Advice to New Teachers……
By: Damaris Caraballo
At the current school that I teach at there are currently 6 kindergarten groups. It was interesting to me to see that the dynamic of each group is unique and different. Each group is so unique, in fact, that we have pet names for each of the teams. Ms. Andreus’ class, is the laid back group, Ms. Bergevins class is the creative group, Ms. Logans class are “the boys” (14 of them!) My group has developed the reputation for being the “tough” group. This was the impression that all my peers had of my students. “Get ready those kids ran two teachers out of here!”, “Hang in there.” After week one I asked the principal, “is it normal to have a group of all high energy kids like this?” She answered, “You just never know it is like rolling the dice and whatever land in your class lands.” So here I was with the “troubled” group and this is what they have taught me so far…..
Training your students for transitions…
I will never forget day one. Here I was with all of my preps and copies and I was ready to hit the ground running. As my students entered the classroom I saw that there was no structure in place. They were running around the classroom backpacks all over the classroom kids playing and running. After 15 minutes of getting settled, and on the carpet, some students were lying on the carpet and stepping on each other’s hands. It was sheer pandemonium on the carpet that morning! I immediately pulled out my class list and had them sit in alphabetical order by their last name on a corresponding color patch on the carpet. I arranged them into 5 different color groups and gave each color group a team leader. I instantly started to rehearse procedures for sitting on the carpet criss-cross apple sauce my hands are on ice. I expressed to them the importance of sitting in this manner during meeting time. We cannot lie down on the carpet at school like we do at the carpet in our homes! I said it they got it.
I have never talked so much in my life. By day 3 I had to say it, say it, and say it, for them to get it. I lost my voice by week 2. What a badgering job I recall thinking. Have some tea handy.
The importance of practicing procedures
From the moment your students enter the classroom you are setting the tone for the day. How we enter the classroom and where we place our things in the morning is important. I had taken the time to purchase some shelves that were color coded. I color coded the tables as well. We practiced and practiced the morning routine. The following morning I recall my students walking into the classroom. I had a song ready for them. “Homework notebook on the table, backpack on your color shelf. Grab your activity book and sit quietly working. Quietest table gets a table point and the first students at the table working quietly in practice books gets leadership. Leadership to my kindergartners equates to a cool treasure box prize. I have the coolest treasure box in the world. Bribery works sometimes.
Teaching is so much more enjoyable when a set of procedures for every transition is in place. The goal is to have a class that is on auto pilot. As I was creating lessons and incorporating activities in my classroom I created procedures for every activity. I wrote them on a flip chart on an easel. It is located at the front of the class. I kept the procedures list short and visually fun with no more than 6 steps. We recite procedures, “ok, I say you say, Step 1: recite.” They would recite the procedure with me I would then model and have a table leader model as well. I would pick students to be leaders that model procedures well.
“When routines and procedures are carefully taught, modeled, and established in the classroom, children know what’s expected of them and how to do certain things on their own. Having these predictable patterns in place allows teachers to spend more time in meaningful instruction.” (Scholastic, 2011)
I found researching and asking my peers about their instructional daily routines was helpful. It aided me in shaping my routines and enabled my students in time to understand the importance of instructional time. Kindergartners are coming from different settings. Some come from unstructured home or vpk programs. While others are coming from very structured vpk programs. It was a challenge teaching all of my students the importance of adhering to routine and structure. A lot of my 5 year olds are at different maturity levels the spectrum is very wide at this age. I have babies and I have wise old students. Being consistent is the key to successfully getting students to follow routines on auto-pilot all at the same time regardless of maturity level. For the first few weeks it is not a good idea to implement a new activity that may shift the mood in the classroom or obstruct routines that are still being learned.
Attention signals are great! There are some teachers out there that have some pretty great signals from singing, to citing a rhyme or just ringing a bell. I found myself creating my very own attention signals that were unique to my class. I also have attention signals that I have stolen from other teachers. Attention signals are a great way to get the entire group to listen to instructions in the middle of an activity. There are times when a teachable moment might present itself. It is important to practice, practice, practice attention signals. I try to make attention signals fun for my students. One of the attention signals I like to implement is the “Class Class Signal”. This signal is used when someone enters the room. We say, “Class class good afternoon/good morning Principal Scott.” It has gotten to the point that we have done the “class class signal” so often that my students will automatically, in unison, say class when a guest enters the classroom.
A very time consuming yet necessary task is recordkeeping. I made sure to read my employee manual cover to cover before starting my files. I knew my schools attendance, tardy, fire and all the other procedures before I created all of my student’s files. I then printed out school forms, determined what folders would go where and I had to figure out what I needed to keep for reference or grades. I found this part of the job tedious. However, once all my organizational tasks were done I found it easy to grade and file etc… This should be done by the end of week one. Building your classroom management binder and ppt presentation for back to school night should be done now. Before you even land that first teaching job have this that back to school night presentation ready for delivery.
I conclude with two very inspirational quotes I have recently adopted. I digest these two interchangeably at different point as I embark in this career path. I am still willing and wanting to grow. Striving for excellence in all you do in unending. Always try your best and create a network of people who help in you positively grow. We cannot do it alone and always remember.
“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…. but the world maybe different because I was important in the life of a child.” – Kathy Davis
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.
I am still learning and growing as a teacher. Each class I teach takes me a step in the right direction.