Congratulations! You Survived the 1st Grading Period
You’ve done it, new teacher. You made it through the first grading period. If I remember correctly, you are feeling frazzled and not sure if you’re doing a good job.
Deep breaths. Deep cleansing breaths. You’re doing great. You have probably wondered, at least once since school started, why didn’t they tell me this in school? Great question! No matter how wonderful your teacher prep program was, nothing can prepare you for standing, all alone, in front of your first class.
I asked my PLN (personal learning network) what they wish they had known that first grading period. Here’s some things to consider as you continue your awesome work in the second grading period.
Grades. This was the number one thing my PLN wishes they had known – You don’t have to grade everything. You have, no doubt, already spent countless hours at night and on the weekend grading papers. The purpose of grading is to assess for mastery. Decide which activities will help you assess for mastery most efficiently, grade those things and move on. When you introduce a new topic, check for understanding often. This can be a formalized assignment or informally in class. Either way, it doesn’t have to be a grade. The focus on your class is your students and your content, not grades. Make sure you know your school’s grading policy and adhere to it but don’t feel like you have to grade everything. A word to the wise, though, if you send work home – please grade or check it. There’s nothing that upsets parents more than wasting their time.
Parents. Speaking of parents, they are wonderful resources and powerful allies. Make sure you have a good relationship with them. If you haven’t already, reach out to your parents individually and tell them something positive about their student. And no “yes, buts”. Don’t tell them something positive and follow it up with a problem Johnny is having. Yes, you do need to let parents know when students are struggling or making bad choices but this time it’s all positive. You’ll be amazed at the responses. Some parents have never had a teacher email or call just to say “Johnny’s a great helper”. When I teach keyboarding, I email parents at the end of the unit to report the student’s progress. I tell parents their student’s pre-test score and where the student was at the end of the unit. It takes some time but I loved the parent responses to those emails.
Resources. The trouble with being new is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I once had a teacher email me at two months into school very excited about a new tool she’d been using on a free trial basis. Is there anyway to order it, she asked? I told her, your department has already purchased it! She was excited but probably a little miffed. Information she needed yesterday! Brainstorm resources you might need this year. Include technology, library, supplies and academic areas. Ask your mentor teacher or other veteran teacher to review available resources with you.
Love the Ugly Cats. I wish I could remember where I first heard this phrase but it has been of great service in my career. You know the ugly cats – those students who are hard to love. Work extra hard to love on them. Trust them with errands. Eat lunch with them. Encourage them. Ugly cats are usually lacking positive adults in their lives. Once they know you love them, there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for you.
Always remember, you might be the brightest spot in a student’s day – shine bright!
Aimee, I was so excited to see your name listed as a blogger for Getting Smart. You've written such a wonderful article here. Not only is it of great value to new teachers, it is also very well-written. I wish that I had this information when I started my career as a classroom teacher. Not surprisingly, much of it is still pertinent to me as an ignorant "veteran" teacher. Keep up the good work, Aimee. This is an inspiring post.
I know this will be helpful for new teachers to read. I remember my first year that feeling of scaling a huge mountain all year and the sense of a plateau finally at the end of the year (maybe the last quarter) and then there was the beginning of the second year when I was actually able to see how much I had learned about teaching that first year.
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