Let me offer you some advice..

It’s the beginning of August, teacher friends!  You know what that means.  You absolutely must work in your classroom or on classroom things every single day until school starts or you simply will not get everything done.  Period.  I felt this pressure every single year I was in the classroom.  I still feel it a little and I am on a twelve-month calendar now.  It’s a feeling that is a mixture of excitement, nervousness, anxiety, love, and outright fear all cut out in glitter letters and laminated.  

This will be my 28th year in education.  I still love it and I don’t want to do anything else.  I love to work with teachers and to hear them talk about the great things they do to help children.  I love to walk into schools and hear children laughing.  There is no better sound than the sound of children laughing at school.  Sometimes, a little will take me by the hand to show me what she did or to tell me what he can do now.  I will always take the time to look or listen.  They don’t always maintain that pride through all their years of school.  I never want to be the one to dim that light.  It is a gift to see children learn and grow.  But that gift is not earned easily.

Teacher education programs at universities prepare future teachers for child development, content, curriculum, assessment, instructional strategies, and school law as best they can in the semesters they have with them.  It isn’t enough, but it never could be.  Teachers learn the most they ever will in their first year of teaching.  They learn what is good, what is bad, and what will make or break them.  Right now, we desperately need good teachers.  I work in many schools that still have openings and school is starting in a few weeks.  It saddens me, because this really is the best job in the whole world for some people.  The only “just right” job for some of us.  

If you are one of those brave souls who is taking your first step into a lifetime in the K-3 teaching profession, please let me offer you some advice.  This advice is based solely upon my own experiences and has no scientific or research validity whatsoever.  It is purely for entertainment purposes, and thus is probably much more helpful.

  1. Always keep a weather appropriate change of attire (including shoes) in your car.  This is very important.  It is highly likely that at some point, you will have an undesirable substance “transferred” to your clothing or shoes.  You could get lucky.  It might be milk, or syrup, or paint.  But more likely, it will be boogers, puke, poop, or pee.  Perhaps a combination of the aforementioned substances.  You will want your clothes in your car because you are going to want to walk outside to compose yourself, and perhaps have a quick scream or cry.  If the clothes are in your classroom, there is no need to go outside.  You will need those minutes outside alone.  Once you are freshened up, you will feel better and it won’t seem so bad.
  2. Your teacher chair is for decorative purposes only.  You will never actually get to sit in it during the school day.  If you do plan on sitting in it, make sure it is NOT behind the desk.  Keep it out in the open where you can quickly wheel it around with your feet when your legs give out.  As a matter of fact, you might want to take your teacher chair home to practice this in your kitchen.  Sit in your teacher chair and just use your feet to wheel yourself around as quickly and nimbly as you can.  Set up obstacles to maneuver around, like you’d find in a classroom.  It’s great if you have pets, because they’ll dart in front and behind you like children.
  3. Another talent you’re going to want to practice is walking backward.  You will have to do that a lot. I personally never fell while walking backward (but I fell many times while walking forward).  I have seen other teachers fall.  I have seen them run into walls.  I have seen them run into children more times than I can count.  It’s really hard.  But you have to do it, because we always think of something we need to tell our students when we are walking somewhere and we can’t stop in the middle of the hall, so we turn around and talk while walking backward.  But try practicing.  See if that helps.
  4. Stock up on medicines of all kinds because you are going to get every illness that goes around your first year.  I had the stomach bug twice a month my first year teaching first grade.  Young children cough and sneeze all over everything.  It’s not their fault.  They are very cute and they try to cover their lil noses and mouths, but then they have to wipe their hands on something.  Sometimes it’s the table, sometimes it’s the doorknob, sometimes it’s your shirt.  Do buy lots of hand sanitizer.  They will call it “hanitizer.”  They will push down the pump of the hanitizer with all of their might and get a huge squeeze of it in their tiny hands.  Of course, when they go to put their hands together, 98% of the hanitizer will plop right onto the floor.  This will not bother them in the least, and they will skip off to a new adventure.  That’s all well and good until another child walks by and slips in the hanitizer and falls right on his booster in the middle of the floor.  Then you start to wonder why all of your students are so clumsy and why they are all falling on the floor in the same general area.  Luckily, you are a detective and you realize that the hanitizer bottle is right by….OH SORRY!  I got lost in a little flashback there.  Yes. Use sanitizer and wash your hands.  Take your vitamins, too.
  5. Recess duty has two temperatures- surface of the sun and polar vortex.  I am sure there are many, many very nice days.  They just never happened to occur when I had duty.  Fifteen minutes can seem like an eternity if you do not have the proper attire.  There is not much you can do when it is 101 degrees.  Drink lots of water.  But in the winter, don’t try to be a fashionista.  Get yourself the biggest, heaviest winter coat you can find. Get a coat that you would never wear in public.  Get big gloves and a hat and a scarf.  Get snow boots- even when there is no snow.  I don’t know why school playgrounds are so cold in the winter, but they are.  And yes, there will be boys running around in hoodies and shorts, sweating.  I can’t explain it.  
  6. Keep a stash of chocolate (or some treat) handy.  This is not for your students.  It is for you.  There will be days when you really, really need it.  You might need it because you didn’t have time to eat your lunch.  You might need it because you have to work late.  You might need it because people can be mean and you deserve a treat.
  7. No matter how cute you decorate your room, someone will decorate his/hers cuter.  There must be some secret Pinterest group somewhere where fancy people meet and create fantastical room decor ideas that the rest of us could not even imagine in our wildest dreams.  Don’t even try to outdo them.  They will come in the dead of night and add things to their rooms.  Cost is not a deterrent.  They must have sponsors.  Their students don’t even mess up the fancy rooms.  I think they are afraid to.  They just sit there like they are Windsor Castle awaiting high tea.
  8. One of the best parts of your job, besides the children, will be your teacher besties.  Find teachers who think like you do. Teachers who challenge you to do better and who encourage you and support you.  You should be laughing at school just like those children.  Stay away from the people who don’t feel like sunshine.  Don’t listen to the ones who make your steps feel heavy.  Our children deserve teachers who come to school because there is no place they would rather be.  

Welcome to August, teacher friends!



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