Parents are filling the vehicle drop-off zones, teachers are organizing the books and desks, and students are flooding the hallways and classrooms. All things are set in motion to begin yet another amazing school year in Florida.
For many educators, this time of year is both exciting and a bit stressful, so we recruited 2016 Florida Teacher of the Year Diane McKee, a 14-year teaching veteran, to share her top tips to help new educators have the best teaching experience possible. We hope this list will help guide you as you settle in to the new academic year. Have a helpful tip we left off? We’d love to hear from you – leave a message in the comments section and everyone can benefit!
- Set the tone. To make sure students feel comfortable in your classroom, greet them at the door, make eye contact, call them by their names and be sure to smile. Creating a safe environment from the start to ensure students know they can share ideas and ask questions freely. It’s also a good idea to take some time to let the students know who you are as a person. Sharing why you became a teacher can be a great start.
- Use class builders. Classes are just beginning and students are likely to feel shy or apprehensive with a new teacher and, in many cases, new classmates. Use short icebreakers, team builders and class builders to establish a collaborative environment.
- Establish a clear routine. Define a clear set of guidelines and procedures for entering and exiting the classroom, managing classroom materials, and everything in between. Practice it repeatedly until it becomes routine – for you and the students. Your students will feel organized and the rest of the year will run more smoothly as a result.
- Set high expectations. The most effective teachers are often the ones students think are the most difficult. Challenging your students will teach them lessons that will serve them well as they continue their education and, one day, pursue careers.
- Be flexible. Great teachers are always willing to be flexible. If a lesson isn’t working out quite as you’d planned, don’t be afraid to throw it out, regroup and try another approach that may reach your students better.
- Communicate with parents. Parents can be your biggest allies, so it’s important to contact them within the first few weeks of school to make sure they know how to reach you with questions or concerns about their student. Establishing trustworthy relationships with parents early on creates a collaborative environment that enables you both to ensure students get the most of their educational experience.
- Positive peer collaboration. Open yourself up – share and collaborate with your grade-level team or other staff members and don’t be afraid ask for help when you need it. You will likely find that you have similar experiences to your peers and that the road to success is easier when you are not going it alone!
- Set clear objectives. Have a clear focus posted for each day’s lesson that clearly connects to previous lessons. Many students need to know the direction you intend to take and why in order to “buy in” to your plan.
- Maintain a strong work ethic. Always have a “never say die” attitude. Teaching can be a draining job and there will be times that you feel it requires everything you have and then some. Always remember that the most important tasks are rarely the easiest, and your students are relying on you to help them become tomorrow’s leaders.
- Take care of yourself. Teacher burnout is not a myth, but it can be avoided. Be sure to schedule some “me” time each week to reenergize and relax.