5 Things I Learned my First Year of Teaching
1. It's okay to not know everything.
I teach three subjects, two of which I don't feel prepared for, most of the time. At the beginning of the year, I would try to come up with an answer so I didn't look bad. Now I encourage my students to take charge of their learning. They are probably tired of hearing me say, "Google it!" But whenever someone has a question, that is my answer. Of course I follow it up with, "If you can't find the answer, come talk to me and I'll help you find it." Not only is it good way for the students to practice their internet search skills, but it gives me time to come up with the correct answer!
2. Students expect to be entertained.
I work at a 1:1 school, which basically means that the students are required to come to school with a Macbook Pro; 1 computer per 1 student. While this can often be a great benefit in class, it can also make teaching difficult. Gone are the days when kids got distracted looking out the window or reading novels in class... Now they are playing video games, Skyping and watching Netflix while I'm trying to teach the lesson! (Yes, these things are all against the rules, but I've caught students doing all of them.) If my lesson is interesting enough, I may only have one or two students off task, but when I'm teaching a routine lesson about analogies, for example, it's hard to keep even the majority of the group focused. The best thing I've found so far for keeping them interested is Kahoot! So the lesson is, entertainment helps students stay focused, lectures do not!
If you were to pop into my classroom and see that we weren't using our laptops, you'd most likely find us in the middle of a class discussion. Students love to share their opinions and explain their point view on issues. Many times, when I don't want to use technology, yet don't want to lecture, I'll give students a short prompt, let them think/research about it and then have a discussion. Something I think that the majority of the learning in my classroom happens during this discussions! Not only do the students get a chance to really talk about the topic, but I get to learn more about their worldview which allows me to make my classes more relevant to their lives.
4. A good teaching team can make all the difference.
When the year began, I tried to focus on creating relationships with all of the other 7th grade teachers at school. Well, I learned pretty quickly that this was not a good idea... Some of the teachers and I just didn't get along, and that's ok. Find a team that you can work with and stick with them! They are the ones who will back you up in sticky situations and help you tricky things like classroom management!
5. If Plan A didn't work, don't be afraid to try Plan B!
I'm a planner. I like to plan things. I often have difficulties adapting to changes in plans... This mindset had to change. At the beginning of the year, I had grand plans about the programs and websites that the students would use to make beautiful online portfolios of their work, and then I met the students. They didn't know how to use most of the technology I had planned to use, and I couldn't make that my focus... So I had to switch directions. Instead of making digital art, they drew pictures.. Instead of using Wix to create sites from the ground up, we used Google Sites to create simple, functional websites. Adapt, adapt, adapt... and the students will adapt with you! It's ok to experiment, after all, you get to start all over again next year!
As you can see, my first year of teaching has been full of trial and error, and of course mistakes... But I've also learned a lot and grown personally and professionally. I can't wait for the chance to start clean next year! Do you have any funny stories about your first year teaching? Any advice for a first year (or almost second year) teacher?? Leave your comments below! :) I look forward to reading your stories and advice!