I had the most unorthodox start to teaching – I was a performance major in college who “dabbled” in education. I taught early childhood music classes but didn’t have an education degree nor student teaching experience. I moved from Michigan to Texas to go to graduate school, but my heart wasn’t in it. At the last minute, I decided to take a year off and teach privately while trying to figure out my next steps. I went to a district on the west-side of Houston and applied to teach private flute lessons. Instead, I was offered a job to each elementary music. It was a Friday morning. I interviewed with two principals that afternoon and had a signed contract by 5 pm. School began Monday.
What subject/age and where was I teaching?
So like many first year teachers, I taught at two elementary schools. I was the support person for the full time music teachers. I taught Pre-K, Kindergarten and a few First grade classes. I loved my first year of teaching! Each school scheduled classes quite differently. My morning school allowed me to see my Pre-K kids every day for 20 minutes. It was sublime!
- You are going to learn as much from your students as they are going to learn from you. Embrace it!
- You’re going to have lessons that fail and it’s ok! My best lessons are the ones that tanked the first time because I had to go back and retool them, figure out what didn’t word and why.
- You’re going to get sick – alot. You can never wash your hands too much. Never. Ever. (ever…)
- It’s always about relationships. Your most challenging kids are not acting out to drive you nuts. They are acting out because they lack and desperately want one person to care about them. Do not take their behavior personally. Instead, tell them you are about them and ask them what they need to be successful. Seriously. And if it doesn’t work the first time, ask again and again and again until they believe you. Our toughest children often have home lives that would break our hearts. Their behavior towards you is not personal. Build relationships. Meet them in the morning as they come in the building. Invite them to have lunch with you one day with a friend. Give them a high 5 as they leave and tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow. Build positive relationships with your students and you will get the best from them.
- Make an effort to contact parents with a positive about their child. It doesn’t have to be a phone call, it an be a note, catching a parent in the drop-off/pick-up line – anything! I will never forget calling a parent about her son. From the moment she answered the phone, you could hear the anxiety in her voice as she prepared to hear something awful her child did. I was calling to tell her something beautiful her child did. She cried throughout the call because no one had ever told her something nice about her child. He was a 4th grader. Share the positive with parents! Parenting is hard and we all need a kind word about our child. And it makes the difficult conversations a bit easier because they know you care about their child.