In my 16 years of teaching, I've worked at six different schools, so I know a lot about being a new teacher. In fact, you could say I wrote the book on it. Whether it's your first year of teaching or just your first year at a new school, I've got a few tips to ensure things get off to the right start.
Make Some Introductions
One of my favorite rituals is to walk the school halls and introduce myself to the staff and faculty. I do this every year, even if I've been at the school for a while. It really helps me get acclimated to the environment and get ready for the new year, which is essential for a new teacher.
Get acquainted with your new colleagues. Go for a walk with your new team. While you're at it, ask them questions about things you want to know, like the school's system for student arrival and dismissal, who has the 411 on technology needs, and how you'll go about ordering materials. I like to keep a running list of "now" and "later" questions. As the first week of school progresses, I make sure to get the answers to all of the "now" questions. The "later" ones can wait until the following week. If you're new to the school (or teaching), your list will likely keep updating for the first six months of the year, which is OK.
Avoid Excess Work
Many new teachers want to be sure they're prepared, so they try to plan out the entire semester in advance. I say no thanks! That's a big waste of time. Plan for the first week—no more, no less. Use the first week to develop routines for using the bathroom, sharing ideas, getting materials, finding the daily schedule, and other important classroom techniques and procedures. Your goal is to have everyone on the same page by the end of the first week of school.
Further reading: Is Going Back to School for Teaching Right for You?
Before you start planning for the next week, take stock and evaluate what you've achieved and what you didn't get to. Use this formula until you feel like your class is running like a well-oiled machine. That's when it's time to delve into the curriculum. Remember, you cannot effectively teach anything until you develop solid classroom routines.
Take It Slow
The journey through the school year is not a sprint—it's a long walk. I remember my first year of teaching clearly. I was constantly rushing, trying to plan too much, too soon. I ended up doing twice the work I needed to because for every one thing I did, I'd miss two important things and have to start again.
Don't rush into anything too complicated or challenging. Keep everything within your comfort zone. Go slowly that first week of school so you can set up the standards that will guide the rest of the year. Practice them over and over. Let kids get to know each other and, most importantly, get to know you! And find out what makes you comfortable. In which part of the room do you like to teach? What do you want your students to do when they come into class? You can use this time to develop your technique for the year.
Further reading: 4 First Day of School Ideas for Kindergarten Teachers
Being a new teacher can be an exciting and overwhelming time. But as long as you mind your comfort zone, take your time, and get the answers you need, you'll be off to a great start.