Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dear New Teachers

Dear New Teachers of 2018,

If I could offer any advice for your first year of teaching, it would be this: Don't go into debt for your job. 

"But wait!" you're probably thinking. "I've got a classroom to decorate, cute teacher clothes to buy, supplies to get, flexible seating to set up..." 

Oh, I know all too well the Siren Song of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Just remember though, we're only seeing the highlights of someone's life in those posts. We're not seeing the behind the scenes work and bloopers. We're not seeing the years invested in practicing skills and collecting items. Those images are supposed to inspire us, not expire us! 

For this first year, don't worry too much about room set-up. Your administrators will mostly care that your room is clean and organized, not that it is Pinterest-worthy.

I once read a story about an architect who had designed a new college campus. He was widely criticized when the new school year began and he still hadn't designed any pathways throughout the campus. He wasn't too concerned though because he had a plan. This brilliant thinker waited to see where students naturally traveled throughout the campus, and THEN he had those pathways paved. 

Your classroom is a lot like that architect's college campus. Since you're new to the school, wait to see what the natural flow of your class is before you firmly establish where you want everything. For example, I thought I wanted my desk at the front of the room so I could see everyone's face during independent work time. However, with the advent of Chromebooks in my class, I now want my desk in the back of the room so I can see what everyone's doing! 😉  It's important to stay flexible!

I would also advise keeping your decor simple for a couple of reasons. First, you'll want to establish your own decorating style, and that takes a few years to determine. You don't want to waste lots of time and money buying things that you won't even want in a couple of years. And don't forget that you'll have to find a place to store all of these things...classrooms are notorious for not having lots of storage space! Also, many students come to us with attention or sensory issues, and too many decorations can honestly become a distraction to their learning.

The longer I teach, the more of a minimalist I become. I try to keep my classroom bright and cheerful and free of clutter. At the beginning of the year, I tell my kiddos that I am the most dazzling, unique decoration in the room, so they should always be looking at me. 😘

Speaking of being a human decoration, I would adopt a wait-and-see attitude about your wardrobe for the year. I know, I know, it's so much fun to shop! However, you're new to the school, and you probably don't know how they dress. Sure, it's usually casual business attire, but just how casual and how business are they?

For instance, I've worked in schools where jeans were NEVER allowed unless there was a fundraiser of some kind, and then you had to pay dearly to wear the denim. I've also worked in buildings where you could wear shorts and flip-flops during the warm months. So before you plunk down the hard-earned cash you have yet to get, wear what you wore student teaching and diligently observe what your colleagues wear for the next couple of months. Your checkbook will thank you in the long run.

You will also most likely have school or team apparel that you are expected to wear on Fridays or special days. This really cuts down on the "what to wear" dilemma in the morning, and it can be a huge budget helper since you only need one Friday outfit. You'll come to appreciate those "school uniform" days toward the end of the year!

Best wishes for a great start on your teaching career! Remember that while you're finally living out your career dreams, you'll want to make your financial dreams come true, too. Don't set yourself up for a ride on the struggle bus--that's a ride that can go on for years! Don't ask me how I know...

As a recent college graduate, no one is going to expect you to have lots of money--embrace that! 😃 Never again in your lifetime will it be so socially acceptable to not have money. Enjoy that liberating freedom to its fullest!

So when you meet the Mr. and Mrs. Joneses down the hallway, don't be envious of their classrooms or the things they have. They've had years to accumulate their classroom treasures and hone their decorating skills. Truth be told, they probably wish they didn't have so much stuff!

And while you're walking down that hallway to your humble first classroom, many of them will be envious of you and the blank slate before you that's just waiting to be filled. 

Happy first year!

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1 comment:

  1. Such great tips! I know from a friend that prepping your room can be expensive. I love the architect story. Thanks for sharing with SYC.


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