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How to start the new year off right

New York Teacher
Young women talking to each other while seated in a large group gathering
Jonathan Fickies

Welcome to a new school year! The first few weeks may feel like a whirlwind, and you probably have a lot on your mind. Here are just a few tips to help you launch a great year.

Get to know your colleagues. If you’re new to your school building, it can be overwhelming to meet so many new people at once. Start by getting to know your UFT chapter leader and your fellow teachers on your grade level or in your subject area.

If you can, make time to visit other teachers who are comfortable letting you observe their classes. “Choose a veteran teacher who has a teaching style that you’d like to emulate,” suggests Rebecca Saintil, a special education teacher at Archer Elementary School in the Bronx.

Even if you’ve been in your building for several years, it’s likely there are teachers you haven’t had the opportunity to interact with. If you are already familiar with the teachers on your grade level, reach out to teachers in the grade levels above or below you to learn more about their practice. You may learn something that becomes invaluable in your own classroom!

If you’re working regularly alongside another teacher in your classroom, take time to establish strategies for communication. If you can, set aside a standing time each week for discussion — or ideally, if you’re in a team-teaching classroom, set aside time each day.

“You should be comfortable giving feedback and talking to each other,” says Alex Salomon of the UFT’s Teacher Center.

If you work with several different co-teachers and you have difficulty establishing a regular meeting schedule, consider developing a shared communication log where you can debrief through notes.

Think about how you’ll stay in touch with your students’ families. As part of the contract negotiated by the UFT and the DOE, you should have a block of time built into your workday — 40 minutes per week, which may be configured differently depending on your school — for engaging with parents and families. (If you feel like this time isn’t available to you, speak to your school’s chapter leader.)

Use the first few weeks of the school year, including curriculum night or open school night in September, to begin building positive relationships with your students’ families. You can use apps like Remind and ClassDojo to stay in touch with parents, whether you want to share pictures of your students’ projects, send a quick update about wearing sneakers for gym class or provide detailed information about students’ behavior.

The DOE’s Translation and Interpretation unit offers written and over-the-phone translation and interpretation services. For more information, call 718-935-2013 or email hello@schools.nyc.gov.

Reach out to your union for support. The UFT is here to protect your rights and support you in your new career. Whether you have a specific issue you need help resolving or you’re seeking broader support, the UFT is here to help. Reach out to your school’s chapter leader, call the union at 212-331-6311 or ask the union a question online.

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