A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

Monday, January 30, 2012

Five Months in... Lessons I've Learned

As we end the month of January, I would be completing my fifth month as a full-time first year teacher (with my own classroom).

Lessons I've learned in my short five months of teaching:
  • Always stay organized - you never know when your organization is the only thing that can keep you and your students sane
  • Never try to juggle two physical tasks at the same time
  • Don't call the security guard during his lunch period... EVER!
  • Don't forget to tell the students there is a homework assignment... or else it can lead to some serious trouble when it comes time to check homework 
  • Double & triple proofread your lessons and student notes before passing it out
  • Always make sure if the overhead/SmartBoard is willing to cooperate with you the day you need it the most
  • Be prepared for loud voices next door
  • Learn to LOVE water bottles
  • Teachers don't get bathroom breaks
  • You can get about 10 different things done within the 3 minutes between classes
  • Repeating yourself/your lesson plan 3 times isn't as easy as it looks - but it's not as direct as it sounds either
  • 13 - 14 year olds have at most 5-minute attention spans: quick movement, high quality and well planned out activities are highly essential
  • Personality makes a big difference in student attitude - and the teacher is the one that needs to make the first move
  • Make lesson plans and concepts relevant to your students by integrating urban culture and a modern twist to lessons
  • Have an orderly system for checking homework and correcting homework so that it wastes minimal class time
  • Wait for the students to resolve the problem first, then apply your pre-set consequences
  • Be prepared for when the discipline AP doesn't follow through with what you hoped
  • Don't call students' parents as soon as an issue arises -- it may lead to serious child abuse
  • Going along with the above, have meetings with the students to correct behavior instead
  • Get to know your students outside of class - basketball games, school functions, Review Late Nights, etc
  • Drown out negative voices from other teachers, administrators and school personnel
  • Always plan ahead what work you will do in your prep, what work (if any) you will do in your lunch, what work you will do after school and what work you will do at home
  • Leave the school at no later than 5:30 to preserve your sanity and/or your safety... it gets dark early!
  • Go to the Bronx at least once during the weekend-- it's a great way to see some of your students and learn more about the culutre of the Bronx and the realities the students have to deal with
  • Make math come alive to students by associating concepts with their strengths: raps, videos, etc
  • Help students with organizational skills before it gets too late
  • Get to school EARLY to copy student notes before all the ink "runs out"
  • The Dollar Store is your best friend
  • Be prepared to run into some opposition when you suggest to your principal that you want to take a field trip... ANYWHERE.
  • Expect not to get too much feedback on your evaluation - even though my principal's pretty good at giving good, quality feedback during the post-observation conference, she's not so good with writing it down
  • Have some good parenting tips written down for when parents ask you for parenting tips during parent-teacher conferences
  • Dressing up isn't as important to the administration or the students as college professors make it sound
  • Middle schoolers are extremely rewarding to work with
  • Set high goals for the students... but post them visibly in the classroom to clearly communicate your goals/expectations
  • Teaching portfolios and document cameras are absolutely essential to an excellent first year experience!
  • Reflect on lessons individually; but also let students put in feedback about your lessons
  • Give your first period a nice treat at the end of each quarter for being your guinea pig class... but save some for the other 4 classes!
  • Learn to love Urban Dictionary, even though I just recently found it, but my friends have known about it for muchhh longer
  • Sit students in groups for maximum participation, but arrange it so all students can see the board during instruction (had some trouble w/ that at first... :( )
That's A LOT of material I've learned and newly experienced as a first year teacher.

And if I had my way, I wish every year would be like this year, but I recently got word that my successes may not be matched again next year, as I've heard from the 7th grade teachers that next year's 8th graders are substantially more difficult than this year's students.


  1. Such a great list! This is the TRUE first year teacher experience!