Welcome to the hardest job you'll ever love!
As I think about the fact that most colleges will be holding graduation next month, I thought about all those new graduates that will be joining the education profession next year and thought I'd share some advice and resources for them. I'll be speaking to some from a few different area programs and I hope you will share these with new graduates that you know. I also figured this would be a good time because many seniors are still doing student teaching now.
- Your best resource as a new teacher is yourself. Use what you learned in school. Seek out more information from colleagues and the Internet. Use your creativity. Remember what it was like to be a student yourself.
- Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask other teachers for help. Do not isolate yourself in your classroom. Make connections with other teachers, whether it is in person, by email, Facebook, Ning, Twitter, web sites, or blogs. Create a Personal Learning Network of people and resources that can help you.
- Don't reinvent the wheel. Use the resources that are available to you. Most textbooks now come with instructor resource CD-ROMs and companion web sites. Use the resources that they have and then modify them as needed. Search the Internet for lesson plan ideas, activities, classroom management tips, and other tips and tricks. Check out Discovery Education's free resources.
- Stay organized. You need to stay organized. Make sure you have a lesson plan guide and calendar of some sort. You can use a paper based planner and lesson planner or use an electronic or web-based system. Smartphones are great for staying organized. You can also use online resources like Google, Evernote and others to keep your files, calendar, tasks, and lesson plans organized.
- Write things down and make sure you have your classroom materials organized and labeled.
- Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Your district and school will run professional development sessions, but don't limit yourself to those. Look for free online sessions, webcasts, conferences, and sessions run by your local educational resource agency. Create your own, on-demand professional development using Twitter.
- Join a professional society in your area. As a physics teacher, I have joined the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Find out what organizations are in your area and join them. You will find resources and contacts through these organizations.
- Read journals. Subscribe to and read educational journals. Most are free, so you don't have to worry about the money. There are journals on general education, educational technology, pedagogy, assessment, and just about every other area of education. Here is a great, free journal: Tech and Learning Magazine - great magazine with educational and technology information and resources. Free subscription for teachers.
- Be creative with your lessons. Think outside the box. Come up with new, fun ways to teach the students. Use projects and project-based-learning as a way to engage and teach your students. You can find a huge number of resources and ideas for projects on the web.
- Read some books on education. My personal favorites to start with are "First Days of School", by Harry Wong, and "Your First Year as a High School Teacher", by Lynne Rominger, et al.
- Don't pay for things if you can get them for free. There are tons of free resources, from software to web sites, that can help you in your classroom. Here are some tips for finding free resources.
- Make connections with the secretaries and custodians in your building. They will be some of your best resources for supplies, ideas, and help.
- Make connections with local businesses, especially those that are related to your subject area. They can be a huge resource for guests, supplies and equipment, and funding. Many local businesses, such as Staples, have Teacher Appreciation Days with discounts and free gifts. Find out about these. Remind businesses that instead of throwing out things, they can donate usable items to your school as a tax write-off.
- Get to know the publisher's representative for your class's textbook. They can get you a lot of resources.
- Be flexible. Remember Murphy's law. Have plans for when your lessons run short or long, to deal with interruptions and fire drills, assemblies, and days when much of your class is absent because of a field trip.
- Have back up plans for everything and especially have backup plans in case of technology issues.
- Know your local and State curriculum. Know what is expected of you. Know what is expected of the students.
- Track your personal expenses and save receipts. There is a tax deduction for educators.
- Copyright issues - be careful and make sure you know about Educational Copyright issues
- Keep up on your certification requirements.
- Spend this summer relaxing and getting ready for your new career. Once you get hired by a school, get a copy of the curriculum and review it over the summer. Think about the kind of teacher you want to be. Get yourself organized.
- If you are still looking for a job, don't worry. Teachers retire, move to different school systems. There will be openings. If you can't find a job by August, keep trying. Sign up to be a substitute teacher in the towns nearby. That is a foot-in-the-door for a permanent job when one opens. Don't despair, you will find a job.
- Ask for help, and look for help. Again, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Good luck and welcome to the profession!
Some more resources for new teachers:
New Teacher Advice - some good advice for new teachers (and old ones too!)
Discovery Education New Teacher Survival Central - a great resource for all teachers (and free).
List of Discovery Education Resources for Educators - very good, inclusive list of Discovery Educations resources.