This past Saturday, I spent my day at a middle school swim meet, swimmers had to be on deck at 11:30am, my son actually started swimming at 3pm, and the meet ended around 5pm. As middle school students do, they made plans and expected the parents to spend more of the day driving them around to their next location. So, as parents, we joined this tradition and transported wherever needed, which happened to be the local Pizza Ranch. Another parent offered to bring our son home from the restaurant, so we quickly jumped on this opportunity and headed home, we had a holiday party to attend.
The drive home was not far, it was just under five miles. We were at the last four way stop, then one more turn and we were home free! The lady in front of us was turning into a driveway, so we stopped. My husband was telling me a story, and all of the sudden he said, “HOLD ON”, he had looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a minivan coming up behind us way too fast. Sure enough, I remember hearing, “Bang”, and the crunch of a lot of metal, I don’t think I will ever forget that sound. The force of the impact sent us slamming into the car in front of us. I sat there stunned for a second, and my husband said, “Get out”, which was a good idea, but easy for him, his car door could open, so I crawled over and got out of the vehicle. The minivan ended up next to my door, it was and elderly couple next to us and they were both literally in their airbags. After a bit of time, which felt like forever, they were able to get out of their vehicle. I am not sure how the man was able to get going so fast from a four way stop, but he managed to do it. He hit us so hard the crash broke both of our axles. As I grabbed some things from our car, I noticed how everything had shifted, we had a check above the visor and that ended up in the sunroof. I had taken a new book to the swim meet to read and that book ended up on the floor mat in front of me and it was crinkled and wet. I know this is minor, but when you have a brand new book one moment and then it is damaged the next, your teacher voice plays in your head.
My neck is still sore, I have bruises from the seat belt working properly, and am a little nervous to even drive at this point. I am so grateful that our son was not in the car with us, that his friends were not in the car with us, and that the man hit a car where there was no one in the backseat. There are so many lessons to be learned and things to reflect upon with this accident, because life is short. One of the major lessons is to be grateful for every moment!
But, I wanted to bring this incident into the world of teaching and I asked a middle school student how I could use “Hold On” for a my blog post and he said, “Tell new teachers, “hold on”, it is not as easy as it looks”. This made me laugh, but then the reality of the statement was powerful. We all have to “hold on” at times during our career, but with planning, preparation, and organization, things become a lot more manageable. So, I thought I would take the teenagers advice and offer some strategies that may help you along your path:
- Build relationships with students – building relationships will help with management and overall student success. But, another benefit is that building strong relationships helps you really enjoy your job. I absolutely loved my students and they made me laugh, these relationships are priceless.
- Find a mentor – it is helpful to have someone who has “walked the walk” to help support you. Their guidance and tips can assist you on this exciting adventure. You want to find a mentor that you are comfortable with and trust. I’ve had mentors in my life and I train mentors, when you find a good one, they are an angel in your life!
- Be firm, yet fair – you will find out quickly that if you do not have strong classroom management, the students will take control of the classroom for you. Having organization, procedures, routines, and consistency are a must in the area of classroom management.
- Build your Professional Learning Network – get connected on Twitter, you will be happy that you found a place to learn from educators all over the world. Attend conferences and workshops that are offered, it is a chance to continue to grow and hone your craft.
- Communicate with parents – establish relationships with parents that are proactive. You want to have a solid foundation with the parents, they can support you as a teacher and help create a collaborative culture. You do not want the first contact with a parent to be negative, such as contacting the parent because the child is in trouble.
- Utilize technology – students are technology savvy and will genuinely show interest when you use technology. If you have a computer specialist in your school or district, find them and work on some lessons together.
- Observe other teachers – many schools have implemented Classroom Learning Labs, Instructional Rounds or Peer Observations. If your school is not using this type of professional learning, take it upon yourself to observe a fellow teacher during your planning time.
- Use your prep time – do not spend time talking to others just to fill your time or scrolling facebook. Use this time to organize your day, plan for a lesson, or review assessments. Some teachers are fortunate to have common planning time with their teaching teams and some of your time can be used to plan and collaborate.
- Ask for help – all educators have been a new teacher at one point. Teachers are caring people and want to help others. Do not feel shy or bad about asking for help from others, many teachers are more than willing to assist you.
- Have a weekly game plan – In my first month of teaching, I remember planning each night what to do the next day. Sure I had an overall “idea” of what I was going to do, but I was up late each night working, exhausted, and going to school early to organize materials. I soon realized I needed to have a weekly game plan to save myself time and energy. I know there are educators that are extremely organized and have a longer game plan, but for me, a week worked well, find your best planning strategy and save yourself some time.
- Do not be too hard on yourself – we all make mistakes, do not beat yourself up over mistakes that happen, learn from them and grow professionally. My colleagues that have an appreciative mindset, view mistakes or problems as “opportunities” to learn.
- Take time for yourself – it is easy to let your first year of teaching consume your life. You cannot continue year after year at that pace, or it will soon catch up with you. Make sure you take some time for yourself, rejuvenate little bit, you will be a better teacher for it.
- Have fun – you entered the world of teaching because you had a love for children and/or a love of your content area. Embrace the moments of humor and laugh with the students.
Take some time over break to focus on self care. All the educators you know have been “new” at one point in their roles, we are here to support you, cheer you on, and collaborate. We want you to succeed, we want the best for you and your students. Please reach out to any of us.