Lori Goodson, Editor
Mary Hammel, Technical Editor
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: Wichita Public Schools
City/State: Wichita, KS
Class/content area taught: Second grade
What are you most excited about with your new career? I love that I get to come to “work” each day to explore topics, learn and influence my students! Every day is an adventure. I have loved every second of getting to know all 22 of my students diverse personalities, and how each of them has actually taught ME something every single day. This job gives you a purpose!
In what ways has your school/district supported you? I have an INCREDIBLE 2nd Grade team and school staff. I feel so supported and welcome, which just as for my students, makes a great environment. Whether it was financially, emotionally or with planning, my school has been helpful every step of the way for my first semester!
What are some specific things you believe KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career? The field experience I obtained from the KSU College of Ed was amazing. I truly feel like I was more prepared and comfortable in my own classroom because I had spent so much time in real, diverse and differentiated classrooms.
Are there specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you? I grew up loving opportunities with kids and just people in general and at the age of 9 I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I never looked back! I love working with others ( 4 of my 5 Strengthsquest strengths are relationship building!) and thrive in an environment where I get to do so, my personality matches well with my profession and I am so glad I recognized this early on and pursued this dream.
Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers:
- Never question yourself; Your portfolios and papers in college will be stressful, no doubt! But your classroom is out there waiting on you, and all of the work from college will teach you all the things you need to be on your own.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help; ALL teachers, those teaching for 25 years, 5 years or just a first year like me are facing the same craziness you are each day. They have a million things on their mind just like you, so chances are they may forget to remind you of the playground rules or how to turn in report cards- ask them! They will help you, there is just so much going on!
- Stop trying to be perfect; I don’t care how detailed your lesson plans are or how much time you spend preparing for them, something will go wrong or different than you thought. Have fun, be silly, realize this job is not only about your curriculum, take everything in as a lesson and know that tomorrow is a new day!
- Take time to focus on relationships; I am usually exhausted, confused and stressed at the end of each day, but I wake up so excited to go back and see my kiddos. This job is so much work, but as my favorite quote goes “It will not be easy, it will be worth it.”
We found some of your former Curriculum and Instruction professors and asked them, “As a classroom teacher, what’s your favorite memory from your first year of teaching?” And here are some of their responses.
Dr. Todd Goodson (Secondary English, Speech/Theatre, Journalism) — “My first year was at a very small country school with grades 7-12. The first week I was there, the superintendent came in carrying a Missouri driver’s manual. He explained that I would need to drive the district’s small bus to take students to speech contests, and to do that, I would need a special license. He told me to read through the manual a little bit, and he would come back and watch my classes for me that afternoon while I went to the county seat to take the exam. I’m not sure what would be more intimidating for a new teacher—having the superintendent as a substitute during the first month of teaching, trying to quickly read a book and take a test over it and thinking about how embarrassing it would be to fail, or the sudden discovery the job also included driving buses loaded with students. As it turned out, the test part was a non-issue. I already had a Missouri Chauffeur’s License! Driving high school students to contests never stopped being terrifying.”
Dr. Lori Levin (Literacy) — “I did a Flat Stanley project based on the Flat Stanley books, and my kids sent little flat paper versions of themselves to friends and family around the country and asked for photos or artifacts of the flat child out and about in the community so we could learn about new places. When an envelope would come back to school in the mail, it was the most exciting thing to see what was inside. Teachers still do Flat Stanley units today – it never gets old!”
Dr. Brad Burenheide (Secondary Social Studies) — “Being told I was being brought back for year 2!”
Dr. Sally Yahnke (Family and Consumer Sciences) — “I had a middle school student who had no arms (she was a thalidomide baby), so there was a lot of accommodations that needed to be done. She sat on the counter, washed her feet, and made a pizza; she slid a table up to the sewing machine and was able to complete the project, her penmanship was the best in the class. This taught me a lot about what humans can do if they want to.”
Cyndi Kuhn (Technology) — “OH my, when I think about my first year of teaching, I kinda hope no one remembers my name, I think I might have been the only one learning that year. But boy did I learn a ton.”
Dr. Sherri Martinie (Secondary Math) — “I remember doing a lot of great projects, including skits and songs. It was a ton of work, but so much fun!”
Kaylee Myers (Elementary Education) — “How much I learned and grew from my kindergartners. Everyday they had something clever or cute that one of them told me. I should’ve written all of those down then!”
Dr. Tom Vontz (Secondary Social Studies) — “Watching students turn in their final exam on the last day of the semester. The final exam was one essay question, yet most of the students used the entire 90 minutes to write out their answer. I was proud of what we accomplished and how much they had learned – not just about history, but about hard work, study skills, organization of ideas, historical thinking, and a host of other things.”
Dr. Vicki Sherbert (Secondary English/Language Arts, Speech/Theatre, Journalism) — “During Parent/Teacher Conferences in October, a parent told me that her daughter loved my class. She said that she and her husband were always excited when their children were placed in a first-year teacher’s classroom because what new teachers may lack in experience, they make up for with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Her words encouraged and gave me confidence.”
Dr. Tonnie Martinez (Secondary English/Language Arts) — “I was 21 and they were 18—I dressed like an old woman and stayed behind my podium.”
Dr. Phillip Payne (Music Education) — “I would say the resilience of my band as we returned home from Indianapolis after 1/3 of the band got food poisoning. This tested a lot of what I had learned in school. Seeing the connection between parents, community, and administration was invaluable and really allowed me to see the profession from beyond the walls of my classroom.”
It’s different at the various grade levels. Some teachers may see their first class leaving the building for another school; some may see their first class graduating from the school district and moving on to other stages of their lives.
Whatever the situation, you’ll probably find that you think back to your first year for many school years to come. They will be the group that, for better and for worse, helped you complete your first year in an extremely important career.
Take a few minutes, before everyone dashes out your classroom door, to thank them. While you’ve been the teacher, they have taught you many things, as well.
Despite what some say, teachers have plenty of things to do through the summer–whether it’s teaching summer school to help students catch up on skills or student-free activities such as attending workshops or classes. Here are just a few suggestions to help you make the most of those not-so-lazy, hazy days of summer!
- Be looking for ways to improve your lessons. If you’re teaching the same course next fall, spend some time flipping through your lesson plans. Hopefully, you’ve made some notes and done some reflecting on what worked and didn’t work. Where can you add a new element – a brief video or music clip? How can you enliven your lessons to get your students excited? What activities did they seem to like the most AND learn the most? Revise, revise, revise!
- Look for new resources. The Internet provides an endless amount of options for you, including many that are teacher-tried and trusted. But don’t overwhelm yourself; be selective by focusing on pumping up one particular unit for next year’s class.
- Team up with a colleague (as near as a friend who teaches down the hall to as far away as across the nation, thanks to the Internet). It’ll make planning and revising much more enjoyable!
- Find a workshop or course to take that addresses an area in which you’d like to become a stronger teacher…classroom management, special education needs, technology, etc.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go, COE Cats!
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.