Lori Goodson, Editor
Mary Hammel, Technical Editor
With just a little less than two months left in the school year, many of you are about to lose the title of Rookie Teacher. However, don’t overlook those last six to eight weeks. You still need to have a strong finish!
Use weekends to recharge as you set your sights on the end of the school year. Consider these ideas to help you end your year on a high note…and make your administrator thrilled to have you return for your second year:
- Now that you’ve been through several months, review your lesson plans. Make any alterations you believe are necessary to ensure the success of you and your students.
- Check with colleagues or administrators to make sure you’re aware of any end-of-year requirements—paperwork you need to have completed, special dates to put on your calendar, etc. It’s one more opportunity to make sure you’re not overlooking anything important.
- Take a deep breath and promise to enjoy your students. They’ve been your students for about eight months. Take a few seconds each day to simply look around the room and appreciate them.
- Remind yourself of at least one moment of progress or success each student has experienced.
- Take another deep breath and promise yourself to focus on the ups more than the downs of your first year of teaching. With a few weeks left, you still have time to make changes, mend fences, and make the most of their time with you!
School district: Seaman USD 345
City/State: Topeka, KS
Class/content area taught: English/Language Arts
What are you most excited about with your new career? I’m excited to grow and learn about myself as an individual, and a teacher along with my students. I love how teaching is never boring, and no day is ever exactly the same as the last. You never know what you’re going to hear walking into a room, or what impact you’re going to have on a student until you get in the room and talk with them. I’m excited to start delivering content in a way that most students aren’t accustomed to, as they usually expect Language Arts to be solely dedicated to reading old literature and writing papers on it. We’re getting ready to teach our Sophomores Romeo and Juliet, and I’m already excited to teach them about his language using the book Pop Sonnets, and having them apply and understand the knowledge that we can still learn from Romeo and Juliet many years after it’s been written.
In what ways has your school/district supported you? I was very fortunate to have Seaman supporting me from the beginning when I student taught, and even more fortunate to return to the kids and community I love. I can talk with any teacher of any content and get tips or tricks on how to deal with difficult students or parents; even just to have a conversation with about a favorite TV show or something. My PLC group of teachers are also a great support system. I know I can talk with them about any struggles I’m having and will get solid advice. My administrators are very supportive as well, offering me new teaching strategies, or even conversing with me about my ideas for classroom management. The district itself is currently accepting applications for its teachers to consider making their classrooms a blended learning space; offering training, new furniture, and support from teachers who already are using blended learning.
What are some specific things you believe KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career? KSU has prepared me to be open to new ideas even if it’s outside of my comfort zone. Within my teaching classes, I interacted and discussed with other future teachers ideas and systems we thought might work for our future classrooms. I learned a lot from working both with individuals of similar content, or personality interests, and from those who had different ideas or approaches from me. My English teachers specifically helped me analyze and compile a list of non-classic literature I could use to engage my students interests better than what most schools teach. My time spent in the KSU writing center changed my idea of what feedback on writing projects should look like. Before I might have written all over a student’s essay the errors, mistakes, and what they needed to revise rather than giving them helpful feedback that will help them in the future. Now, I still focus on the lower order concerns more towards the last draft, but make sure to ask them questions about their writing that would qualify for the higher order concerns of writing.
Are there specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you? I’ve always wanted to be a teacher ever since sixth grade. I knew I wanted to inspire and help people learn like my favorite teachers had always done. Although my mom always wanted to, I’m the only one in my family who’s followed that dream.
Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers: My suggestion for new teachers is to find the proper balance between building a personal relationship with your students and being the ‘cool teacher’ that they like because you let them get away with everything. You don’t necessarily have to wait to smile until September, but make sure that you don’t loosen up too much too early on in the year.
School district: Blue Valley School District USD 229
City/State: Overland Park, KS
Class/content area taught: ELA 9 and ELA 11 (English Language Arts for freshmen and juniors)
What are you most excited about with your new career? I am most excited about the possibilities that are provided to new teachers. There is so much opportunity for growth and there are so many ways that I can teach. I LOVE that I am able to choose how I want to teach and how I want to create the classroom atmosphere. The possibilities are endless and I’m just now cracking the surface.
What you enjoy most about teaching: My favorite part of teaching is the ability to connect with students. I love that I am given the opportunity to work with students and instill confidence through education.
In what ways has your school/district supported you? I have the most phenomenal mentors at my school. My principal, department chair, district mentor, and PLC teams have shown so much support just in these first seven months of teaching. They support all of my crazy ideas and love to give suggestions to make those ideas come into fruition. All of these people provide sounding boards to bounce ideas off of. They are there to reflect after each idea either succeeds or fails in ways that I did not expect. They are the best support I could have asked for.
What are some specific things you believe KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career? I don’t know how to even begin answering this question. KSU prepares their students in ways that I did not even realize until I taught. When I entered into my student internship, I knew how to lesson plan correctly, work with students and teachers in special education, and provide an atmosphere that welcomes all cultures. This is abnormal! Through each of the KSU courses I took, I learned how to adapt to any situation or student that walks into my classroom. Take every education class seriously because everything you learn is useful!
Are there specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you? I guess the closest part about my background is my personality. I love learning and I love people, which are two of the most important parts of teaching.
Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers: You can do it. The student internship is scary, interviewing for jobs is even scarier, and starting your own classroom is outright terrifying. But KSU prepares you to conquer each of these necessary tasks with confidence. Accept every piece of advice that you get and then later decide what works for your personality and what doesn’t. You can do it!
Teaching is the hardest, but more rewarding job in the entire world. If you show your students love and grace, they will adore you and grow not only as a student, but as an individual.
- Look at your yearlong curriculum map. How much content do you still need to cover? Are you behind schedule? If so, revise your April and May lesson plans and calendars, making sure you address all of the critical content you need to cover. Prioritize! And, if you need help determining what must be covered, visit with your mentor or a colleague or administrator to get their input.
- Review your gradebook. Are there any issues? Missing assignments? Do any of your students need a little more time with you (after school, at lunch, before school) to address some academic areas of concern? You still have a few weeks left in the school year to help them succeed.
- In the last few weeks, do you have any “wish we had time” assignments? Something that you’d love to work into the schedule? Is there a way to fit them in?
- Are there items or projects or papers that need to be sent home? Use these last few weeks of the school year to review and reorganize! You may need to create folders or envelops for each student to organize materials that need to go home.
- Spend a few minutes composing some brief notes to each student’s family, addressing some of the major accomplishments their children have made through the year. It’s great to remind parents and guardians of the steps their children have taken, but it’s also good for YOU to remember those as your year comes to an end. Try to make one more personal contact with each child’s family before the end of the school year. We have a tendency to focus on the issues a student may have in class, but we need to celebrate the positives. Share, share, share!
- Create an end-of-the-year to-do list for you AND your students. It might be something as simple (and extremely meaningful) as sending a note home or it might be following up on overdue library books or money for their lunch accounts.
Dr. Brad Burenheide (Secondary Social Studies)—“It is the backbone of the mission of schools and the core subject matter of education for the past 2500 years in the western world.”
Mrs. Kaylee Myers (Elementary Literacy)—“At a young age my kindergartners and second graders were so excited to be in school. I loved molding them into independent thinkers who believed they could try anything and it would be okay. That learning and reading were fun!”
Dr. Sally Yahnke (FACS)—“Family and Consumer Sciences is important because it teaches Life Skills that can help students be successful in whatever career they choose. The skills learned in FCS prepares student for work life and home life. They learn to be parents, purchase and prepare nutritious meals, consumer skills, money and time management, communicating with others, decision making in real life scenarios, problem solving.”
Dr. Todd Goodson (Secondary English, Speech/Theatre, Journalism)—“To me, a high school English class is about reading and writing. We read to understand this world that exists all around us. We write to discover what we believe and how we feel and to leave some evidence behind that we were here. What could be more important?”
Dr. Sherri Martinie (Secondary Math)—“Math is applied in science courses, business course and the real world. Math is important to making sense of the world around us.”
Dr. Vicki Sherbert (Secondary English/Language Arts, Speech/Theatre, Journalism)—“Reading and writing are essential in order for our students to function as literate members of our society. They need to possess literacy skills in order to gain knowledge in other subject areas and to express their learning and understanding.”
Ms. Cyndi Kuhn (Technology)—“Technology is expected to be used at all grade level and in all content areas; embrace it!!”
Dr. Phillip Payne (Music Education)—“Music provides insight into one’s self more profoundly than any other subject. Music allows for self expression and also connects us to our school, our community, and our state (among others). Providing students with the cognitive keys necessary to access who they are as a person is one of the most influential acts we can do as music educators.”
We want to help beginning and early career teachers like you thrive in your career! Check out #WeAreEdCats for teaching tips and to stay in touch with the COE! Check out the website at coe.k-state.edu/edcats.
Why don’t you send us a photo of you at work in your classroom! Or, do you have a question about classroom procedures? A suggestion for a topic we should address in Before the Bell? Want to add your name to our mailing list? Or provide a different email for our list? At the very least, just email and say hi!
Early-career teachers, feel free to jump in and offer suggestions to those who are following your career choice!
We’d love to hear from you, so please email us at email@example.com.
Go, COE Cats!
- Some of your favorite professors share their first-year teaching memories.
- Saying goodbye to your first class…it might be harder than you think!
- Keep an eye on August. We’ll offer some summer suggestions.