Looking back on my first year of teaching, I wished that someone had shared some honest truths with me before I set foot into my classroom. Whether or not I would've listened is something else (total know-it-all right here), but it may have made me think before acting in some circumstances. I've managed to summarise my key thoughts, ideas and advice for graduate teachers into 5 S's; Self, Students, Staff, Success and Setting.
I highly recommend you reflect on your own teaching and learning. I know that when you finished your final practicums you were thinking, "woohoo! I never have to write another self reflection!" But trust me, it will help you to continue to learn and grow as a teacher. Reflecting through a blog means that other teachers (and people) can see what you are doing in your classroom. It also gives you a source to go back to and review what you have completed in a term, semester or year.
It is a great idea to include both positive and negative points in your reflections. Mistakes are GOOD!! We all learn from them; whether it be yourself, your students, their parents or other teachers. I often share my mistakes with my students. It shows them that I am not perfect and reiterates that it is ok to make errors and that we learn from them.
I have a Fair Vs Equal policy in my classroom. If you think about it, it's not in the students best interest to be treated equally. Some students need modification and one-on-one time. Some need extension and a private space to work. Some need you to act swiftly when something goes wrong and others need to slowly learn and change from an experience. Each child is an individual and we cannot look at this from just an educational perspective. They all have different home lives, expectations and experiences, and we need to take his into consideration when dealing with them.
I also have Classroom Guidelines rather than rules in my classroom (you can see the 10 Classroom Guidelines posters in my Store). I feel that these guidelines cover all areas, from not talking when others are to respecting school property. Embed the guidelines into your lessons and model them continuously. Students learn so much from simply listening and watching you, so be a strong role model.
Graduate teachers have the best new and innovative ideas, but you need to look around you and see the wealth of knowledge that the experienced teachers hold. They may be old and have taught the same grade for the last 30 years, but they often know what they are talking about. Treat them with the same amount of respect as you treat your students. They too are individuals and may have something to share with you. I've found that taking the time to listen to more experienced teachers has made me a stronger, more open-minded teacher.
Now for a pet hate of mine... Do not get involved in the cattiness at schools. Yes, it happens everywhere; in every workplace. Remember that you are better than that and above all the drama. Stay level headed and professional. And if it's getting a bit too much for you to handle in the staffroom, then stand up and move away. Don't say something that you will regret. Return when it has settled down. Trust me, you will be respected by all for not getting involved.
On the topic of social media, if you have a Facebook or Instagram profile, make them PRIVATE! It is not acceptable to have your students following your private accounts. They do not need to know that you went to thee different clubs on Saturday night and had a chicken kebab at 4.30am after having a few too many drinks. Keep your relationships strictly professional when it comes to your social presence.
Another great way to build relationships with the families is by sending an email to one family each day. I write a student's name on each day of my DWP. On that day I take a photograph of that student doing something, whether it be in or out of the classroom, and I email it with a small caption to their parents.
Go along to as much free PD (professional development) as you can. TeachMeets are a great place to start and the best part about them is that you can share your ideas. TeachMeets are run by teachers for teachers (read more about this here). As I said above, your growth is as important at the growth of your students. Read blogs and books, catch up with teachers from other schools, go along to PDs and continue to learn. These small things will help you to succeed as a teacher.
You need to be a role model when creating a classroom culture. This is when the idea of 'leave it at the door' comes into play. You may have had a really crappy night or your car may have broken down. Whatever it is, you need to leave it at the door when you arrive at school. Your students will pick up on your emotions and that will influence their school day. Remember that when you are in that classroom your students are your number one priority. Leaving those concerns at the door allows you to give your full attention to your students. You can pick up your worries on your way out... Or just leave them there.
I am a big fan of letting my students assist with the set up of our classroom (remember, I teach in a contemporary classroom). After all, that is the environment that they are going to learn in. Discuss with them how they think they learn best and take all of this into consideration. When I was teaching in a traditional classroom my students told me that they sometimes liked to work by themselves. I took this into consideration and introduced the idea of 'islands', where students could move their desk away from their group in order to have that private work space. Get to know your students as learners and use the classroom furniture to assist them in continuing to grow.
Best of luck!!
All the very best to each of you!!