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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

My August blog -- which included responses from experienced teachers about what they wish they’d known as beginners -- focused on students' emotions and classroom community. Now that we are several months into the school year, I offer their advice about goals, resources and cautions.

Go for Goals, Share Successes

1) Goals Motivate

Dee Garrett, computer teacher and accelerated reader administrator at St. Mary's Episcopal Day School in Tampa, Florida reminds us:

I wish I'd known that setting personal goals was so motivating for my students. The joy I see when they move close to and finally achieve these is a powerful motivator for them, and for me.

2) Step Out on Your Own and Try Something

Amy Fanusi, a teacher at Henderson Middle School in Butts County, Georgia urges:

I taught eighth grade earth science, and when I planned lessons with the other eighth grade teachers, they all had ideas of what they wanted to do the next week. I also had my own ideas, but was afraid to totally step out on my own and try something. I finally decided to do it, and it worked GREAT! I let the other teachers know what I did, and they were surprised and a little upset. They were not upset that I did something different, but upset that I did not feel like I could share my new ideas. From that moment on, I always shared any new ideas I had, and we had a lot more stuff to choose from every week. We had great lessons all year long.

Discover the Resources You Already Have

3) Your Colleagues

Maggie Cowne, a teacher at Colbert Elementary School in Madison County, Georgia advises:

Find some all-star teachers (try Teachers of the Year from schools around you) and interview them. Ask them for the top five things that keep their classroom organized and running smoothly. Some of the best things that I do in my classroom were stolen ideas from top-notch teachers!

4) Supplies for Your Room

Valerie Goolsby, math teacher at Tift County High School in Georgia, adds:

I was in need of a class set of student white boards. They are individual dry erase boards that students can write on at their desks and hold up their responses for me to see. I was looking around trying to find the cheapest kind possible and realized they were very expensive. I talked to another teacher about it and she suggested I ask my principal if he would purchase a class set for me. He knew exactly the type of boards I was referring to, and said he would definitely be able to purchase that supply for me.
Another example of supply support came when I realized I was spending a lot of money on office supplies for my classroom, such as pens, pencils for students to use, construction paper, staplers, tape, folders, notebooks, etc. I did not realize this until my second or third year at the school that there was a school supply closet that houses several if not all of these types of items. If an office supply type of item was not in the closet, asking an administrator to purchase it is what I figured out needed to be done.
With these lessons learned, I am able to spend my money on other "cool" classroom items that my school will not purchase for me.

Cautions You Haven't Considered

5) Confidentiality is Critical

Chris Canter, Assistant Principal at Spalding Drive Elementary Charter School, Sandy Springs, Georgia cautions:

I wish people had guided me to follow this rule: Be very careful with what you share right away and don't simply trust everyone, even teachers. It is important to build relationships within the building and investigate which people you can turn to with the trust to keep your secrets and issues quiet. Teachers are fortunate if they can find two such people within the building. I wish someone had helped me to connect with other teachers and novice teachers in other school buildings who could help me when I needed to vent or just talk. I received this support from Teacher Academy. When I picked up the phone to call a TA colleague who worked in another system, she didn't know the situations or people about whom I was venting, and I was safe to deal with getting my feelings out and not have the entire event repeated to co-workers. This provided me with the relief and the counsel I needed in order to forgive, and to then (once calm) deal with situations at hand calmly and professionally.

6) Honor Student Creativity

On this subject, we can add a reminder from the wise Sir Kenneth Robinson:

The unpredictability of the future is what education is to prepare children for. Children have extraordinary talents that are ruthlessly squandered in school. Creativity is as important as literacy.

Your Turn

I hope that with even a few months of new teacher experience, or as experienced educators recognizing the things you do that have served you so well, you will add your own responses about goals, resources and cautions. Help us guide the thousands of new and future teachers as they join our profession.

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Shatonja's picture

I like that I can go to some of my colleagues and get suggestion but do you have any advice for when you have colleagues that are not receptive to working with others?

Kendra's picture
Kendra
Middle School Keyboarding

As a first year teacher, I totally agree that your colleagues are a valuable resource. Not only have I asked for tips from teachers at my school, I have also asked for tip from other teachers in my department at other schools in the district. There are endless ways to implement instructional strategies so the more resources you tap in to, the more possibilities you can consider.

Cha'Mario Chopp-Samuels's picture

I think it's super awesome that you have provided comments and concerns from experienced teachers. I am now in school to be a third grade teacher, and I will surely be saving this blog, so I can read it as I plan and approach my first year of teaching.

Antoinette's picture

After my first year I do plan on reflecting on everything that was done that year. As a teacher it will be my job to make sure that throughout the year I take notes, so I can reflect back an improve for the following year. Thanks so much for the pointers I really do love your blog.

Shawna Fields's picture

I enjoyed reading this blog! As a pre-service teacher, I found all the tips listed above helpful for my teaching career. I often set small goals in order reach a much bigger goal. Allowing students to set their own goals is extremely important. When students are able to reach the goals they set for themselves, it gives them a sense of accountability for their work. I appreciate all the helpful tips for surviving the first year of teaching!

Brandi Smith's picture

Wow! I found this to have a lot of great tips. I am currently a pre-service teacher and plan on teaching within the next year, I will be saving this blog in order to look back upon.

Krystal's picture

As a student observer on the way to being an awesome teacher this post has opened my mind to new things. I will definitely set goals for myself and have my students set their own goals as well. It's very motivating and inspiring when you're able to reach a goal, its a form of confidence and a personal boost especially in a math class. I also agree on being as vocal as possible and asking the administration to purchase anything for the classroom that will help the students. And as for sharing ideas with, I would want to know that it was a success and the kids enjoyed the lessons and learned from them before giving away unorganized ideas. Just being an observer I can already reflect and plan for what I expect from my students. Together we will learn and I can't wait for my student teaching experience. Then ill be here posting on my reflection.

Whitlow Stanley's picture
Whitlow Stanley
Special education major @ Prairie View A&M University

Amazing blog! As a future teacher this information is a necessity. I am glad that I had the chance to view this illustration. In the near future I will reflect back upon this information of how to survive my first year of teaching.

Valencia's picture

As a preservice teacher I have heard all the stories about paying out of your pocket for your own supplies and things you need. This past summer I worked at Dollar Tree and weeks before school started the store was swamped with teachers buy cheap supplies out of their own money. Where is the justice? I am the type of person that wants the best for my kids and I would go beyond for them.
I believe in organization to the fullest because with out that you class would be in wild, you wouldnt know where things were located, the students would run wild and your life would be harder than needed.

Ms. Roxanne Mejia's picture

Science education major. I found this information useful so when I am finished with my first year of teaching I will be able to reflect and improve. Thank you!

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