The Honeymoon

January 16, 2008 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

First Day Jitters

So Now You Have Your License and are married to a Job…

You have your license and you have a job. Now what!? The classroom awaits you. If you are starting at the beginning of the year, you get to plan it all out. The monster or joyful creature you create belongs to you. If you begin after the school has started, you inherit the monster or bindle of joy that someone else created. In either case, you will be disliked to begin with. It is much simpler to start the year.

All that stuff about learning theories, philosophy and multiple intelligences will be of no use for your first year or two. The name of the game is survival. Your survival as a teacher depends on a number of arenas. First, and foremost, is the classroom. The twenty-five or thirty little people that sit in your classroom are the toughest audience that you will ever face. You, as the teacher, must sell them on the need to learn in your classroom now. The second area is the school building which actually involves three interacting groups: the other pupils in the school, the teachers and the staff. As a teacher, your task extends out of the classroom into the hallway wherever you happen to be. The teachers near you hear you. Teachers are terrible gossips. Teachers will be judge your performance as the year goes on. The staff who clean your room can literally read any difficulties that occur in your classroom or in the lavatory (what a great term for wash room!). They gossip too! The third arena is the interaction with administration. As a new teacher, principals tend to keep a closer eye on your work. They have ears too. They also have eyes. They watch and listen to you and your pupils. Finally, the last arena is the community. Parents also listen. They hear their children. Good parents believe about half of what they hear. Wise parents know that children tend to exaggerate and point the finger of blame away from themselves.

Each of these arenas deserve a full blog or two on their own. This post will deal with surviving the “beginning!” Depending on when you start, there is a different strategy of survival. There are elements however that are common.(The “beginning” for sake of understanding will be the first week or two of school.)

Before Beginning of the first day: Plan your first two weeks. Make very detailed plans. Include times that you will do this or that. Check for any alterations in schedule (fire drills, assemblies, late start, early dismissal, etc). Prepare a first day letter to the parents about your classroom. List all the materials you will need and where the materials are located. Not sure where something is or what the procedure should be for something- ASK BEFORE THE FIRST DAY! Check on technology requirements: attendance on-line? email address? sign on procedures? How to turn on your computer? Check the lights and windows. Learn the names of the teachers around you (They can be a great help!). Practice before the first day how you line your pupils up outside and inside the classroom. Practice the route to the wash room and the cafeteria. Note the fire drill path that your class is to follow. Have classroom rules posted. Set up your seating chart. Read the names of the pupils several times. Try to learn them. Set up your classroom- bulletin boards, special charts or signs, arrangement of desks (don’t count on the staff setting them up for you), arrangement of your desk, papers located, books located for distribution, and on and on. (I’m exhausted already and the kids haven’t even gotten their yet!) Don’t wait until the first day of “work.” Most schools have a day without any pupils as an Institute Day. This is a day usually filled with meetings. Depending on your administration and the quality of workshop construction, the day will be mildly boring to extremely boring. Little is accomplished this day except for administrators to exercise their “classroom skills.” Expect to sit and listen all day. Any physical arranging or planning need to be done before this meeting.

The First Day: Arrive early. Double check the plan of the day. Take a minute to sift through all the junk in your mailbox (Each teacher is assigned a mailbox. Locate it before the beginning!). Double check everything is as you want it to be. Be sure your seating chart is ready for use. Call a pupil by name and you own that pupil. You know their name! (One of the great mistakes of inexperienced teachers is that they don’t know their pupils name for weeks!) Turn on your computer and sign on. Windows open? Lights? Use your board to have a “bell ringer” activity” or some activity for the pupils to do as they enter the classroom. Depending on the entrance procedure, the teacher needs to ready to greet their new pupils. You can smile but be business-like. Be kind without being overly nice. Begin to establish your routine immediately. Don’t worry about trying to teach academics immediately. Establish routine first. THE FIRST DAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF THE YEAR. Studies have shown that the greatest interest level and attention focus is on the first day. The teacher has their attention the first day. What you do on the first day establishes how you classroom will run through the reminder of the school term.Routines are vital for survival! Teach the pupils basic tasks today. How to enter the classroom. What to do when they get to their desk. Start on bell ringer activity, have books and homework on desk, write a journal entry, etc. (Attendance should be taken immediately. As a management aspect, quiet start to the day is the way to start- you can enter attendance, collect lunch money, gather your wits, collect notes, etc.). You should take a little time to welcome the students to your class, introduce yourself and quickly discuss the rules. Take a deep breathe and begin your lesson. Remember! On this day and for the next week or two, establishing the routine is the priority task. Therefore as you travel through your lesson, you must very watchful of time and activity. In grade school, lavatory time and lunch time and recess time are issues to be cognizant. You will spend more time in establishing the routine for these activities than in later time. In your plans allow for the extra time. Do it right from the start and you will discover that it becomes automatic and you will have more time to teach! It is important to be able to look a pupil in the eye and use their name. Try not to raise your voice. Some teachers develop a set of hand signals to communicate. These are great if used correctly! Keep them simple stupid (KISS) approach to routine is strongly urged. At the end of the day take a minute and reflect on the good and bad. Pat yourself on the back. Teachers usually don’t get a lot of recognition, so you got to give it to yourself. You survived the first day and it went pretty good. A word of warning: kids are always good the first day!

The Rest of the Beginning: Two weeks is the “honeymoon” phase. Honeymoon can be used as another name for the beginning. It is during this honeymoon phase that the pupils test the teacher and the teacher’s routine. It is vital to be on top of each test. The pupils are not consciously thinking of tests. It happens. For example, your classroom routine is to sharpen pencils at the start of the day and after lunch. A pupil rises his hand and asks to sharpen his pencil an hour into the school day. (Remember your routine.)

“Mrs so and so. I broke my pencil and I need to sharpen it.”

“Sorry, James. We sharpen only at the start of the day. Use your backup pencil.” (Good management rule: three pencils?)

“This is my only pencil!” James states.

“I will lend you this pencil for now and we’ll will talk to later.”

Do not waste any more time. If James argues, he is violating one of your classroom rules. Do not respond beyond noting that he is breaking an important rule and he needs to see you: prior to lunch or whenever you decide and issue a warning. You need to be strong. This is the test. Everyone’s eye is on you and what happens. If you allow him to sharpen his pencil then you must be willing to allow anyone to sharpen their pencil at any time. Once you establish your routine you need to stick with at least through the honeymoon. Pupils will test you on every aspect of the routine. The teacher needs to be prepared how to handle the situation. Once routine is established, there is less confrontation and more time for the good stuff, learning the academics!

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Entry filed under: Teachers.

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