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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Planning for Your First Day at School

Although it's not generally a good idea to clutter your classroom with framed family pictures or your collection of ceramic apples, there are a few personal items that can help you make it through the year. They include:
A diary. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to jot down your thoughts and impressions about the day's events. Was there a lesson that went particularly well, or particularly badly? Why? Did a difficult discipline problem arise? How did you handle it? What was the result? What successes did you experience? What compliments did you receive? As the year progresses, the diary will help you identify what works and what doesn't word, and it will help you find alternate strategies. It will also document your growth as a teacher, something you may not recognize otherwise. Who knows? There might even be a book in it!
A personal appointment calendar. Yes, a date book will come in handy for reminding yourself of faculty meetings, PPTs, and scheduled observations. More importantly, it can be used to document the unscheduled events that crop up during the day, and often come back to haunt you weeks later. You might think you'll never forget the day Darrell's father called to complain about your discipline policies (the first time!), or that Tamika's mother stopped in to request a speech evaluation, or what you did when Patrick bloodied Jose's nose on the playground. But you will! Jot it down immediately in your date book. And keep the date book in, not on, your desk!
A personal survival kit. Store (out of reach of students!) a personal teacher survival kit. Include such items as a small sewing kit, safety pins, bandages, suntan lotion, change, snacks, tea bags or coffee singles, bottled water, breath mints, tissues, hand sanitizer, a spare pair of pantyhose (if appropriate!), sneakers and socks, a scarf and gloves, and any other items that will make bad days and minor catastrophes a little easier to deal with. None of those things are absolutely necessary to your success as a teacher, of course, but having them handy will make your life a lot less stressful.
A sturdy canvas bag to keep it all in.
Confidence breeds competence. You'll feel a lot better about facing that first day of school if you take the time to become familiar with the school and with the people you'll be working with. Before school starts:
Familiarize yourself with the school building and grounds. Sure the principal took you on a quick tour, but how much did you absorb, or remember? Take the time before school starts to retrace your steps. Locate the bathrooms (not just the one closest to your classroom!), the gym, the cafeteria, the media center, and the nurse's office. Note where they are in relation to your classroom. Ask where resource classes are held. Find the audio-visual equipment and supply closet and ask about checkout procedures. Take notes or draw yourself a map.
Visit the school Web site. A school Web site can provide valuable information about the school and community, as well as insight into what's expected of students and teachers.
Review school policies and procedures. Ask about any procedures that are unclear. Learn the reasons for any policies that don't seem to make sense. Every school has its own history and problems. You'll be better equipped to follow policies and procedures correctly if you understand the reasoning behind them.
Make friends with the school support staff. They're the best friends a new teacher can have. Introduce, or re-introduce, yourself. Remember names. Ask about attendance and lunch count procedures, if you're not sure about them. Find out how to get an e-mail address. Make it clear you expect to make mistakes at first and that you know they might be inconvenienced. Ask how you can make their lives easier. Bring doughnuts!
Make a friend. Choose a teacher at your grade level or in a nearby classroom and ask if he or she would be available to answer questions or give friendly advice during the first few weeks of school. Let that teacher know that you're open to suggestions and eager to learn.


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