So I saw this linky party hosted by Tales of a Fifth Grade Teacher and I though this was a perfect follow up to my week of posts for Setting Up a Stellar Autism Classroom. As I am gearing up for the new school year I can’t help but think back to how nervous I was when I started my 1st year and all of little things I did (and didn’t do!) that year that were helpful!
General advice for a first year teacher
- Get organized right away. Start keeping a notebook with you or take notes on your phone for everything you think of that you need to do. I’m one of those people that thinks of great idea while I’m grocery shopping or at the gym but I’ll definitely forget it if I don’t write it down. Make a lot of to do lists and DO THEM. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed – stay on top of the little things.
- Get in good with the custodians, engineers, and office clerk! Bring them coffee, muffins, doughnuts – whatever. Their help can be the most valuable. When you need help because one of your students threw up or something is wrong with your paycheck – it will be much easier to ask them!
- Take advice from veteran teachers you work with but be ready to put your own spin it! Do lots of research. When I started there weren’t all these awesome teacher blogs out there! Look at other peoples’ ideas, see what resources they use, and browse other curricular approaches.
- Find what works for you! I talked about this in my ‘Seven Steps’ posts. I hated my first year when I would hear – this is what you are ‘supposed’ to do. Sometimes it didn’t work for me and it’s okay to mix things up!
- Spend one or two weekends in September making easy tasks. You can make more difficult and individualized ones later. Just take time to make some easy tasks so your students have enough work to do. You will avoid way more behavior problems if you set up your work tasks first. You will always be able to use the easy tasks for new students or students who are lower functioning. And you won’t need to spend tons of time teaching the tasks – they can get working right away!
- Teach your students one or two independent work tasks systems first (you can use these easy tasks here). Let them do it twice a day. Once you have your kids going and working you can start to set up your other stations or teach them other independent routines. I have a lot of first or second year teachers that come in my class and are overwhelmed by setting up so many stations. I didn’t have this many my first year! It took time to get set up.
- Don’t pick too many behaviors to work on right out the gate. You may have a student who engages in eloping (running out of the classroom) a few times a week and also whines when he works on more difficult skills and scripts scenes from movies – work on the most important (dangerous, disruptive, etc.) behavior first. For the example, work on the eloping first because that is the most potentially dangerous. Don’t work on them all at once. You will drive yourself nuts and you won’t be successful with any of the interventions.
- Work on hallway behavior right away. I made sure my students acted liked ANGELS in the hallway. Then when I approached general ed teachers about doing inclusion activities or collaborate on units, they were much more open to it than I thought they’d be. I know, I know… they should be open inclusion no matter what but you know what? Not everyone is – so may as well make sure to have your class put their best foot forward and make your life a little easier.
- Set up a easy-to-commit to parent communication system. Don’t commit to writing in a notebook for each student each day if you don’t have to. It takes FOREVER. Consider making a fill-in sheet that you can circle comments about the day. Ask the parents of your students how often they want to hear from you. I ask in my Intro Letter. I understand that parents of some of our students will want more communication than other children and I get it. For our kids that are nonverbal, they can’t tell their parents how their day was, what they ate for lunch, or what they worked on. That’s hard. I text a lot of my parents and do a big monthly newsletter.
- I’ve used this one before. My student filled it out himself and then I added comments on the bottom. Download a free copy of this Home Letter! Also – if you want me to customize this (Hi Mom instead of Grandma, different lunches, or different activities) leave a note in the comments and I’ll fix it up and email it to you!
Link up to and give your advice to new teachers!