Wow! That is how I will be starting this week’s weekly newsletter to my staff! I was lucky enough to spend time with some amazing educators this week…my teachers met with me to enjoy sweet treats and discuss celebrations and progress during this challenging school year (yes, our district was devastated by Hurricane Harvey)! And, I have to say…they are simply AMAZING!
This did not happen by accident and it did not happen over night! Just like most other schools across America, each year I have to make tough staffing decisions, hire new teachers, and ensure that those who need extra support get what they need. This takes time and energy…and sometimes some trial and error! So, as a new teacher, or someone who wants to improve their craft, here are my suggestions for you to ensure you can make the same progress that my teachers have made this year!
- The first day on campus in August is one of the MOST important days of the year! I believe in first impressions and this is your chance to make it or break it! It will be scary…whether you are new to teaching, new to the campus, or you have any kind of history at that school. Walk in with a smile! Although you can no longer hang in your shorts and flip-flops, you should be excited to come back and start the new year! Walk in with confidence! No matter what your experience level, you are on the campus for a reason…prove to your leader they did not make a mistake by having you on the team!
- Build your network! I will be honest…I was a very shy, young, new teacher and I had to find a network that worked for me. Growing up, I would not say I was a “popular” kid, so I felt that this was my chance to re-invent myself. I did accomplish that, but I had a time when I felt my network should be the popular teachers (who may not have always been the most positive group of teachers)…again, trial and error! Find a group that will be a good support system for you. You will NEED these people throughout the year to hear you cry, listen to your concerns, ask questions, and share your joys! Choose wisely!
- Remember, school begins day 1! I ask my teachers to spend most of the first week of school building relationships and ensuring students understand expectations and procedures. This is the first, and possibly the most important part, of learning for the year! Once this is accomplished, teaching and learning can flourish! I am very passionate about teaching and learning…and as a classroom teacher, I knew I could not waste even one minute of time. My day was planned for success and for learning. EVERYTHING we did was tied to learning…even recess! Time moves fast and you want to ensure your students make the most progress possible!
- Your team needs to become your new group of best friends! I use a few cheesy lines with my staff each year, but one I think about here is…you don’t have to like everyone who works here, but you are a team and you need to ensure you are working together. I share “team” responsibilities with teams at the beginning of the year…two that stand out are: the team is responsible for the team and the team is only as strong as its weakest link. Once each team understands the responsibilities, they develop two team goals that they commit to working on together to accomplish each year. My staff has done such a great job with this task this year! I am so proud of them! They have learned the true meaning of working as a team AND supporting each other for the greater good of the team, even if everyone isn’t friends outside of school!
- Find ways to have fun! This is hard work…and if you only view the world of teaching and learning as hard work…it will always be hard work! Make learning activities fun! Find ways to build relationships with your colleagues so you enjoy spending your time with them! I was lucky as a classroom teacher in Houston, TX…most of us were transplants for other states so those I worked with became my family! We grew together, our own children grew together, and we are still together socially although we all have taken on different leadership roles! They are priceless to me and I know they are a big reason why I have been able to continue this work for such a long time!
- Finish strong! What makes me smile each year is to see how much progress students and staff (especially new staff) make by the last months of the year. Something I am working hard with my staff right now is to ensure that we do not let up or give up, and finish the year strong! The end of the year brings many challenges like increased student discipline infractions and a lot of paperwork to wrap up the year. This can be overwhelming! The weather begins to warm up (well, in Houston it does…sorry to my friends in the north!), and students AND staff want to be outside. And, everyone is tired! But, don’t give up! I always remind staff…you have worked too hard all year to not finish strong!
Teaching is challenging! Even after 22 years, I am TIRED on Friday evening! And as we all are seeing right now, we are never compensated for the work we do! But, the work we do is some of the most important work there is…and as you have heard me say, we do this because it is a calling! Finding ways to use your team and making the work more enjoyable has been one of the keys to my success! I don’t have all of the answers, but these tips above have helped me over the years!
Sparkle on, my friends!