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Monday, 6 January 2014

Top Ten Tips


Lauren over at Love Laughter and Learning in Prep, asked me to help her with a button for her fabulous first linky party! I was in love with the idea straight away. Teachers in Australia will head back to school in a few weeks, after a refreshing summer break, and some NEW teachers will be starting in their classrooms for the first time. 

My sister is currently doing a teaching degree, and we chat often about 'becoming a teacher' - it does make me realise how far I have come, and how much I have learned in the years I have been teaching - BUT as I always tell her, I am still learning so much myself. That in itself is my number one, above-all-else, put-it-in-CAPITAL LETTERS top tip - 

ALWAYS LOOK FOR MORE TO LEARN!

The most effective people I see arrive each day at school, to 'teach' are the ones that NEVER act like they know everything. Believe it or not, some turn up on their first day that way, and perhaps think they need to appear confident and current. Honestly, if you are eager to learn new things and absorb as many ideas and skills form your colleagues as possible, you will not only be embraced, but become the best teacher you can possibly be. There is nothing great teachers love more, than helping others to learn - and that includes their adult collegaues! 

Learn from everyone and everything around you. Soak it all up and take the bits that suit you and merge it together to form your own unique pedagogy. MY top tips may not work for you, but they may help to think about things a different way. Keep looking until you find what works for you in the classroom. Remember, the days you have with your class over the year, represent a journey for you all, try some things, if they don't work, change them, try something else - make it BETTER! It will be great for the kids to see how things transform anyway. You DO NOT need everything perfectly ready to go and worked out on day 1! 

1.  Top Tip for Classroom Organisation
Oh my. I have so many. Organisation is my strength, and it is hard to narrow it down. I guess the BEST way to get organised overall is to think and create a system for how you are going to deal with paper. You are going to see a LOT of it!  

I did a post in 2012 about 'clearing the clutter' - and it will describe what I do to make sure I try to handle each piece of paper only once. It sounds complicated  but once you get a system, you will be all set. Otherwise, you are going to end up with great piles of paper everywhere and it gets very hard to keep track of what you should be doing. When your paper is organised, you will notice a difference in how you are coping in the classroom. 

2. Top Tip for Behaviour Management
There are SO many systems and techniques you can try - find what works for you. My #1 top is to start VERY simple. You will be surprised to find that children do not need too many bells and whistles. You can always add more fancy-pants gizmos and systems as you need them. I learnt this after seeing a VERY effective male colleague in my first year of teaching. He had a sheet of coloured sticker dots at his desk. Nothing special, just the standard issue stickers that were supplied by his employer. His kids would do ANYTHING for a 'dot'. I could not understand it. I had spent $100 on fancy shiny stickers and stamps to bring along to my first day. But its not the sticker you see, but what it represents. That teacher had worked very hard to build a classroom community, and his kids respected him. If you build up a great relationship with your class, they will be just bursting to try to impress you and make you happy. If a lesson is just not working, read a story. Sing a song. Take a break. You can always come back to your lesson when you 'have them'! Give yourself time. Have high standards, and tell your students when they are not meeting them. Tell them HOW they can change what they are doing to meet them. Be specific. Praise them when they are doing well. Look at what YOU are doing as a teacher if you cannot get their behaviour settled. The children will be a true reflection of how you are as a teacher (most of them!). 

3. Top Tip for Being a Team Player
Listen. Everyone has something to contribute. TRY hard to consider the views and ideas of other people. Give yourself time to consider what other people have shared. At times, people do not express themselves in the best possible way when they are put on the spot or when an issue is first raised. Sometimes, you do not 'hear' it the right way. School is a people place. Its all and everything we do really. Don't be too hard with people, we expect our children to learn compromise and compassion, we need to model it ourselves as teachers. 

4. Top Tip for Time Management
Get a day planner, and write EVERYTHING down! Scrawl it, jot it, highlight it. It is not pretty, it is YOUR BIBLE! Keep it open on your desk everyday and take it home at night with you each afternoon. 

When you are teaching, think about how you are going to end things. How are you going to move to the next lesson/session. What time do the children need to be finished. If you consider these issues before you start, you will manage your time much better as you go along. 

5. Top Tip for Engaging Students
Do not just rely on the interactive whiteboard. If you have K-2 classes, you are more likely to get higher engagement with real physical objects like puppets, books and items the children can touch. If YOU get excited about something, your students will too -tell them how special something is, and how much you trust them to be doing something so special. It all builds suspense, and children love it. Most importantly, follow through and keep consistent with ideas and activities you introduce. If the children see that its worth your time every day, and it becomes part of their daily routine, they will be fully engaged - promise!

6. Top Tip for Getting Along with Parents
Treat them how you would like to be treated. Be kind, happy, warm, friendly and professional.  Be clear and consistent with information you give them. Make sure they know from the beginning of the year, the times that are appropriate for 'a chat', and when a formal meeting needs to be made. Give them your time. It's part of your job. If you are organised and ready for you day's teaching, it will not matter if a mother wants to tell you a quick piece of information at the classroom door. You have her child for the day. It will mean the world to her, help open channels of communication and nip problems in the bud. Parents are HUGE sources of information about their children, you could spend the whole year trying to work on something that could be solved with one tiny piece of information.

7. Top Tip for Teacher Fashion
Comfortable shoes. Have a drawer in your classroom with deodorant, a brush, make-up (if you wear) and other items to help you spruce up through the day. Sometimes, its all it takes to help you get back on track!

8. Top Tip for Bargain Hunting
When I landed my first teaching job, money was very very tight! I went to garage sales and purchased a ton of toys and books that I could use in my classroom - and when most people found out what I was buying them for, they even gave me a discount! 

9. Top Tip for Eating Well at School
Keep a box of healthy 'grab' food in your cupboard for days when you forget. Honestly  its nice to think that you will get to sit down to eat a nice salad for lunch - but over time  have learnt that if it need s knife, fork or plate, chances are its not going to happen till after 3pm. Keep a big bottle of water on your desk, and take SIPS throughout the day. Its much better for you to sip water and you won't need to run to the toilet too often (which is also hard to do at school). 

10. Top Tip for Staying Sane


Find an online community of teachers to yak too if you possibly can. Finding the TpT community and blogging friends has been the BEST thing for me, as through the school day (and after) there is often no time to debrief with your colleagues. Or if you do, it can often get negative. An online group of colleagues, from other schools (or even countries) can help you keep things in perspective. Teachers are generally positive people, and they will give you great advice if they are not involved directly in any issues you raise. 



So there you have, it ten of my top tips! Remember my main one, to constantly learn more. Find the most experienced teachers in your school, and soak up everything you possibly can from them. They are like goldmines. The wealth of information that comes from someone that has managed people and curriculum for 20 years is insane - do NOT ignore it! Most of them will be thrilled to help. Don't start a debate about what they tell you, say thank you, walk away and try some of it. I have found that most of the time, the 'old stuff' is the BEST stuff!!

The last tip was going to be about making your room look pretty, but I have seen some VERY effective classrooms that are not overly attractive. So, its a personal preference. Just try to keep it tidy!

I have a little gift here for you for your new classroom, if you are the sort that likes to 'make it pretty' - a 'READ' poster that will help you dress up a corner of the room to turn it into a classroom library.

Just click on the image to download it from Google Drive and print it out!




If you are a Facebook follower of mine, be sure to enter the giveaway on my post from yesterday!


Now, head over to Lauren's blog to grab some more tips!

4 comments:

Jennifer Reynolds said...

Love this list and "pinned" it to my favorite blog posts board so I can reference it again and again. I've been teaching 21 years, but need constant reminders and encouragement to keep calm and teach on!

Thank you!
~Jennifer
www.storiesandsongsecond.blogspot.com

TheElementary MathManiac said...

Finding an online community is such a great way for new teachers (and old ones!) to stay connected and learn new things. Love this post!

Tara
The Math Maniac

Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep! said...

Hi Mel,

Thanks so much for linking up! Your tips are really wonderful - I especially like the one about keeping the kids engaged. I find that my Preppies could take or leave the smart board (which I use very infrequently!) but go nuts for a cheap tool like a puppet or dollar store magic wand. :)

Lauren
Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep!

Beyond Traditional Math said...

I linked up to this with Top 10 Tips for Teachers of Elementary Math! Basically they are the top 10 things I wish I had known when I started teaching.

Beyond Traditional Math