Articles for Teachers

Launching Into Teaching Part 1 - Policies, Standards, and Textbooks
By:Gini Cunningham

Hundreds and thousands of bright, eager teachers are about to descend upon classrooms throughout the nation. There are few pleasures greater than a first job after a long period of study and preparation. After being hired in many fields a strong support team steps up to guide and sustain new hires during those first critical days and weeks on the job. Oddly, teachers are often hired, greeted by new colleagues, then pretty much "sent to their room" to go it alone.

With the importance of the task and the necessity of being at your best right from the beginning, new teachers need to create 48-hour days in August just to be ready for the enormous responsibilities of the job. Yes, there have been role models throughout your education, lead teachers who have offered help, and college courses to fill your head with a rainbow of ideas. Most often, however, the novice enters the profession with a pat on the back and a distant shout of "Good luck". The following will assist new teachers as they anxiously and nervously prepare for excellence from Day 1.

Begin by verifying that your credentials and certificate are in order and in all of the right locales (district office, state department of education file, and in frames ready for display in your new room). Be certain that these credentials match your job (elementary education degrees and biology are not a match). Check that you have taken, passed, and sent the results of all necessary tests and medical information. While you are at it, clarify which courses you must take next to recertify - it's never too early to plan for the future.

Visit your new school and immediately initiate a friendship with the secretaries, custodians, and support staff as well as your administrators and colleagues. Be modest but knowledgeable; ask questions but temper your advice; seek answers but do not overwhelm others. You are looking for and establishing avenues to achieve success. With those wonderful keys in hand, enter the room that you will occupy for the next several months. Chances are you will discover one of two scenarios: the room has been stripped the minute the former teacher left as the rest of the staff assaulted the room and gathered 99% of all useful teaching materials or the room is packed from floor to ceiling with the remnants of every bit of teaching that has ever taken place in the school. This includes outdated texts, broken computer monitors, leftover lab sets, and mysterious boxes of educational provisions.

If the room is empty, inventory your needs as you peruse the fixtures, desks, cabinets, and floor plan. If the room is packed, ask about sorting and tossing to learn what is garbage (schools love to hang onto old stuff) and what to do with it (often it is stealthily snuck into dumpsters around town so that taxpayers do not get the idea that funding has been wasted on teaching materials). Some of the stacks in your room will be useful. Sort through and keep items of immediate value and perhaps store a few things that you will truly use soon. With the rest, carefully follow school procedures for disposal and then get set to make the room your own.

Find your grade level and/or subject area academic standards, gather adopted textbooks, look over and organize supplementary materials, and locate your school calendar. It will take hours to pour over all of this but you will be rewarded with knowledge of what your students must know and be able to do and when. Since you started early, you have time ahead to prepare for teaching and student learning. As you meet your teaching team you will be up-to-date on many facets of teaching and aware of educational expectations. What an excellent way to begin new relationships - smart and capable but seeking to learn.

As soon as possible, collect a list of the names and addresses of students who will be in your classroom. Write a friendly letter of greeting telling about yourself, your background, and what students can expect in your classroom. This does not have to be long (that could be tedious) but just enough to let your students know that you are wise, prepared, organized, and thrilled with the excitement of the year ahead.

These guidelines will prepare you for a successful start of school. Success breeds success for the days and weeks that follow. If anyone tells you that teaching is easy or that just showing up is plenty, be wary. Teaching is a calling. Teaching means that you have the opportunity to shape young minds, delight students with learning, and open enormous vision of potential and possibilities. Wow! What could be more challenging and wonderful?

Educational consultant; free lance writer; life coach; professional development presenter http://www.energizedlearning.com.





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