New teacher diaries

Getting ready for a new year

New Teacher Diaries

As I have reflected this summer on my first year as a teacher, I feel I have grown a lot as an educator and will certainly start this coming year off very differently from the last.

Still, many people have told me that the second year is in some ways harder than the first. In the first year, I was not as hard on myself when things went wrong, telling myself it was a rookie mistake that I would learn from. In my second year, however, I know I will not be as forgiving. I’ll still be experimenting a lot, trying new techniques and lesson ideas. But after seeing how poorly my students did on the Regents last year, I am determined to do much better with my second crop of students.

Here’s what I’m thinking about as I head into the last few weeks of summer:

  1. Lesson planning: Having strong lesson plans and unit plans ready before the year starts was a goal of mine last year that didn’t really pan out. I had only about a week and a half fully planned before beginning the year, and that set me back for the rest of the semester. This year I already have a week planned out, plus the overviews for the following two weeks, and I still have plenty of time to plan.

    My goal now is to have the first two units (about eight or nine weeks) planned before I start. I will also have time to co-plan, so that both my special education co-teacher and I are on the same page with the lessons. If I can do that, I’ll be in great shape going in.

  2. New classroom routines: I’m redesigning how certain things work in my classroom, especially homework. Last year, I planned to give homework almost every night, but the excessive amount of time I spent grading made me cut back.

    After observing a friend’s system, I plan to give homework every night, so that it becomes a routine, but not collect it every time. Instead, students will check each other and I will simply record whether it was done or not. I also plan to allow more time for students to go over homework and quizzes. I ran out of time last year, but with better planning, I can surely fit this in.

  3. Creating a student-centered classroom: I read the book “Work Hard. Be Nice” this summer and it gave me some ideas about how a classroom should run — crisp, smooth transitions and lots of back and forth between students and teachers, like having a conversation. I want to include more student choice and have more classes driven by their questions and interests.

    Obviously it will still need to be directed in a way that prepares them for the end-of-year tests, but giving them ownership and having stricter policies will help with my classroom management.

  4. Making learning more fun: While fun in the classroom is a controversial issue, I feel that students learn much more when they are absorbed and enjoying what they are doing. With proper planning, I think I can avoid the common pitfalls of having fun destroy any learning.

    There are ways to have both. I love the arts, especially music and drama, and I know many of my students do as well. By incorporating those things into the classroom, I can differentiate instruction to reach all learners and create lessons that truly engage students.

  5. Decorating the classroom: First impressions are very important and, although most of my students already met me last year, I want their first glimpse into my classroom to tell them that this is a new year and it is now their classroom. I didn’t do a great job last year of having essential questions around the room and using the posters that I did have in my lessons.

    This year I want my walls to be covered with student work, vocabulary words, reminders and colorful posters to get kids excited about the classroom.!

    There is much more to do, but these are my top priorities. I hope all the other teachers out there are feeling confident about the upcoming year!

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