Kansas State University


College of Education

Category: August 2016

Welcome to an Amazing Career!

Welcome to your new school year! This is an amazing time, and we are excited to continue with you on this journey!

For many of you, 2016-17 is your first school year as a teacher, and that makes this August just a little more significant than all those others that have come before it. For others, you’re beginning your second or third year with your own classroom—wanting to build upon what you accomplished last year…and maybe avoid a few of those bumps you experienced. How do I know about the bumps? Well, every teacher experiences those through the year.

Kansas State University’s College of Education is here to help. This newsletter is designed to give you specific and practical tips to help you successfully navigate through your early years of teaching. Look for topics that address the various issues as the school year moves along—from setting up your classroom to preparing for conferences with parents to wrapping up the room for the summer. Likewise, we’re hoping to remind you early-career teachers of a few things and provide some new ideas, as well, to help you continue to be successful.

We’ll also include some information about new programs we’re putting into place—just for new teachers. Dean Debbie Mercer has made it a priority to help you out as much as possible, so look for several opportunities where we can lend our support. (And if you’re not seeing what you need, just email me…lagoodson@k-state.edu…and we’ll do our very best to address your specific concerns and questions. Even if you don’t have questions or concerns, I’d love to hear from you!)

We hope you’ll enjoy our ideas and suggestions and keep in touch with us as you move through lesson plans, lunch counts, and assessments. It’s our way of reminding you that you’re not alone…and that the COE Wildcats are here to support you in any way possible.

Whether it’s your first year or your second or beyond, you’ve begun an amazing journey. Thanks for letting us be a part of it!

In the Classroom: Julie Comstock


comstock pic
Julie Comstock prepares for her first day with fourth graders at Morris Hill Elementary at Fort Riley.

Julie Comstock, a fourth-grade teacher at Morris Hill Elementary at Fort Riley, is preparing for her first year as a classroom teacher. She’s beginning the year with 14 students, “with more on the way within the month,” she says.

We asked how KSU has prepared her for the classroom.

“As an everyday civilian, I never had much interaction with children associated with the military. That was, until I had a practicum experience on Fort Riley two years ago. I was introduced to a population of children who had more life experience in the first 10 years of their life than others obtain in a lifetime. They have lived around the world, speak multiple languages, been the “new kid at school” a handful of times, and learned to accept others from all walks of life. Without Kansas State’s mission of giving their students well-rounded practicum experiences, I would’ve moved back to Hawaii and worked in the same comfortable community where I was raised. Instead, I found children that touch my heart each day and have inspired me to plant roots here in my Manhattan, Junction City, and Fort Riley community. I create a home for children who don’t have a hometown. I create a family out of children whose parents are deployed across oceans. I create stability in a child’s life that is rocked by sudden moves and household shifts. I do good work. Thank you, Kansas State.”

And what is she most excited about this fall?

“I’m excited to see what I’m capable of and grow alongside my students. Since I signed my contract, I have worked tirelessly for my students, so that they can believe in themselves in the same way that I do. I work nights and weekends to be sure that my students have the tools that they need to reach their full potential, academically and socially. I’m excited to see the growth that they will make…. Oh, I’m also looking forward to any and every reason to wear a costume to work….

“My fourth graders study at the ‘University of 4th grade.’ They take ownership for their learning and realize the impact they are making on their whole life. They declare a major in a subject that interests them, vote on a mascot that best reflects our community, apply for the school year, recite our college mission (‘I am important, I matter’), and earn credits to move onto fifth grade. My students are fascinated by college and are excited to take on the rigor of the school year.”

We’d Love to Hear from You!

e-mail iconDo you have a question about classroom procedures? Or 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 mailing list? Don’t forget to send us a photo of you at work in your classroom!

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 lagoodson@k-state.edu.

Go, COE Cats!

Successful Start: Some Basic Steps

You turn the key and unlock your classroom…for the first time ever. You’re stepping into a career you’ve been working toward for years. It’s amazing; it’s exciting; it’s…overwhelming. Students will be arriving in a few days, so how to you get your first school year as a teacher off to the strongest start possible? You…jump in and get started.

As a new teacher, you’ll quickly realize time is a valuable commodity, and it will be through the entire first year of your career. You’re moving into a new arena, where you have many decisions to make and a great deal of planning to do. Here are some quick, practical tips to get your room, your lessons, and your mind ready for the first day of school.


One of the most exciting moments is walking into your very own classroom. You have the opportunity to “design” your room—as much as the facilities and furniture will allow. That means you can implement some of those ideas you’ve discussed in your COE classes.

What kind of seating arrangement do you want?

IDEA: If you’re concerned about behavior management, consider putting desks in orderly rows. If you want some student collaboration through the school year, group desks. For the most in collaboration (yet probably also requiring the most of your skills in behavior management), opt for tables rather than desks.

If you’re feeling more comfortable about classroom management, especially if you’re beginning your second year, feel free to experiment a little to make your room more conducive to learning.

Which way do you want your students facing?

IDEA: Try to achieve the fewest distractions (windows, hallway traffic, etc.) and greatest focus on the lesson (clear line of sight to boards and overhead screens, for example).

What kind of foot-traffic path do you want to create in your room?

IDEA: Set up your room so students have easy access from the classroom door to their desks. It will help with classroom management and safety issues, as well as any fire or tornado drills that occur through the year.

Where do you want to locate supplies your students will need on a regular basis (writing folders, textbooks, etc.)?

IDEA: Think easy access and routine. Use a file cabinet drawer or storage crate for each class period’s writing folders or other material. Make sure the cabinet is easily accessible for your students. Make space on a shelf for each class’s textbooks, if you need to store them through the day. No matter what grade level you’re teaching, several plastic tubs of varying sizes will come in handy for compartmentalizing highlighters, markers, etc.

Where can you place your own desk so it provides student access…but not SO much access that it will become a distraction?

IDEA: Angle your desk in a corner that gives you good visibility around the room but also takes up a minimal amount of space.

What types of “decorations” would you like on your walls? A theme approach? Inspirational items? Content-connected items? A few personal items to share your personality with your students?

IDEA: Begin with minimum décor; post times for various activities, key information that you want them to remember (ex: a process for checking out a book), lesson objectives, essential questions, etc. There will be plenty of time later on to create a truly personal learning area.

Are you a bulletin board person? How can you best use that space?

IDEA: Use one bulletin board—the one students have the most access to—for business…to post schedules, announcements, and other materials your students will need; use a less accessible spot for less vital items, such as photos and other materials that show your personality.

COE Update: A New Program

fast-track-purple-train-1200x628To give you a glimpse of what the College of Education has been up to since you received your diploma, we’re excited to share that we’re now providing a unique path for college graduates nationwide who want to become elementary teachers.

The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is an intensive, one-year online degree specifically designed for people who have already earned a bachelor’s degree but want to pursue their dream of teaching. This pathway enables qualified Kansans and residents of other states to earn the degree in 12 months and be recommended for Kansas’ initial teacher licensure in grades K-6. The rigorous curriculum is delivered by online coursework, and field experiences are arranged in accredited elementary schools convenient to students in the program. Once out-of-state students pass the Kansas licensure exam, they can seek licensure in their home state. The first group started the program in May.

Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, believes this innovative program can help address the state’s and nation’s projected teacher needs while maintaining high professional standards. Thomas Vontz, professor of curriculum and instruction, led the development of this program.

First Impressions: Put Your Best Foot Forward

We all know how important first impressions are, and that’s especially true with the beginning of your school year. We also know that poor first impressions often are difficult to undo. So it’s important that you have a strong beginning to your year. But how do you go about it?

  • Have (at minimum) your first day’s materials ready to go. You don’t want to be madly searching for copies of handouts while your students are waiting for you to take charge.
  • Have a filing system that categorizes your information by classes.
  • Greet your students at the door so they know you’re excited, you’re prepared, and you’re in charge.
  • Have a seating arrangement in place before your students ever enter the room. It creates less disruption, especially if the seating chart is posted on the overhead screen as they walk in. If you don’t want assigned seats, make sure your students can get seated as effortlessly as possible.
  • If you can, send a quick note home to your students before the first day of school—especially if you have a particular home base group or small group that you’ll be responsible for through the year. Send a postcard or an email with a brief note saying you’re excited about having them in class and that it’s going to be a great year. That gives you an early connection with the students and their families. It also opens the lines of communication before the first bell even rings.
  • Establish basic rules on the first day; have them posted to reinforce them. But keep the list small and manageable.  For example, “Respect” is a one-word rule that covers nearly everything.
  • Avoid referring to students’ mothers and fathers; today, family can be defined in a variety of ways.
  • Smile…even though it’s not Thanksgiving yet. We’ve all heard the idea that teachers shouldn’t smile until Thanksgiving; don’t take it literally. There’s no need to scowl. Instead, the real intent of that saying is for you to be ready to manage your class as needed. As for smiling, give it a try. It will help you and your students feel a little more comfortable in the first days of the semester as you all get to know each other.

Just Ahead

September calendar iconYou’ll soon be into your second month as a teacher, and we’ll help you get there! Here’s a look at some of the topics for our next month’s issue:

  • The importance of procedures and routines
  • Planning for a substitute
  • Preparing for your first parent/teacher/student conferences (they’re closer than you think!)
  • And lots more to help you settle into your new career!