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NYC Helpline: How To: Get Started
How to Home
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

Getting Started: Tips From Experienced Teachers
Judi Fenton

One of the most unexpected things for many new teachers is that teaching is more than just presenting information to students in interesting ways!  To even have that content reach the students, a teacher has to gain and retain their attention and that often entails issues of classroom management. I've collected some tips from accomplished teachers to help new teachers deal with some of those pesky concerns.

Experienced teachers know that when you keep the students involved in activities, you will experience far fewer management issues.  One teacher I know piles so much work on her students that her first graders are always busy at work/play.  There is always something for them to do next and if they don't do the required work in school, they are responsible to do it for homework.  It's always better to have too many lessons ready for the week, and if you don't get through everything, you have some lessons planned for the next week.
When students are bored with "too easy?" work or frustrated with "too hard" work, they can let you know this by acting out.  It is crucial that you assess your students to discover what they are capable of, and give them work at their instructional level that challenges them without frustrating them. For examples of how some teachers have "adjusted their teaching" for their students, take a look at Adjusting Your Teaching Styles to Student's Learning.

Build Community.
Far from being a waste of instructional time, building community in your classroom can set the stage for a successful year. The children need to get to know you and one another and you need to get to know them, what they need, what they like, and their capabilities.  Create ways to encourage the forming of relationships. You will have far fewer management issues when you know your students well, they know you, and they know one another.  For some wonderful ice-breaking and community building activities, see Cynthia Carbone Ward's article "Surviving That First Day,"  Lisa Kihn's "Get to Know Your Students on the First Day," and Marianne Francone's "Break the Ice."

Know Your Purpose.
You must know and understand the purpose of the lesson, work, or activity, and it is key that you are able to communicate this to your students.  Otherwise, why should they want to do it?  In addition, you must understand how each lesson or unit fits in to standards, the larger curriculum, as well as the district, city and state mandates.  Knowing where the lesson or unit "fits" can also help you to justify that activity that your supervisor doesn't really want you to do, but that you know will be an incredible learning experience.  You should be using the standards or scope and sequence documents required by your state or city.  Planning with more experienced teachers on your grade is a great idea, as they will have more of a sense how to plan with the standards in mind.  They have also experienced what students come into the grade with and what they need to be exiting with.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
The end of October is the time that all the new teachers I work with begin to lose their voices.  This is because when the class noise level escalates, so does the teachers' voice.  Bad idea.  You need to find multiple ways of telling the students what you expect them to be doing.  Write it on the board, then using a conversational level voice, tell the whole class what they should do.  Then go around to small groups to remind them what they should be doing. Have them write it down too.  You'll be sure to get through to even the most selective hearer.  

Set Routines
Children need to know what is expected of them and what to do at what time.  Be consistent with routines and make daily schedules explicit.  For example, enact a morning routine that determines what students do when they enter the classroom-- how they hang up their coats, what they need on their desks in order to get to work, then be clear about where their first assignment is posted so that they can get right to it.  This is a wonderful way to encourage independence in your students.  With a well crafted set of daily routines, they are able to navigate the day easily and manage themselves.

Pocket charts and velcro should be standard in any teacher survival kit--they are our best friends in the struggle to keep track of changing daily schedules.  When the kids ask, "Isn't it lunch yet?" just point to the pocket chart. Eventually, they will know to look there on their own. For examples of how routines are established in a classroom, take a look at "Classroom Management."

Remember nothing is set in stone.
If you've started off the school year and certain things don't seem to be working for you, try something else.  I've discovered that it's helpful to let the students in on your management issues.  Tell them that this strategy, procedure, or way to work is obviously not working for them and ask them what they think might help. What should we change? They will be more than glad to help figure out the issue. I've found that they are often harder on themselves than we are.

Find someone you trust to help and support you.
Most teachers who have made it past their first couple of years have found someone who they trust to support them and give them advice.  While each of us has to grow into being a wonderful teacher in our own time, learning from someone who has already been there and done that can expedite your growth and, in turn, have a huge impact on your students.  Read, " I Want to Hold Your Hand: Tips for Finding a Collaborative Partner" for ideas on finding someone you can trust and support you.


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