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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 2, Issue 23

December 2006


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A Commentary for New and Future Teachers

by Jeremey M. Finn
Middle School Teacher
Kettering (Ohio) Middle School

For many college seniors across the nation, the giant step into the real world is
right around the corner. From the very first observation of a classroom teacher, to
the final week of student teaching, all that hard work is leading up to graduating
and finding that first real teaching job. Before you make that giant plunge into
this phenomenal profession, I would like to bring you up-to-date on what the next
year will hold. The following are side-notes that may be useful for you from the
first interview, until the last day of the school year. Keep in mind, this is from
the standpoint of a 5th year teacher who is always teaching and always learning. 
Thatís what educators do and thatís who we are.

First, let me start by telling you that all of your student teaching methods,
theories and models, and classroom experiences can be left at the doorstep. I am
not saying they are invaluable, but the bottom line is you are starting from the
ground up. I had a lot of very influential professors, mentors, and advisors
through college and grad school, but no one could have prepared me more for that
first year than myself and my own students. 


*Be yourself
*Dress accordingly
*Strike up a small conversation with the secretary (she/he will be very
important to you during the year)
*Greet all interviewers with a handshake (let them know they are all important) 
*Bring extra resumes (enough for everyone in the room)
*Do not bring a portfolio (the interviewers have limited time and it wonít be
spent reading through a few hundred pages of useless information)
*Volunteer for everything (this shows you want to take on responsibility and
you want to be part of the school community)
*Ask questions about the school (be prepared by studying the district and the
school before you go to the interview)
*Thank everyone for the opportunity to interview (a general custom)
*Send a Thank-you note even if you donít get the job (networking is very

Days Before The Students Arrive:

*Organize your room they way you think you want it set-up (I recommend teams of
four starting out, although no one way is correct)
*Do not take anything from other teachers (meaning if they offer you something,
donít take it unless you will use itóalso they will offer you everything)
*Donít be disappointed in your room or chairs (you are the newbie and get
whatever is left)
*Visit other classroom and teachers (make new friends)
*Spend time in the office each day (get to know who is in there and what they do)
*Have all curriculum materials ready (start planning now and follow the standards)
*Find out where you can park your car (donít take anyoneís spot)
*Keep the room simple (no clutter because it looks disorganized)
*Attend all meetings (never be late)
*Start a sleep pattern (no more late nights out with your buddies)

First Day of School:

*Be very early (those who are late get no fruit cup)
*Have things waiting for students on their desktops (a new pencil and packets
of information for parents and guardians)
*Greet all students when they come in (make them feel special)
*Double check with the secretary on how to do attendance/lunch count if needed
(you donít want to have the secretary on you for not submitting your attendance)
*Check back over your schedule for the day (is everything correct)
*Make sure you have your 1st day of school folder available (this is usually
done during the first few days without students)
*Eat lunch with other teachers
*Make your rounds throughout the school to see other teachers (networking again)
*Share a lot about yourself to all students (it creates a sense of community)
*Donít be the first one out of the building at the end of the day (that looks bad)

Middle of the Year:

*Make sure you are still following the state standards (thatís your job)
*Stay up-to-date on school changes around the nation
*Spend time reading different types of books and magazines on education
(professional development is everywhere and the more you know, the better)
*Ask the principal to evaluate you again if they havenít already
*Switch up your daily routine (change can be good for the mind)
*Donít get burned out (enjoy what you are doing)
*Spend time with your mentor (hopefully there is some type of relationship an
if there isnít, make it happen)
*Start up a new club (use students who you are familiar with)
*Donít forget to buy a small gift for all teachers on holidays (this shows them
you care about all of them and that you are happy to be there)
*Its OK to say No (unless its from your principal)

Last Day for Teachers:

*Make sure you have a list of what has to be turned in
*Ask the custodians what you should do with your room
*Go over the year with your principal (suggestions on how to improve on things
over the summer)
*Gather telephone numbers of all teachers (especially the ones you spend the
most time with)
*Donít be a packrat (if you have things you didnít use, pitch them)
*Plan to meet with your particular team members over the summer to discuss the
upcoming year
*Evaluate your year in a ongoing journal or a blog (self evaluation is very
important for educational growth)
*Check with your principal on whether or not you will be assigned the same
grade/subject for the following year (you are last on the list and sometimes people
get bumped)
*Make plans to attend another university in the next few years (the earlier you
start, the better chance of a pay raise, and more time n the future to work on your
family life)
*Take a vacation (if you get a summer job, make sure you enjoy some time away
from everything)

As the year finally comes to an end, you will discover a few things about children,
adults, and more importantly, yourself. This first year of your professional life
will be one that you remember forever. There will be days where you feel like
nothing works and no one is there to talk to. But, you will also have a day where
everything works and you have that ďAhaĒ feeling. Thatís why itís important to make
teaching meaningful. I still remember my first year like it was yesterday. From
the unsettling feelings before the first day of school, to the last day of the year
where hugs were plentiful, and everyone was happy. Remember this, you are important
and you will survive. 

Be sure to check out our website for more great information, tips, and techniques for new teachers, student-teachers, and interns in teacher prep programs. Also be sure to check out our Who-I-Want-To-Be teacher plan for preparing yourself to enter the educational profession.  Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

Want to check out the articles in our Student-Teaching series?  Check out our special Student-Teaching page through the following link:  http://www.starteaching.com/studentteachers.htm


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Running Project Centers Effectively

By Frank Holes, Jr.
Middle School Teacher

Project centers or stations can be a great way to have your students working independently (or as a team) on a number of assignments.  These centers have been used successfully by elementary teachers, gym teachers, and coaches for many years.   And this technique can be utilized by middle school teachers too.  In fact, writer's workshops and science labs are really not too far from this style of teaching.  Basically you divide up your students into several groups, and each group of students moves from one project area to the next, doing work at each station.

Some teachers have specific centers or stations they use each week during the year.  They have certain skills they want their students to practice through the year.  Some stations may change or be adjusted as the year goes on.  Other teachers use groups as needed in particular units or for extra practice.  These are geared toward specific objectives in a unit or they may be determined by testing and assessment of students progress (or lack of progress).

Dividing up the students will be determined in large part by the resources you have to work with and the types of assignments you want the kids to do.  For example, in my class I want my students using technology in real-life applications.  Thus, we need every computer put to use every hour.  Now, we're quite lucky to have a bank of eMacs updated with new software right in our room.  Because of this, we have students working on projects like PowerPoints, web pages, newsletters, and the like.  Each week the students have a large project similar to these to work on.  Sometimes these are individual activities, and other times the group of students must work together.  This is one example of the resources in your room dictating the group size; there are five computers, so I can have groups of five students. 

There are a number of ways to designate your groups.  You might have preformed groups, either choosing them yourself or allowing students to have input.  One teacher at our school has the kids write down one student they work well with and one student they cannot work with at all.  She then uses this to form groups.  Another teacher uses his knowledge of the students' leadership skills and academic performance to form groups.  In my room, students are already at tables, and each table is labeled with a different symbol (star, heart, square, triangle, & circle).  This makes it easy for me to just write the symbol on the board next to each group, and I can rewrite them each day.  One teacher in our elementary has a permanent chart on his wall and uses velcro (you could use magnets if you have a white board) to affix small signs to designate each group.  Then changing groups each day is quick and easy.

You have to be ready for and expect a certain noise level when your students are in groups or project centers.  But as always, there is 'productive' noise and then there is 'off-task' talking.  Keep yourself free to move about the room, monitoring students and checking their progress.

Monitor the groups carefully and keep the kids on task, especially the first few times you try centers.  Once your students understand your expectations, you'll be freed up more to help individually.  I like to include normal classroom activities and assignments as part of the centers.  After we've practiced this skill or activity and the students know how to do it, they are more likely to successfully accomplish a similar task in group. 

This is one great advantage of the groups - you can move from group to group working with kids.  Each project center has an activity for the kids so they are on task. And since these are much smaller groups of students, you can work closely with them, discussing and answering questions.  And you can check for understanding faster, easier, and more thoroughly. 

Choose meaningful activities at each station.  In our English class, students need at least one reading and one writing activity each week.  These may take various forms, and I try to mix it up a bit.  Then I also try to make use of the technology with computer projects.  Each activity has meaning and many provide good practice on skills.  

After a few rotations, the students get the hang of it.  I'll give them a two-minute warning, and we put a 30 second timer on the switch between groups.  This keeps them hopping and eliminates the down time.  They do get much faster the more you practice.

My students have responded favorably to the groups.  They enjoy switching gears once or twice each class period. This fits with their attention spans too.  I like it too, because the kids are split up around the room and they're on task.  And I'm able to interact more closely with the students.  It frees me up to walk around and work individually or conference with a student if I wish.  I'm not sure this is the only way to teach effectively, but it is an excellent teaching tool to keep in your toolbox.

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Whit's End
Adventures in Odyssey Website 

Our December WEBSITE OF THE MONTH award is presented to, Whit's End, an interactive site for students, parents, and families.  

Whit's End the official website for the audio program Adventures in Odyssey, originally designed by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family.  The audio show, consisting of short stories of the inhabitants of the town of Odyssey, is intended to spark imagination and instill morals and values to an audience of 8-12 year olds around the world and around the country.  

 The website is a great and fun resource for kids.  There are podcasts and videos for children to check out, as well as interactive games featuring the characters from the series.  Blogs and newsletters help to promote literacy, and kids can even download past shows to listen to.  

This is a user-friendly website with quick links to the various parts of the site.  It is a great resource for elementary teachers.  

Check this site out, you'll be glad you did.  Simply click the link below:








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Themes on Life

Today is the most important day to focus on...

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry. Two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is yesterday, with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed. We cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone!!

The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow, with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is beyond our immediate control. Tomorrowís sun will rise, whether in splendor or behind a mask of clouds. But it will rise. Until it does we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.

This leaves only one day: today.

Any man can fight the battles of just one day. It is when you and I add the burdens of two awful eternities Ė yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down.

It is not necessarily the experience of today that disturbs oneís peace of mind. It is oftentimes the bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore live one day at a time.


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Coming Soon:

Designing and Running a Medieval Fair

Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds

Discipline Procedures in School

Using Magic in the Classroom


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