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Ten Start-up Tips for New Teachers

10 Survival Tips for New Teachers

10 Start-up Tips for New Teachers

New teachers can “make or break” their school year in the very first days and weeks. Here are 10 start-up tips for new teachers that will ensure success and prevent costly mistakes. And check out the wonderful links following the 10 tips: Free Teaching Resources, Professional Journals, and Professional Organizations for Teachers.

1. Learn names quickly. You’ve got three days to know every student’s name and how to pronounce each correctly. This task is essential for establishing relationships and for classroom management. Try name games, such as “Let’s Go on a Cruise.”

The teacher says her first and last name and what item she plans on taking on a pretend class cruise. The teacher’s item should begin with the starting sound of her first name. The teacher calls on students to say both their first and last names and the item they wish to bring along on the cruise. If a student correctly selects an item that matches his name, he “can go.” If not, he must wait until the other students try and his “turn” comes again. After one round, or the next day, the teacher can select an item that matches her last name.

2. Get student information on an Excel® spreadsheet or on index cards. Parent names, parent signatures, all telephone numbers, all email contacts, learning challenges, student birthday, student hobbies/interests, and enough room to enter any future parent contacts with dates and brief summaries will build effective relationships and serve as you “go to” files. Make it your goal to get all important information in one place for “one-stop” shopping. Relying on multiple file sources is unmanageable. A little organization time now will save a lot of time later.

3. Make your first parent contact a positive one. Find something worthwhile to say about each of your potential “problem” students as soon as possible. The second phone call about “Tommy’s ongoing behavioral issue” will find a much more supportive parent after an initial “praise call.” Ask parents for tips as to how you can best address any of their potential concerns.

4. Desk arrangement should reflect your level of comfort and expertise in class management. Although your desk arrangement certainly will impact instructional strategies, such as cooperative groups or Socratic Seminars, your first priority is classroom management. Students can’t learn if they can’t listen, see, and participate appropriately. Individual seating placement is crucial. Never be afraid to change a student’s seat to improve behavior. Common strategies include the following: isolation from friends, placement next to quiet students, moving next to the teacher’s desk. Other more extreme placements can work, such as partial cubicle/corral seating, with parental support.

5. Diagnose only what you plan to directly address or what is essential to your initial instruction. Not all diagnostic information needs to be gathered at the beginning of the year. For example, elementary, middle, and high school teachers need to know whether their students can read the instructional materials. A simple one-minute fluency assessment in the grade-level textbook can give a social studies, science, or English teacher essential knowledge about which students will struggle with that text. Even new English teachers may wish to hold off on diagnostic phonics, reading comprehension, and spelling assessments until they are equipped and prepared to differentiate instruction according to the diagnostic data of these tests. Add on expertise one layer at a time. Teaching something thoroughly well is much better than teaching many things poorly. After all, what counts is student learning, not what looks good on a diagnostic matrix.

6. Ask to observe your teaching colleagues in their classrooms. Let it be known that you “have a lot to learn’ and that you want to improve your teaching craft. Praise fellow teachers every chance you get. Develop relationships with your colleagues on both the personal and professional sides, but have sensible limits on the former. Pay special attention to your relationship with the school secretary, office staff, and custodian. Practice random acts of kindness at every opportunity. Attend, but guard your behavior at the Holiday Party and bring something decent to staff potlucks.

7. Dress for success. New Teachers need every psychological bit of leverage available with students, parents, and administrators. Veteran teachers may snicker in their sweats or tennis shoes, but just smile and continue to dress above the level of the norm.

8. Avoid gossip and gossipers in the teacher staff room. Comments will always come back to you. Stay unerringly positive and avoid teacher cynicism.

9. Arrive early for everything and stay late, when you can. Show your work ethic, but guard your off-time and family to avoid burn-out. Ask colleagues to share strategies that lessen their work load, such as grading some, but not all, of student work.

10. Join and be actively involved in teacher professional organizations, such as the teacher union and associations relevant to your subject area. Attend workshops and move up the salary schedule with post-graduate work as soon as possible. However, consider focusing your studies to gain specific credentials, rather than just taking any course that looks fun, easy, and is inexpensive. You never know where your educational career will take you, but an administrative credential will always serve you better than a range of basket-weaving courses.

Free Teaching Resources and Blogs

Library of Congress – Resources organized for teachers. It’s all here. Warning! You can spend hours here and just begin to appreciate what is here. Our national repository of knowledge.

First Year Teacher Program – The Reading Rockets First Year Teaching Program is a free online course for new K-3 teachers. The self-paced course includes ten modules that cover effective strategies and techniques for the classroom.

English Companion – This year’s EduBlog Award Winner. Talk with the experts in the field of secondary ELA.

New Teacher Survival Guide – Scholastic provides a New Teacher Survival Guide to novice teachers who are looking for resources, tools, and tips for the classroom. The guide also offers a newsletter and a new teacher helpline.

Jen’s Reviews – Great tips on integrating technology into the classroom.

Classroom 2.0 – Great articles, not limited to, but focusing on technology in the classroom.

New Teacher Center – This national organization is dedicated to supporting new teachers and improving student learning. Site offering include news, stories, and information about upcoming education events.

Teachers Network – The Teachers Network site offers a special section just for new teachers. The section includes lesson plans, new teacher how-to’s, and web mentors who can offer more help.

Pennington Publishing Blog – 200+ grammar, reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, study skills articles from a reading specialist. Great free ELA/reading assessments. Even spelling songs! One of the best sites on the Web.

The Teacher’s Corner – The Teacher’s Corner is a good place for new teachers to find lesson plans, worksheets, teaching tips, and other teaching resources. The site also provides a forum to connect with other educators and a job board.

The Educator’s Reference Desk – The Educator’s Reference Desk offers a wide range of dependable resources, including 2,000+ lesson plans and 3,000+ links to educational information around the web.

Lesson Plans and Teaching Strategies – Created by California State University-Northridge, this web page links to hundreds of tested lesson plans and articles on teaching strategies and classroom management.

TeachAde – TeachAde provides free articles, videos, lesson plans, and other teaching resources. The site also serves as a space for teachers to meet and network online.

Teachers First – The Teachers First site provides a long list of education-related professional associations and organizations that provide teacher resources and support.

Meet Me at the Corner – Virtual Field Trips for Kids – New Kid-friendly episodes every two weeks. Links to fun websites and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities about each show.

New Teacher Resource Center – Wonderful freebies and sound advice for new teachers.

Professional Journals and Magazines

Educational Leadership 
Description: Educational Leadership discusses issues of literacy from the administrative perspective. All teachers should be more familiar with how educational administrators view issues and trends in teaching language arts.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Description: This International Reading Association journal concentrates primarily on the literacy of adolescents and adults. Articles on reading and writing research are combined with practical teaching strategies for the classroom teacher. Book reviews, too.

National Council on the Teaching of English
Description: This journal is published by the National Council of Teachers of English. It deals with language arts issues for teachers of preschool to middle school age students. It has both theoretical and practical articles.

Phi Delta Kappan
Description: Phi Delta Kappan publishes articles on educational research and leadership. Current issues and trends in education are thoroughly discussed.The 
Description: This International Reading Association journal deals with reading and language literacy at all levels. It has articles on recent literacy research and practical applications for the classroom.

Reading Online
Description: An online journal of theory and practice sponsored by the International Reading Association. This is a user-friendly journal with terrific Web resources.

Teacher Magazine
Description: Teacher Magazine discuses issues affecting schools today. It also has plenty of helpful articles on teaching strategies. Online Journals

Education Week
Description: Current issue plus archives. You can register for e-mail updates. Also contains a link to Teacher Magazine.

Teaching K-8
Description: Intended to supplement the print magazine, not duplicate it. Contains teaching ideas, loads of links.

ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides more than a hundred assessment, research, information, and program management services in the broad areas of education and workforce development.Professional Organizations for Teachers

Founded in 1977, the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) is a professional organization of scholars who are interested in and actively contribute to the multi-disciplinary field of applied linguistics. AAAL members promote principled approaches to language-related concerns, including language education, acquisition and loss, bilingualism, discourse analysis, literacy, rhetoric and stylistics, language for special purposes, psycholinguistics, second and foreign language pedagogy, language assessment, and language policy and planning.

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is concerned with improving the educational process by encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education and by promoting the dissemination and practical application of research results. Its 20,000 members are educators; administrators; directors of research, testing or evaluation in federal, state and local agencies; counselors; evaluators; graduate students; and behavioral scientists.

The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is an international professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of program evaluation, personnel evaluation, technology, and many other forms of evaluation. Evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organizations to improve their effectiveness.

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 64,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information. ALA offers professional services and publications to members and nonmembers, including online news stories.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for over 110,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. ASHA’s mission is to ensure that all people with speech, language, and hearing disorders have access to quality services to help them communicate more effectively.

The mission of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) is to promote excellence in research, teaching, and service for library and information science education.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is an international, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that represents 160,000 educators from more than 135 countries and 66 affiliates. Our members span the entire profession of educators—superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. We address all aspects of effective teaching and learning—such as professional development, educational leadership, and capacity building. ASCD offers broad, multiple perspectives—across all education professions—in reporting key policies and practices.

The California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (CATESOL) mission is to promote excellence in education for English language learners and a high quality professional environment for their teachers. CATESOL represents teachers of English language learners throughout California and Nevada, at all levels and in all learning environments. CATESOL strives to: improve teacher preparation and provide opportunities which further professional expertise, promote sound, research-based education policy and practices, increase awareness of the strengths and needs of English language learners, and promote appreciation of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

The California League of High Schools (CLHS) supports delivering relevant, standards-based instruction, meeting rigorous testing goals and proving once again that our high schools are exceptional places for students to learn and prepare for college and careers.

The California League of Middle Schools (CLMS) is committed to supporting middle grades educators and their students. A non-profit membership association, CLMS is dedicated to improving the professional knowledge of middle level educators so that early adolescents may experience academic success and personal well-being.

The California Library Association (CLA) provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services, librarianship, and the library community. We help members excel in a fast-changing job market. We’re a resource for learning about new ideas and technology, and we actively work to influence legislation affecting libraries and librarians.

The California Literacy Inc. is the nation’s oldest and largest statewide adult volunteer literacy organization. Its purpose is to establish literacy programs and to support them through tutor training, consulting, and ongoing education.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with dyslexia, their families and the communities that support them. IDA is the oldest learning disabilities organization in the nation.

The International Literacy Association (ILA) is a professional membership organization dedicated to promoting high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading, and encouraging the lifetime reading habit. Our members include classroom teachers, reading specialists, consultants, administrators, supervisors, university faculty, researchers, psychologists, librarians, media specialists, and parents. With members and affiliates in 99 countries, our network extends to more than 300,000 people worldwide.

California Reading Association The professional membership organization of California reading and content teachers. Dedicated to improving literacy in California, this organization sponsors a wonderful annual conference.

The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) works on behalf of linguists and the discipline of linguistics, often cooperating with other scholarly societies and alerting members to issues that may concern them in their own universities or other workplaces. At the same time, LSA also addresses a wider public, offering news on linguistic findings, answering queries about language, and supporting different efforts to disseminate linguistic perspectives on language issues.

Promoting educational excellence and equity through bilingual education, the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) is the only national organization exclusively concerned with the education of language-minority students in American schools.

(CABE) The wonderful California membership organization for bilingual education.

The National Council for the Teachers of English (NCTE) works to advance teaching, research, and student achievement in English language arts at all scholastic levels.

The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) has approximately 14,000 members in over 120 countries, and is recognized as a non-governmental organization (NGO) of the United Nations Department of Public Information. Its mission is to ensure excellence in English language teaching to speakers of other languages. TESOL values professionalism in language education; individual language rights; accessible, high quality education; collaboration in a global community; interaction of research and reflective practice for educational improvement; and respect for diversity and multiculturalism.

The College Board is a national nonprofit membership association whose mission is to prepare, inspire, and connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the association is composed of more than 4,500 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. Among its best-known programs are the SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT®, and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®). The College Board is committed to the principles of excellence and equity, and that commitment is embodied in all of its programs, services, activities, and concerns.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based resources for English-language arts and reading intervention. Check out his popular blog with over 700 articles and his FREE ELA and reading diagnostic assessments.

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