Although I'm fairly new at this whole teaching thing, I can say that I was better prepared to start my first full year than I would have been, had I not been blessed with a great opportunity. That extra four months worth of work was definitely worth it! A few important lessons I learned in my first four months (and a few even in the first six days of this year)...
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Parents are much more open to "bad" phone calls once they've had a few good ones first. I send out a weekly newsletter, send a weekly email to my parents, and am required to make at least 3 good phone calls a week. I can already tell a difference in the communication with my parents from last year to this year!
Pick your battles.
You have to learn to pick your battles. That was the biggest lesson I learned in my four months in fifth grade. Who cares if little Johnny wants to lay on the floor to read out of his book, if he's still doing his work, LET HIM DO IT! I was way too controlling with my kids the first year and it made my job that much harder. Let them do things for you. Let them clean the classroom. It's okay if someone needs to sharpen their pencil, let them do it.
Routines and procedures are KEY.
This is something that I've picked up on this year. If you establish and practice those routines and procedures in the first few weeks, they'll remember them and follow them for the rest of the year. If they aren't tight in the first few weeks, then the class will slowly unravel in your hands...I speak from experience.
Wear comfortable shoes.
...this one is pretty self explanatory. I still struggle with heel pain, because I have very flat feet. I'm a sucker for cute shoes.
When you have the opportunity, use the bathroom!
You don't wanna get stuck with a bladder infection or be doing the "ants in my pants" dance like I have so many times...I've started going right before school, during specials, and right after school. Makes for a happier teacher!
Always take time for you.
I quickly learned in my first four months that teaching is a stressful job. I found myself trying to balance a full time job for the first time in my life with being a girlfriend and a sister/daughter. Try staying at school until 7pm and then coming home to cook dinner. Not fun. The number one thing that I did (and will still continue to do) to destress was leave school as soon as I was allowed one day a week--and I did something for myself. There are 6 more days in the week that you can stay at school as long as you need to. If you take time for yourself, you'll have time to take care of everything else, too.
And just a few random pieces of advice....
Always keep band aids handy.
If you depend on caffeine, make sure you always have extra.
Sharpen pencils before the day starts and let kids switch them out during the day if you can't stand the sound of a pencil sharpener while you're teaching.
Remember to take attendance...and make friends with the people in the office and the custodians! They come in handy in times of need.
Your grade level partners, veteran teachers, and the internet can be your best friends for resources and ideas. Collaborating is always a great option!
That's all I can think of at the moment. Stay tuned for Where It All Goes Down Wednesday...where I'll finally share the before and after pictures of my room!