Surviving the First Grading Period

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I don’t think I’ve had enough time to actually sit down and “catch up” on my year so far. I thought I’d do a little post about some tips that I have based on my experiences so far. This first 6 weeks has been a TOUGH one. If you have read my post about interview tips, you’ll see that I went to 5 interviews before I got the job that I am in now. One of these interviews was for a long term sub position that also included a coaching position. Now…thinking that I would be long term subbing at the same place where I would be coaching was an attractive idea to me. I was not planning on getting a job….so I decided to take the long term sub position in addition to the position as cheerleading head coach. After taking this job, 2 months later, I interviewed for my 7th grade teaching position (I was initially supposed to sub 11th grade English) and had to give up the long term sub position. I decided to keep coaching, and what a bad decision that was. It has been a time-suck, a stress, and overall, a dramatic experience. My tips are based off some of this, and some “new teacher craziness”

 

Tips for your First Grading Period!

1) Make sure you only commit to ONE thing.
First year teaching is a BIG commitment. You hear in school that other teachers will help you out and that lesson planning won’t be that hard, but that’s a big lie. I don’t care how much school you have or how many teachers help you out. You still have planning, grading, and responsibilities that no one can really “help” you with. Plus, everyone has their own unique teaching style. Tailoring your teaching style requires a lot of time.

2) It’s okay to “borrow” and “steal” from other teachers.

Do I contradict myself? I think I contradict myself. But it’s true….Borrowing from other teachers does help at times. I borrowed a syllabus from a co-worker, classroom management ideas form another, supplies from another, and first week plans from another. That’s okay. While it takes time, it still takes less time than usual. Part of teaching is stealing and sharing. That’s something I had to get used to.

3) When offered help, either accept it or pretend to accept it.

Everyone in the school is DYING to help a first year teacher. I have been there 6 weeks, and still get stopped in the hall to ask how I’m doing every day. I am the youngest at my school by about 15 years, so I have become the child. Accepting help is a good thing, but I have learned that sometimes people want to help too much. In these instances, simply nod your head, say thank you, and tell them you’ll stop by their class sometime later in the week. You have an excuse to not stop by if your get busy. Accepting help doesn’t mean you can’t do it! Accepting help means you are wiling to learn and grow as a teacher.

4) KEEP YOUR HEAD UP!

Are you drowning? Probably feels like it, but look around your classroom and realize that you aren’t in a tank of water, there is ample amount of oxygen, and in 15 minutes, the students will be gone. It’s hard. Like I said earlier, I don’t care how much school you have or don’t have. Nothing in school prepares you for the feeling of being on your own. Student teaching doesn’t even do this. You will feel overwhelmed. You will feel like you want to cry. But it’s okay! The bell will ring at the end of the day. I was told by my principal that these kids are just 7th graders and I just need to make it through my first year. Their academics will continue whether I did a good job or not. And it’s true. Not that I am giving up on my quality as a teacher, but that sometimes being 10 minutes ahead of your kids (which I am 98% of the time) is okay. You don’t have to have your whole year planned, because If you try that you will probably drown. Worry about making it to the end of the day, not making it to the end of the year.

5) People are going to think that they can do it better than you.

I have a couple of friends and co-workers that frequently offer my suggestions to “better my classroom” when they are not even in my classroom. Especially my friends that aren’t working yet. This really bothers me. I have just learned to shrug it off and move on. When they need help, I’m sure I will be the first one to offer suggestions based on my experiences (this is the whole point of my blog, right?) When people belittle your teaching and make you feel like a bad teacher, just remind YOURSELF–not them, they won’t understand–that it’s your classroom and the only people you have to please are your students and principal. Do what YOU want to do, and don’t feel like a bad teacher because other people don’t see eye-to-eye with you.

6) Don’t do it all at once.

Decorate every worksheet? Make your classroom a student paradise? Plan all your units for the year in the first week of work? Yeah….no. Just don’t try to do it all at once, and don’t try to do too much. This is my problem. I have this perfect image of my first year in my head, and it’s not living up to expectations. I just had to stop trying to do everything at once, and go with the flow of my students.

7) It takes 3 years to own a job.

My mom told me this a few days ago and I really like it. If you feel like your year is going terrible, remember that quote. The first year is you learning EVERYTHING new about your job, the second year is making those first year things work for you, and the third is really the first year of “comfort” because you have had two years of doing things your way. OWN IT later, make it work now.

 

Okay, I have some lesson plans to do. Be on the watch for the Out of My Mind unit coming up soon!

Love you new teachers. You’re doing great!!

–Ms. Wyoming

 

 

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Planbook Maker

Planbook Maker is an awesome website I stumbled upon through Pinterest. It’s an internet-based, free lesson planning book. I have recently been using it because it is portable. I can get on it from home, at school, through my phone and on my Kindle. It’s really a no-excuses way to lesson plan! I tend to be a little forgetful and leave my planner and notebooks in my car or at school, so it’s easy access whenever I need it.

Below is a quick tutorial, and how I use it.

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It asks you to create a gradebook. You can make multiple…or you can do just one. I created just one for the year.

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Once you have designed a planbook, it gives you a cool little calendar view. I just started using this program. The green indicates that you have a plan made for all classes in your planbook. I have three periods in mine (regular LA, reading, and my low-level LA). If all your plans are not completed, the green will only cover part of that calendar day.

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This is inside your plan book. This is only a photo of my LA 1, 4, and 6 classes, but it extends down beyond that for Reading and LA 7. You can see any documents you have chosen to include and any highlighting you have made. I highlight my lessons in yellow and homework in blue. I also like to attach the notes and documents I am using that day to my Planbook. It helps me print stuff from school and home if I need to, or make a quick reference.

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This is within my plans. I can edit from this page. I like to include everything I need in case I have an observation that day.

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My favorite feature is the export or print. You can also see where the documents are included. You can either export it to a PDF to be emailed or saved OR you can print it out. It also offers a print out for the week, or a selection of the day you need printed.

This product is super handy! Visit http://www.planbookmaker.com to sign up for your FREE account. Did I mention it’s free?!

Happy Teaching!

-Ms. Wyoming

Finally! Personal Narratives and First Drafts

Hello!

I finally have a second to post. Let me tell you about this GOOD Monday (do those even exist?!). Woke up late and still made it to school without getting stuck behind ANY buses and I had time to get coffee. AND it’s a jeans day. Did I just blow your mind!?

no i didn’t did i (this was one of my students that took it upon herself to type on my blog…this is what I deal with!)

Since I am a little late getting started in the year, I am going to pick up where I am in the year with lesson plans and strategies and then fill in all that “beginning” stuff later when I have more time. Mornings like these don’t come often enough!

For the past week, we have been working on writing personal narratives. This is based on Gary Soto’s short story “7th Grade”. The students have been writing about their first day of 7th grade. I have been using a variety of graphic organizers to help them along their way.

One HUGE struggle that I am having is meeting the needs of my lower level classes. I feel that they should be on the same page as my upper level classes, when in reality…that’s not a reality. Here are a couple strategies I have used to match up the learning standards with my regular classes…

1) Graphic Organizers

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Instead of asking them to brainstorm, I am using a specific graphic organizer to prompt their writing. They have already completed a ten-minute timed writing on this subject, so it’s activating prior knowledge and repeating work at this point.

2) Simplified Assignments

Like I said earlier, putting my lower level class on the same page at my regular classes isn’t an option 90% of the time. Instead of having them write a personal narrative on their first day of 7th grade, I am having them write about eliminating homework. It’s still school focused and covers the same Standards of Learning (SOLs), but it’s more concrete. My students in this class need concrete. Writing about their first day is hard, because honestly, a lot of them have forgotten and didn’t want to be here in the first place. Maintaining a school focused piece with a specific purpose allows me to “match” the different curriculum, so to speak.

3) Meet them where they are!

My SPED cohort sat me down after a long frustrating day and said that it was ambitious of me to want to teach the same curriculum to all my classes, but in the case of my lower level class, I wasn’t going to make much progress doing this. He explained that when you have lower level kids, in order to make progress, you need to meet them where they are and guide them forward. Expecting them to be on the last lap of the race when they are still on the first isn’t a realistic expectation. You have to meet them at the first lap to coach them to the last. It made a lot more sense when it was broken down to me like that. This means that I use simple assignments, I explain things more, and I don’t get frustrated when they don’t get it the first time. It’s about TLC and working with them to meet their specific needs as students.

Welp! That’s it for today. Time to go teach!

(:

-Ms. Wyoming