Sunday, July 24, 2016

Free Number Sense Activity!

Want to download this super fun "Mystery Puzzles" number sense activity I made??? Just click on the picture below to hop over to The STEM Laboratory!  

I'd recommend using it with second graders, or first graders who love a challenge, but you can read more about using this activity on my contributing blog post, HERE.

Don't forget to print on some BRIGHT paper!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What I Learned During My First Year of Teaching

This post contains affiliate links.

I've been on summer break for exactly two months now, but it's been crazy busy!  My husband and I bought our first home, we are still remodeling it (like there is paint on my hands right now), and I just finished up an overly time-consuming summer class for my Master's degree.

Back-to-school items are starting to pop up in stores so before I start thinking about this coming year, I wanted to reflect on last year-- my very first year of teaching!

Here are some things I learned:

You will make it!
It can seem a bit scary when everyone around you says that your first year of teaching is the hardest, but it's really not that bad.  There will be ups and downs, but teaching is great (the KIDS are so worth it) and I promise you will make it past your first year!

Choose one or two things to focus on.
It's impossible to be good at everything-- that's life.  For me, I decided to focus on Guided Reading for my first year.  Since I teach first grade (SUCH an important year for reading), I wanted to learn more about teaching literacy and focus on that subject.  This fall, I'm hoping to go deeper into Math Workshop.

Plan ahead, but not too far.
Have a good idea of the topics you are teaching and when, but don't plan your exact days out two weeks in advance!  Things are always changing, so don't write in pen if you're OCD like me and hate scratching things out.

Be silly with your students.
My students loved it when I did silly faces or made jokes.  First grade doesn't need to be serious all the time.  They are 6 after all!  

Two words:  Classroom management.
Figure out the best system for you and be committed!  I'd recommend Whole Brain Teaching and The Leader in Me "classroom management styles".

It's okay to have a cute classroom.
Student learning is obviously the most important, but I spend so much time in my classroom, I consider it my second home.  Decorating my classroom made me happy to walk through the door every morning.  It's okay to decorate and enjoy your space.

Decor sitting on top of my filing cabinets.

It's okay to NOT have a cute classroom.
Your students care more about the relationship you build with them than the decor you bought at the teacher store!  Don't worry about having the cutest classroom in the school and just focus on being genuine with your students.

Simplicity is not a bad thing.
I had a ton of routines that we did Every. Single. Day.  I'm not saying I never mixed it up, but I definitely tried to keep the schedule consistent.  My students knew exactly what to do and I saved a TON of time!

First graders are brutally honest!
When I died my hair brown, my students cracked me up by saying things like, "I liked you better blonde".  HA!  

Less is more.
Yes there are a million cute things in the Target dollar spot... BUT you don't always NEED them.  If something is working for you, don't feel the need to reinvent the wheel.  Likewise, just because you put more posters up doesn't necessarily mean your students will learn more.  Clutter can be distracting to little minds.

You have to take care of yourself to be the best teacher you can be.
If you want to give your best to your kids, you need to SLEEP, EAT HEALTHILY-ish, and have BALANCE.  You are not required to put in 60 hour weeks in order to do a great job-- just be efficient and work with your teammates!

Just eating some blackberries!

You have a ton still to learn.
Realize that there are SO many things you still have to learn.  One thing I knew very little about (and still know very little about) is special education.  It's a little sad that my college degree only required one special education class, but to learn more I joined a committee that discusses students who are struggling.  There's a million other aspects of education that I don't know much about, but that is just ONE example.

You have a LOT to offer!
Realize that you bring value to your grade level and your school.  At the beginning of the school year I thought I HAD to follow the lead of the more established teachers, but eventually I figured out my own was of doing things and guess what? They worked!  Definitely lean on those around you for support, but also know that you are a professional and you bring things to the table!

If something isn't working-- scrap it!
I tried a handful of bathroom procedures, a bunch of different types of "morning work", and a boatload of routines.  If you notice that something isn't working for you and your class, don't be afraid to just try something new.  You don't have to wait for the next school year to change something.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek out help.
I know everyone says this for everything but really, ask questions!  People will be more than happy to help you as you get started!  I asked one of the reading teachers to show me how to do a RUNNING RECORD for crying out loud!  But after performing hundreds of running records since, I feel like I get a ton of information from them and I'm thankful that someone taught me the right way and I haven't been just winging it.

Make friends with your grade-level teammates.
This one is a biggie.  I know that every school is different, but I was super blessed to truly enjoy each and every one of the ladies who taught first grade with me last year.  It was wonderful to be able to relate to them, share ideas with them, and just have fun.  Again, first grade shouldn't be so serious in my opinion.

Dr. Seuss day with my super kind colleague. 

Make friends with everyone!
Make friends with the office manager, the custodians, the lunchroom workers, the nurse, the enrichment teachers, the people whose classrooms are right next to you, and pretty much everyone else.  It takes so many people to run a school and you'll end up needing those people to help you along the way... especially the custodian.

Use social media to engage with other teachers.
I learned SO much from teachers around the world through social media.  I found teachers who taught first grade on Instagram through the popular hashtags #iteachfirst and #teachersfollowteachers, and on Twitter, I found a ton of good ideas by searching #EdChat.  It's fun to see other people's classrooms and hear fresh ideas from all over the place.

Understand that parents truly love their children.
As a teacher you are guaranteed to deal with some confrontational parents.  They may disagree with how you teach something (since it's not the exact way they did it in elementary school), or they may talk to you in a rude way, but try to understand that every parent really just loves their child.  Think of things like conferences as an opportunity to brag on what their child CAN do instead of what they are struggling with (although you should include that too)!

There's a million other things I could talk about, but nobody wants to read my blog for three hours, so let me know in the comments if you have any questions, comments, or your own advice!

Still looking for a teaching job?  Does your resume need an update?