Happy back to school! In honor of my officially becoming a tenured teacher (take that, new value-added teacher data reports to determine tenure), I present to you 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Teaching.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You put your students’ names on everything in your room only to find out that some of them are spelled wrong on your class list. Or some of them moved away and you’re getting three more instead. And now you don’t have enough little birthday cakes to complete your class chart! Something like this will inevitably happen in the first week of school. But the truth is, the only person who will notice is you — and if you resent the fact that you’re going to stay at school until 6 pm redoing it, you’re just going to make yourself miserable.
2. If you can put off until tomorrow what you planned on doing today…you might want to think about it.
I realize this sounds an awful lot like procrastination, which to most teachers is a dirty, dirty word. But as a new teacher, you’re going to be staying in your classroom until nightfall anyway. Your classroom is going to become a time-sucking vacuum of dry erase markers and despair. (That was poetic, no?) So if you really, really wanted to plan out your entire week’s worth of math lessons, but it’s after 5 pm and you’ve got at least an inkling of what you’re going to do tomorrow — go home. You’ll take care of tomorrow tomorrow; tonight, you have to take care of you.
3. You can only plan what you can plan.
You can’t build a house without bricks. So if you’re itching to start planning your word work period but your workbooks haven’t come in yet, don’t make yourself do the same work twice. If you’re a brand-new teacher, it will kill you that you have empty boxes in your plan book. Trust me, you will fill them with something. Probably forty-seven somethings that you won’t finish. Which brings me to…
4. There is no such thing as empty time.
When I first started in my own classroom, I used to panic about how I was going to fill all the hours in the day. Then I quickly learned that at no point in your teaching career, ever, will you look around the classroom and say, “Well, kids, we’re all done for the day! Let’s knock off for a bit!” First of all, if you have elementary schoolers, everything will take seven times as long as you think it will (except, of course, the activities you actually want to drag out). And you can always ask the kids to read. Or write. Or practice their math facts. Or…you get the idea. If you’re relatively innovative and have a good head on your shoulders, you will always come up with something for your students to do. That said…
5. Be prepared for anything. Really: anything.
Preps get canceled. Field trips get canceled. Assemblies get canceled. Push-in and pull-out teachers cancel. You know who never cancels? Your naughtiest student, that’s who. It always pays to have extra activities on hand — or at least in the back of your mind — that you can pull out when the copy machine breaks and you can’t hand out your social studies worksheet. Because idle students are restless students, and restless students are troublesome students.