Showing posts with label secondary teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label secondary teachers. Show all posts

12 tips for new secondary teachers

12 tips for new teachers 

Congratulations to all the new teachers who will be starting their professions this fall. Teaching is a career that can be the most rewarding, yet the most taxing--especially for first-year teachers. Here's some advice to help you get through preparing for your first day and how to get through your first few weeks. You can also check out the hashtag #dearnewteachers on Instagram to find other pieces of wisdom from the teaching community. Special thanks to my friend Sara from Secondary Sara for starting the hashtag and organizing the Instagram loop!

12 tips for new teachers

1. Don't worry about making your classroom look perfect (at least not right away). I made the mistake of spending way too much time decorating my room my first year that I found I wasn't nearly prepared enough for actually teaching. I was freaking out because I had the absolute ugliest room and just a week and a half to prepare for the first day. I spent so much time arranging and rearranging desks, applying and reapplying borders and bulletin board paper, and hanging posters that usually fell off the walls by the next morning that I hadn't really sat down long enough to plan out my first few weeks of teaching. What I learned from the experience is that making a connection with my students and planning engaging discussions and lessons was far more important than making sure I had a cute border around my bulletin board.

2. Make friends with the secretaries and custodians. We teachers rely on our support staff for so many things and they don't get nearly enough credit for all the work they do behind the scenes. Take the time to get to know these people. Ask them about their families, what they like about their jobs, what frustrates them, etc. Be genuine--they can see right through someone who is just buttering them up so they can ask a favor. Remember them before holiday and summer breaks with a gift card, their favorite drink and/or snack, or just a handwritten thank you card.

3. Invest in a good (and comfortable) pair of shoes. I cannot say this enough. You will be on your feet more than you ever have. There is nothing worse than having blisters and having to put on shoes the next day and be on your feet all over again. I have found that Crocs (YES, I said Crocs) make the cutest dressy/casual shoes that are the MOST comfortable I have ever worn (see pics). Regardless of the brand, make sure the shoes have some padding on the insole and sides and straps that won't rub and cut into your feet with wear. Your feet (and back) will thank you!

4. Ask for help. Hopefully, you will be assigned a mentor who is helpful, but if not, do not be afraid to ask people for help. Go ahead and call on your family members, your new coworkers, and/or your former teachers. Every single one of these people wants to see you succeed. And if the people you are asking aren't being helpful, keep looking for someone who is. Believe me, these people are out there.

12 tips for new teachers

5. Photocopy in advance. Don't wait to make copies the morning of the first day because there will be several other teachers who tend to wait until the last minute and that usually causes the photocopier to malfunction. Plan in advance and have copies made so you aren't rushing or panicking at the last minute. Also, try not to make TOO MANY copies way ahead of time, as your plans may change. I remember one year I thought I was so organized and had copies made for an entire semester. My plans changed so much that I ended up not even using half of the copies I made. Planning for a week or maybe two at the most should be sufficient.

6. Learn how to unjam the photocopiers. Unless your school has a policy against unjamming the photocopier yourself, learn how to do it yourself. Go ahead and have someone show you the first time it happens (believe me, it WILL happen). But pay attention and try to do it on your own the next time. The secretaries (or whoever resides over them) will thank you when they won't have to be interrupted to do it for you. Even though this advice seems to go against #4, there's a difference between asking for help once and then doing it yourself and asking for help EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.

7. No matter what you've heard about your students, don't prejudge them. I remember my first year at a new school when I had several people tell me I wouldn't be able to trust my students with some of the things I had on my desk and that they were a pretty rowdy group. Turns out, they were one of the nicest groups of kids I had ever taught. (And they never stole, broke, or messed with any of my stuff.) I didn't listen to these people mostly because I wanted to be able to form my own opinions AND I didn't want to sit and fret the rest of the summer about what a terrible group I would have. The truth is, students who may be awful for other teachers may be wonderful for you. Having a positive attitude--believing in the BEST of your students--is going to bring out the BEST in them.

8. Get to know your students. On the first day (and every day), greet each student at the door. Learn their names and what they like to do for fun. Attend their extra-curricular events, whether it is volleyball, football, academic bowl, or their choir concerts. You will see them in another light and it will mean the world to them to see you there. When they know you care about their lives outside of class, they are more willing to put forth an effort in your class.

9. Keep copies of your first day/week handouts for new students who join your class late.  Whatever you hand out to students the first day/week (your syllabus, get-to-know-you activity, reading list, etc.), have extra copies on hand for those students who join your class later in the semester. Even if it seems pointless to give those students an icebreaker activity two or three or twelve weeks into the semester, it's still a way for you to get to know them.

10. Be consistent. This is one of the hardest things for teachers and something you have to work at every single day. Being consistent means making an effort to treat your students fairly, whether it is with participation in discussions, consequences for breaking the rules, or the amount of homework you dole out each day or week. Students need consistency. It's essential that they know their boundaries so they know what to expect. Establish your rules and procedures, then stick to them. For example, if you normally give out 30 minutes of homework each night, don't all of a sudden assign three hours one night to try to make up for your own poor planning (and we ALL plan poorly at don't get upset when it happens).

Tips for new teachers

11. Expect the unexpected when it comes to planning. Along with consistency, planning and pacing your lessons will probably be one of the hardest--if not THE hardest--thing you'll find with teaching. So often, we'll have a perfect week planned out for all our classes, then we find out that there's a guest speaker one morning, half your students are gone the next day for a field trip in another class, and on the day you planned a test, there's a pep assembly for the sports teams. The time you spent planning this perfect week has been wasted. My advice: be flexible! (And try not to spend too much time planning because your schedule WILL be disrupted. Guaranteed.) I remember one year planning to finish a novel right before winter break so we could take the test before we left. Guess what? We ended up having snow days and there was no way we could finish it. My poor planning made it harder on my students when it came time to test over the novel. I learned that if I shoot for finishing a unit two weeks before break, we tended to finish it right on time. Every teacher is different and every class of students is different and will require adjustments in your pacing and planning. You just have to be flexible and go with what works for you.

12. Be confident AND humble. As a first-year teacher, you have a lot to offer students. You are younger and have a lot of energy, you have a fresh perspective on teaching, and you can probably relate to the students better than half the staff. Do NOT allow other teachers to make you feel as though you are inferior or not equipped for the job. Believe in yourself and know that you ARE qualified to be a teacher. At the same time, be humble when a veteran teacher gives you sage advice. Don't be too confident to think that you don't need other's advice when they give it. If I hadn't listened to the advice of the veteran teachers, I would probably have a lot more "don't do what I did" stories to share. Also, realize that not all the advice you are given is good advice. But even so, THANK that person for the advice. You don't want to make enemies on the staff, so be humble when they try to be helpful.

Here's a bonus tip:

13. Hang in there. It DOES get easier!

What advice do you have for new teachers? Post in the comments below.

12 tips for new teachers

Surviving Homecoming Week: Tips for Secondary Teachers

How to survive Homecoming week

For middle and high school teachers, Homecoming week seems like an endless struggle to get kids to focus in class while competing with pep assemblies, float building, dress-up days, hallway decorating, and last-minute dance preparations.

I've known teachers who took pleasure in punishing students with extra homework, tests/quizzes, and detentions just for being a little over excited. I've also known teachers who have a free-day every day and the kids have too much time on their hands and end up causing major discipline problems.

I think there's a happy medium. I try not to schedule homework during the week, but do have some productive class periods. Albeit, they are not as productive as in other weeks, but this is the ONE week students get to be kids and have fun, so I cut them some slack.

Valuable skills are practiced during Homecoming Week
And despite what some may think about Homecoming week becoming a lost week of learning, valuable learning is still taking place that might be even more essential in the workplace: students are learning how to work as a team on large-scale projects, leaders are being developed, negotiation and problem-solving skills are at their peak.

Over half of my years teaching I have been a class sponsor and have supervised more hours than I care to count (all unpaid). But one thing is certain: more students are able to participate in building these skills when they have a lighter homework load. Seeing students working together as classmates with only their pride on the line is a beautiful thing to witness.

To help your students participate in more activities, consider relaxing your regular curriculum for a day or two during the week with some creative activities. Don't worry, they will still practice learning skills. Here are a few to try:


BOARD GAMES: Playing games can be educational. I like to play word games like Scrabble and Boggle in class. You can set up stations and students can choose which game station they wish to participate. Taboo, Scattergories, Apples to Apples, Mad Gab, Pictionary, Bananagrams, etc.

OTHER GAMES: These games get students up out of their seats.

Heads Up: Make your own version with words related to your content area or a unit you are studying. One student must hold the card with the word on it and the rest of the class (or divide into teams) give clues so the one holding the card can guess the word.

Charades: Again, make your own prompts related to your content area or unit you are studying. Students act out the words/prompts for their classmates to guess.

Who Am I?: Perfect for reviewing people, events, even concepts or vocabulary words.

Never Have I Ever: As a way to review characters in a book or story or historical figures, have your students pretend to be characters and use events from the novel for prompts.

Students play Quizlet Live in class
Students play Quizlet Live in class.

ONLINE GAMES: If you teach in a 1:1 school, playing online games together can be fun. Plus, students love being competitive with one another. There's just something about a "game" that makes any type of review fun.

Kahoot: My students love playing Kahoot and searching the most popular games brings up fun topics like Disney movies, brain teasers, popular logos, name the celebrity, etc. You can also, of course, search in your content area for games. Students compete in various educational content areas (vocabulary, math, grammar, art history, geography, etc.) and raise $ to feed starving families at the same time.

Quizlet Live: Use your existing word lists for students to compete in live competitions with one another.

Socrative: No need to type in any questions; just read review questions, random trivia, homecoming-related questions, etc. Students compete live against each other.


WRITING PROMPTS: Writing shouldn't be boring or a chore. Make it more interesting by relating it to Homecoming.
• Have students journal about their favorite Homecoming festivities (dress-up days, assembly, skits, game, dance, etc.).

• Give them a prompt relating to the Homecoming theme (ex.: if the theme is related to fairy tales, ask them their favorite fairy tale or to come up with their own story; if it's a Western theme, ask them what life would be like if they lived in the Wild West; if it's about outer space, ask them if they would travel in space if they had the opportunity, etc.).

• One of my favorite short writing prompts is one I share free. I have my students do it several times throughout the year and they LOVE hearing what their classmates wrote. You can find it HERE and read more about it HERE and HERE.

Students creating found poems
Students create found poems in class.
FOUND POETRY: I keep a collection of words from my Magnetic Poetry Kit and cut from magazines, newspapers, posters, etc. I store them in little baggies that I hang on the inside of one of my cupboards. These come in handy so often. I love to have students create spur-of-the-moment poems relating to whatever we are reading or studying at the time. Use this activity during Homecoming week and have students create poems relating to the theme or whatever you wish.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (Classroom Edition): If you aren't familiar with the party game "Battle of the Sexes," it is a game in which men and women compete against one another by answering questions that are stereotypically geared toward the opposite sex. I use this activity as a way to jump-start discussions on stereotyping at the beginning of the year. But I like to have my students come up with the questions themselves. It can take a while to compile enough questions for a full game, so I do carry over questions from year-to-year. This is a game that students usually beg to play throughout the year, so it's a perfect addition during Homecoming week.

I hope these activities help you get through Homecoming week and have some fun with your students. Just remember: learning doesn't always have to come from a book.

If you are a class sponsor, look for my next post about the best materials to use and how to keep your sanity while float building, assembly organizing, dance planning, and more.

Surviving Homecoming Week: Tips for secondary teachers

Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale at TeachersPayTeachers

Super Secondary TeachersPayTeachers Cyber Monday Sale


Up to 28% off the entire site Monday, December 1st and Tuesday, December 2nd 

Use this promotional code at check out: TPTCYBER 

My fellow teachers who will be participating:
Super secondary TpT teachers want to wish you a wonderful holiday season!

Super Secondary TeachersPayTeachers Cyber Monday Sale


If you don't want to wait for the sale to start on Monday
I am currently having a huge BUNDLE BlackFriday14 sale on my clip art graphics and interactive reading notebook activities. This sale will only extend through today, so get them while you can!

Doodle Border Bundle for commercial use

Loopty Loo Doodly Doo graphics bundle for commercial use

Owls - It's a Hoot! Owl clip art graphics bundle for commercial use

New interactive reading notebook activity bundle:
Interactive reading notebook activities bundle - both fiction and nonfiction

Stay tuned for MORE great products I'll be uploading this weekend!

Enormous Giveaway to Celebrate #CatchingFire

Enormous Giveaway to Celebrate #CatchingFire

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In case you haven't heard, I'm hosting a huge giveaway on my other blog, Hunger Games Lessons, to celebrate this week's release of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." So many of my great teaching friends donated prizes for this cause, so you won't want to miss it!

The deadline to enter is midnight Sunday the 24th. You can enter here or see my full post HERE.

Look at these marvelous prizes:
Tracee Orman
Giveaway: $25 shopping spree in my TpT store

Secondary Solutions
Giveaway: $25 Gift Certificate towards any item in my TPT store

Margaret Whisnant
Giveaway: Touching Spirit Bear: A Novel Teaching Pack

Science Stuff
Giveaway: $20 shopping spree to Science Stuff store

Juggling ELA
Giveaway: The Hunger Games Task Cards

The SuperHERO Teacher
Giveaway: Research Binder Projects: 170 Pages of Common Core Aligned Materials

Danielle Knight
Giveaway: Idioms: Enhanced Lesson, Plan, Video Clip, Task Cards, Printables

Created by MrHughes
Giveaway: Easy Teach Poetry Unit

A Space to Create
Giveaway: Monster Creativity Workbook - Printable Writing Prompts and Activities
The Extra Energetic Educator
Giveaway: KaBlooEy! A Game of Factors

PowerPoint Maniac's Teaching Resources

Giveaway: Anything Under $7

Teaching FSL
Giveaway: French Comparison & Superlative with the Hunger Games

Giveaway: 7th Grade Interactive Notebook Bundle- Expressions and Equations- Common Core

Krystal Mills
Giveaway: Product of Choice

Teaching Math by Hart
Giveaway: Team Challenges - A collection of team building activities

For the Love of Teaching Math
Giveaway: Hunger Games Coordinate Graph

21st Century Math Projects
Giveaway: Treasure Hunters

The Creative Classroom
Giveaway: Common Core News Debate: Children and Reality TV
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Kate's Classroom Cafe
Giveaway: Scientific Method Inquiry and Experiment Design
Kate’s Classroom Cafe

The Tutor House
Giveaway: 6-8 Common Core Aligned Playing Card Math Mats
The Tutor House

Now that you've followed all these great stores, entering the contest will be easy. 
Just fill out the form.
And you can tweet and pin about the giveaway EVERY DAY for extra entries.

May the odds be ever  in your favor!

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