I am almost done with my first year of teaching and let me tell ya it has been a whirl.wind. Bottom line- teaching is a calling- and if you’re not called get out now. I repeat- get out now! But if you are called- stay in the game and don’t let the craziness of year one defeat you (talking to myself here).
I’ve compiled a mini list of what first year teachers REALLY need. Don’t get me wrong- I’m a lover of all things Pinterest and highly suggest making a few classroom boards but lets be real- all teachers need practicality in their lives. If your clipboard does not have your monogram on the back it is going to be okay. This is just a short list of some things I wish I would have known/ thought about before the year began.
- Top Notch Teacher Notes
I didn’t even know about these bad boys until one of my rockstar teacher friends across the hall gave me a pack in the midst of my very desperate first nine weeks. This helps with documentation. When you need to send a note home addressing an issue you give them a copy and you keep the yellow copy- like an old school receipt. Note doesn’t get to mom? That’s fine- you have proof that you at least sent it. File that note away and it may just save you down the road as proof of communication.
2. A Teachers Pay Teachers Account
This site is a LIFE SAVER. No need to reinvent the wheel when someone has already made it and made it GREAT. $5.00 can save your SANITY. Amy Lemons has all kinds of standard aligned station activities. On another note- I paid $1 for a science project template and rubric and the projects that came from my kiddos were incredible. Could I have typed it up and created it myself? Sure. Would I rather go get coffee and sit on my porch? Yes. Just give it a looksie.
3. A personal laminator
I should have bought this well before the first day of school. My school does have a laminator and yours probably does too- however it is not always available for use. You can buy the laminating sheets in a big box at Sam’s and it should last you a semester or so. You’ll more than likely need to laminate log-in codes, station activities after you use TPT, name tags of some sort to hang student work… and you’ll probably want to do so while watching Netflix. Who knew hot plastic could be so vital.
4. Make or adopt a station rotation system that works for you
I’ve got a picture of how I do my stations. I’ll save the juicy details for another day. I have Teacher’s Choice (apple- group with me), Hands On (manipulatives), Numbers (generic- anything with numbers can go in here!), Real World Math (world picture- graphs, money, word problems), and Math Functions (+-). My students are in mixed ability groups aka birds. We rotate in 15 min. time chunks and they love doing them! The desk? Your group can get “desked” (independent work) next round if you were off task in your station. And boy do they hate getting desked. I’m happy to say once they understood expectations the desk has stayed away.
This thing- PTL. You must get one. It’s a little pricey for being thick blue cardboard on Amazon but it was worth every dime. After you assign student numbers you can have them check mailboxes, sort papers- it is a life saver. This will help you avoid the massive pile of paper doom that can easily happen without a sorting system. The top of it is home to our focus folders made out of two filing folders stapled together- you’ll probably need to whip up 20 or so of those, too.
6. Teacher Mailbox
My mailbox was a gift from a teacher I studied under when I was a student teacher. Best gift ever! Your students will more than likely love to write you notes and draw you pictures. Instead of letting them collect on your already full of papers desk, students can place them in your mailbox. Later that week (or day) you can check your mailbox and find some pretty special encouragement from your littles. It’s a fun way to compile the chaos and I love to check my mailbox when they check theirs!
Just a few helpful thoughts from a first year rookie!