6. Choose 1 weeknight each week to go out. For me, it has been Taco Tuesday at the Salty Senorita. $1 tacos and $5 buckets of beer–what could be better? It helps me unwind after a long day of teaching, and it makes the week more bearable to know that you won’t have to wait until Friday night to do anything fun.
7. Do not decorate your classroom. I repeat, DO NOT decorate your classroom. There is a big difference between decorating and organizing. Bulletin boards that serve no functional purpose, “motivational” signs, cute quotations, and any other method of decorating are off-limits. Save your time, space, and money, and keep your classroom super-organized and simple, and keep the walls mostly bare. You will want that space for chart paper “anchor charts” that you should create during lessons and then keep up on the walls for students to internalize what you have taught.
I do, however, have a few tips on things to buy for your classroom that are helpful. A rocking chair for read aloud. Magazine holders to store workbooks, folders, and random things that you want to keep at your fingertips (I label these by subject). A lamp to turn on during read aloud. Plastic crates for hanging file folders (use these as mailboxes for students and portfolios). A categorized and organized classroom library that YOU control all access to (if you don’t, be prepared for your books to sprout legs and walk away). Blue tape to section off areas of your white board for specific information. Bins to organize all of your copies by subject. Binders to keep your lesson plans and handouts organized by unit and subject.
8. Plan specific time each week for classroom community building, student recognition, reinforcement of rules and procedures, and conflict management. I did not do this consistently this year, and I regret it. I feel so much of a crunch to squeeze in all 5 subjects during the day, that community circle has been lost. If I taught again, I would designate a.m. AND p.m. community circle time with a daily agenda.
9. Take everything you are told to do by your principal and district administrators with a grain of salt. They will shove new responsibilities, curriculum, and “professional development” down your throat, but it is your job to figure out what you want to teach and how you want to teach it. Take what they give you that is good, throw out the rest (or save it for when you are ready), and don’t compromise on what you know is going to be best for your students.
That said, there have been times over the past 3 years that I thought I knew best and was wrong. Some of the new programs and curriculum that they force on you really work, and so you will have to decide on a case-by-case basis. My main piece of advice is not to let “the man” make your job more complicated for you. If a teacher did everything they were told each year by the district, they would go crazy in a very short amount of time.
By the way, most of my advice is somehow related to ways to keep your sanity as a teacher…
10. Take attendance every a.m. at the same time electronically and in your paper gradebook. If your school requires it, print out your attendance verification sheets every Friday like clockwork. Don’t leave for Happy Hour until you do this. Believe me–it will save you a huge headache when you try to check-out on the last day of school and they won’t let you leave. For some reason, no one tells new teachers the importance of doing this until the END of the school year, when it is too late.