For as long as I can remember, our daughter Meredith, has wanted to be a teacher. I've said here before, she has the thing that can't be taught, she gets kids, so I know she'll be a good one. Now, her dream has been realized, she accepted a position in Immokalee, Florida, just east of Fort Myers to teach first grade. We'll be moving her this weekend, and she starts on the following Thursday with the rest of the new teachers in Collier County. It's bittersweet. While we are very proud of Meredith and her accomplishments, she's moving 17 hours away and we will miss her, but as parents, that's what we want, we want to raise them with the confidence to chase their dreams and to be happy. Meredith is doing both and through the tears, the Lovely Mrs. Prosser and I are smiling.
It's given me time to think about what I would tell a first year teacher if they asked, and since not many ask, this is as good a place as any to put my thoughts down. Feel free to add to my list if you have some valuable piece of advice for a new teacher.
Respect the experienced teachers. I don't mean you have to do everything they tell you, but really listen and value their advice. They know things and even though you may not agree with everything they say, or want to do it exactly how they do, their advice can save you lots of frustration and stress and may save you some time.
Don't live at the school, the job will be there tomorrow. Work hard, give your school and kids everything you got, but don't forget to take time for yourself. Balance is key and if you don't have it, you'll burn out.
Be involved. Over my 30 years I've called Bingo, worked carnival games, played basketball, served as an auctioneer, watched countless soccer games, basketball games, baseball games, recitals, etc. I've learned that if your school community sees you at events that are important to them, it goes a long way to creating the credibility with parents. An hour here and there at school events shows you care about your students as people not just faces in your classroom.
Get to know the secretaries. We all know who runs the office. Having these folks on your side is always a good idea. They can get you in to see the principal if you need to, find some extra money in the budget if you need it and just make your day to day life easier if you treat them well.
Have fun. Our job is hard work, a lot of people don't really get that, but if you don't have fun, it's a long tedious year. Laugh, play games, sing silly songs, dance funny. I have always felt if I can get my students to enjoy school, I can teach them anything.
Read! Read! Read! You have to be up on the new literature so you can share it with your students. Know the books they like and are reading, even if it's not your favorite genre, read it anyway. You never know when a book will create that connection to a student that makes a difference. I don't believe we can create readers if we aren't readers ourselves.
Read aloud everyday. Find a time to read aloud just for the enjoyment of a good story. Too many times we read books because they teach something, or reinforce a concept. Read aloud with the purpose of just enjoying the story together that's how life long readers are created.
There are any number of professional books out there that talk about best practices but these are some things that I wish I had been told in my college classes. These are things that aren't taught, but can make your life easier and the job more rewarding than the things taught in college.
Good luck, Meredith, I know you'll be great!