how to reach a struggling student or worrying about whether a child had dinner. As a teacher you invest in your students and their well-being – not only academically but socially, emotionally, and physically too. You spend time over breaks attending professional developments and researching new lesson ideas. We do this because we too are students. We want to continue to learn and grow each year.

1. The rewards are immeasurable: Yes, this job is hard. Yes, this job is stressful. But at the end of the day, it is also very rewarding. As a teacher, the difference you are making in a child’s life is not one that you may see that day or even that year. But you are planting seeds in each child’s life that will continue to grow long after he or she leaves your classroom. That is why we are here. We do make a difference, and you might be that one person that makes a lasting impact on a child in your classroom. On days when you are overwhelmed and stressed, remember the most important reason why we are here, for our students, and they deserve our best!

Beth has taught in Maryville City Schools for 10 years. She began her teaching career in 2nd grade for two years and then moved to 4th grade for four years. For the past four years, she has taught Kindergarten. Beth earned her Bachelor of Arts from Maryville College in Child Development and Learning. She furthered her education and earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University as well as an Educational Specialist’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision also from Lincoln Memorial University. In 2017, Elizabeth completed her Ph.D. with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The title of her dissertation was The Role of Administrators in Facilitating Change and Establishing a Positive Culture in a New School.

Candace has served at Peabody Elementary School for the last five years. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher and is currently a Teacher Leader for the following organizations: Teach Plus Teacher Lead Practice Network (TLPN), Non-Tested Grades Teacher Leader (NGTL ) and previously served as a Common Core Math coach for the state of Tennessee. Candace trains teachers across the district, emphasizing strategies that encourage teachers to conceptualize learning and deepen teacher content knowledge. Candace graduated as a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society from The University of Memphis, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education.

They also serve as Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellows, engaging their colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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