Advice for First Year Primary Teachers

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As I have just about finished my first year in teaching (whoop, whoop!) Here a few things that I wished I had known in my first year of teaching. Some of them it has taken me the whole year to fully appreciate and I still have a lot to learn! Best of luck to all new teacher buddies out there! Do any other seasoned teachers have anything else to add?

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  1. Routines are your friend but it can often be a case of trial and error. Not everything is going to work for the personalities in your classroom.

I went into the classroom with firm ideas of what routines I wanted in my classroom only to find that they just did not suit the needs or personalities of my class. So as much as you need to keep reinforcing and practising classroom routines, you also need to be prepared to try new things as some routines are never going to work no matter how long you spend practising them. For example, I used hand-claps that my class had to echo to pause children during activities but this often resulted in some children’s over-enthusiastic clapping or many children continuing with their activity and not stopping. No matter how often I positively and negatively reinforced this strategy it was still not effective. However, my call and response technique of “Hands on top!” followed by a chorus of “Everybody Stop!” worked wonders. I could immediately tell that all children were facing me with nothing in their hands and they enjoyed this strategy, especially if they were picked to shout “hands on top”.

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2. It is a-okay to get things wrong!! Practise the growth mindset and resilience you preach to the children and be kind to yourself.

You will get things wrong and many, many things will not go to plan. It is all about how you deal with it at the time. I have cry-laughed in front of my class before at a disastrous lesson and allowed them to do colouring for 10 minutes to calm us all down. Just be prepared with little rituals for yourself and your class if things start to falter or you enter “Rabbit-in-headlights” mode. Respond to the needs of the children, do not troop on regardless! Have some brain break loly-pop sticks that you can use to get your class to do independently whilst you recollect and strategies. I would have them play Simon Says, Hangman, Heads-Down-Thumbs-up or watch a GoNoodle Video whilst I re-thought the lesson. Having a bell to signal “Stop everything and read” was also a great routine in the classroom and one that the children enjoyed and ensured that they calmed themselves down if things were getting rowdy.

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3. You can never be too organised! Here are some things I did, I have so much more I want to do next year!

  • Every morning and after every break time, I would lay out the children’s book in the seating plan for the following lesson with their learning labels and before they did anything else they had to write the date and stick in their learning label. They got a star if they could also prove to me that they had read the learning objective for the lesson!
  • Clip marking pens onto your lanyard! Just make sure the lid is on!!!
  • Have all your resources printed, trimmed and ready in groups on an easily accessible side board ready for the lesson. Train children to hand these out when asked.
  • Self-Assessment boxes. If you haven’t been able to see every children during the lesson and are wondering which books you need to mark first – solve this with organisation. Get children to put their own books away in boxes; one with a happy face, one with a middle face, and one with a sad face depending how well they think they have met the learning objective.
  • Folders, folders and more folders. My cupboard is full of them. I have a separate folder for every subject for any vital planning and resources. They are your friend.
  • “File things away” in the bin. No you probably won’t need those 13 spare copies of a worksheet in case you’re in the same year group next year. Be strict with your printing. Save hard copies. Bin the rest. Your surfaces will thank me.

4. Laugh with your class and enjoy being with them. They will make you happy if you let them.

I am a huge advocate for reciprocal positivity and respect in the classroom. If I’m honest, I probably act more like a big sister than a teacher in the classroom at times and it is what the children in my school need. No one will ever stomp-out the rebellious, chatty, banterous nature of the children in my school. And I don’t think they should. It should be celebrated and, as long as it is respectful and appropriate, encouraged in order to help them enjoy school. So many of them hate coming to school but I think that if you can get them to laugh with you, groan at your poor jokes, and to know that you are genuine, firm and fair with them. Then, from my experience, I think you will help their personalities, confidence and respectfulness flourish and they will get more out of school. Both academically and socially. Not to mention you’ll have a great laugh along the way.

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