Tomorrow is my first day at my first teaching job. Tomorrow, I’ll be in my classroom, as I have been for the last month now, but this time kids will actually walk in. I’ll be the first adult face that some of these freshmen meet as they start their new journey at a new school. I’ll be the last face some of them meet on that day. Tomorrow I’ll get to shake hands with the students on my roster. I’ll put faces with names. And maybe, in all of the chaos, it will finally settle in that this is real…I am really a teacher.
All summer long I have been frantically re-reading my research from college, finding creative activities on Pinterest, and asking other teachers for advice on how to be the most effective teacher I can be. I have changed my mind about the first day’s activities at least a dozen times, and I still might change my mind again in the morning. I have hundreds of ideas about how the semester might play out, and I have tried to come up with plans for worst-case-scenario situations. I took everything out of every drawer, bookshelf, cabinet, and filing cabinet, organized it, and put it back. I changed the layout of the room three times and the color of my bulletin boards twice until I found a theme I was satisfied with. I even have copies of all the papers the students will need for our first two weeks of class already made and on my desk. Yet I still do not feel prepared. So today, I took some time to make some “school year’s resolutions,” and I’d like to encourage every teacher to do the same. Let’s be honest teachers, the start of a school year feels way more like the new year than the start of a calendar year, so it’s a great time to pause for reflection and make some goals! Here are my five resolutions for the year:
- Memorize students’ names by Day Two: This may seem impossible and even ridiculous, but I firmly believe that the sooner I learn my students’ names, the better. I do not want to waste any time building relationships. With access to Skyward, I am already able to create seating charts for all of my classes, and I can practice matching names to the ID pictures. Sure, some of my students will have grown over the summer, and a lot of them probably changed their hair or appearance in some way, but at least I have a point of reference. If I have my students introduce themselves on Day 1, I want them to feel like they were truly heard by being able to call them by their names when they walk in on Day 2. This is my first resolution.
- See my students at work in their after school activities at least once: My students will be involved in several after school sports and clubs, and it’s important to me that they know I care about what they care about. I have freshmen students this year, so this is their first year playing high school football, joining the cheer squad or dance team, competing in scholastic bowl, etc. These are big and scary steps for them. I want them to feel supported, so I plan to attend at least one activity that each of them are involved in. Life is busy, but one football game, one basketball game, one fundraising event, and so on should not be too much for me to handle. Even if I listed every activity the students could possibly be involved in, that list would be fewer than 20 activities, and several of them overlap (sports, band, cheer, dance). Can I really be too busy to take 10-15 evenings of the year to support my students?
- Display student work: I’ve dedicated an entire wall to displaying student work. Students learn by example, and what better example than through their peers? Now, I do not want this to be the “elite wall,” so I will switch it up frequently to make sure all students get a change to display their work. This can easily be done by including more creative and group-work pieces in the curriculum. Not all of my students are going to hand me a perfect Works Cited page for me to show off, but some of them may draw me a killer interpretation of a scene from Romeo and Juliet, so that gets to go on the wall too!
- Connect with parents weekly: I’m on a freshman team this year, and I am excited about it because I know my team will keep me reliable when it comes to contacting parents. Too often we revert to only calling or emailing parents when students are doing poorly. We don’t congratulate them when students are doing well. Parents of good kids work hard to teach their kids manners and good habits, and they deserve to know that their hard work is paying off and that they’re doing a great job raising their children into young men and women. I also want my parents to know what’s going on in the classroom each week, so I will send out weekly updates letting know what assignments will be due and what we will be reading/learning about that week. A coworker of mine said that last year she offered parents the opportunity to check out extra copies of the class novel that was being read and got a great response! How cool! I want to give my parents several opportunities to be as involved as possible. Whether they accept or not is up to them, but the goal is that they can’t say they weren’t informed.
- Track student growth: This is a personal challenge for me. Some teachers are great at collecting data and monitoring student growth, but I never have been. I hope to learn more effective ways of conducting pre and post tests so that I can track student growth, giving the kids, the parents, and the school data they can understand and be proud of! Any tips are appreciated!
Here’s to a new year!
Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!