Tips From A First Year Teacher

Here’s the deal- every teacher is different, every classroom is different, every district is different- and you’ll have to figure out what works for YOU. There are lots of ideas out there and this is just a few that I have implemented that have worked well. Keep in mind I’m teaching second grade.

side note: Some are from my brain and some are stolen from other brains because stealing ideas is what teaching is ALL about people!

  1. Timers. Your time in the classroom is valuable. You need it to keep you on track and your students on track. I have two timers and I use them both throughout the day.
  • The quiet mouse timer is for when students are working independently. It means two things- 1. you can’t leave your seat and 2. you can’t talk to your neighbor. I use this during tests, quick check assessments, etc.
  • The kitchen timer. I use this for when they are working in pairs/ groups/ stations. Obviously this means they can use their “station voices” and talk with others when this timer is going.  When it goes off it’s time to pack it up and move to the next phase of the lesson.IMG_5591

2. Signals of some sort (say that 5 times fast)

  • I use this shfancy bell that was gifted to me. It has all sorts of noises- chimes, alarms, space noises (my fave for walking like an astronaut back to your seat), applause- you name it. You can get it through Scholastic. They know that when you hear the kitchen timer go off it is time to clean up/ finish whatever you are doing and get ready to transition. When I sound the bell my students know it’s time to physically transition. You would think this is small- but all CHAOS can break out when 20 little people move around a room and the devious thought may cross their minds… “I’m out of my seat- I AM FREE!”.
  • When a student needs to use the restroom they hold up two crossed fingers to communicate to me that they need to go. Then, with a simple nod I can tell them that they may go or wait for a more appropriate time.
  • When a student needs a new pencil they simply hold it above their heads. Then I give them the nod if it is an appropriate time to make a pencil trade and they make their way to the pencil area to trade it for a sharp one. No talking involved. No lesson interruption necessary. More learning less nagging here.

3. Beanie Babies. Lots of beanie babies.

My vast collection of beanie babies was supposed to pay for my college education but that unfortunately didn’t happen (sorry mom and dad). This management idea came from my parents (THANKS  MOM AND DAD) and it saved my life #dramatic_but_true. When you would like to award a student for being on task, working quietly, giving an Einstein level answer during discussion- or anything!- they may get a visit from a beanie baby. They. flip. out. Johnny wants to be better than Betty because he wants that beanie visit- it’s a war for who can be the best student ever! That is the kind of competition ya want my friend. My students have been so good just to get a visit from Wormie or Hootie that I have had over 11 beanies out at the same time.  You may also choose to award a group of students a beanie visit during station rotation if they are super on task and rocking it. A 5 minute visit from a beanie baby can change the world? YUP. YOUR WORLD.


4. Target dollar bin visits

It’s like Christmas morning every season change in the dollar bins. In the midst of teaching the next US President and doctors who will find cures for cancer you may not have time to decorate each door/ wall/ board/ desk/ ANYTHING THAT MOVES for each season. If you do I applaud you- but I like my weekends and evenings too much. Go for simple decor and hang on to it to recycle next year. I usually get various banners that can carry me through the next holiday. Stop by the bins and get some banners, pencils, erasers and window clings and call it a day.

5. Get a desk calendar for work items only

I’ve got my Condren planner that I use for my life aka my life outside of “Mrs.Whitney” and I prefer to just label the times I’m teaching as “teach time” in that planner. My desk calendar is only for work stuff. Finding a margin between the two is something you’ll have to wrestle with your first year- I’ve just found this helps me keep some healthy boundaries. See the blue and yellow lined squares? Teachers live for those- weekends.






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