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There's a Lot to Learn Before Classes Begin

by Julie Scullen
 | Sep 16, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-178710954_x600We’re baaaack. Back to school and meeting our students, but what precedes getting your students in their seats can be even more intense.

That time of year when we gather our courage, take one last look at our backyard in the daylight, and head back to school for Teacher Workshop Week. Veteran teachers come prepared, steeling themselves for the onslaught, but new teachers may have a vastly different experience—one that’s both unsettling and panic inducing.

For a new teacher, Workshop Week is a little like a sorority or fraternity rush: overwhelming, intimidating, and thrilling all at the same time. You’ve heard a great deal about what to expect, but actually being there is much different. You’ll be exhausted, but have difficulty sleeping. You’ll know both too much and not enough.

Likely, most new teachers have a similar rush of emotions as they begin their first classroom teaching role. They’re finally getting to be the teacher—something they’ve wanted and dreamed about for four years of college (or longer). Plus, these people are going to pay you! With benefits! For doing what you love!

And with excitement, anticipation, and a little fanfare, you are thrust into the actual world of teaching.

Maybe you’ve been able to get into your classroom already, hang a few posters, create a bulletin board, arrange your desk, make seating charts. You’re thinking about the 26 (or 35, or 142) students you’ll have an opportunity to guide, teach, and inspire.

When Workshop Week begins, your delight of being a teacher deflates a bit under the actual reality of the work ahead.

In addition to lesson planning and teaching, you’ll be told you need to be perform required assessments (common assessments, progress monitoring assessments, formative assessments, summative assessments, standardized tests) and complete an analysis of the resulting data.

You’ll need to be on top of culturally responsive teaching practices, differentiation for all learners, intervention practices, extension practices, due process, special education requirements, 504 requirements, brain research, technology, data analysis, data privacy, copyright law, mandatory reporting, mental health screening, lunch duty, playground duty, hall duty, fire drill procedures, tornado procedures, school lockdown procedures, school evacuation procedures, media center procedures, lunchroom procedures, and professional development requirements.
You’ll need to be trained in technology designed to streamline your work and make communicating easier. The technology requires you to remember passwords for your e-mail, voicemail, classroom website, attendance technology, curriculum tool technology, data storage technology, behavior tracking technology, and of course those detailed online curriculum documents. All these will have different Web addresses, login processes, and passwords.

You’ll be given district goals, building goals, grade-level or department goals, and be asked to write goals for yourself and your students. There will be new district initiatives, building initiatives, and grade-level and department initiatives.

You’ll be reintroduced to your principal, the school counselor, your department or grade-level leader, your instructional coach, your paraprofessional, and your collaborative team members. All of these people will have roles you basically understand, however you’ll have little idea what they actually do. You will invariably go to the wrong person with your question.

You’ll meet the secretary when you get your key, your schedule, and your emergency contact information sheet. You’ll meet the custodian when you find your classroom doesn’t have enough desks, the shelves on your bookshelf are tilted, and the clock doesn’t keep correct time. These people will eventually be your best friends.

My advice as a veteran?

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. There are people to help you.

Write things down. You can’t possibly remember every detail.

Be kind to yourself. Sleep. Eat. Turn off your computer and take time with loved ones.

Remember why you are here. To guide. To teach. To inspire.

All your anxious anticipation, your hard work, and your hopes of making a difference are finally coming true. New teachers, be proud! You’ve made it. You’re here. This is your classroom. This is your new world. Make it the brilliant and confident beginning of your dazzling teaching career.

Julie Scullen is a former president of the Minnesota Reading Association and Minnesota Secondary Reading Interest Council and is a current member of the International Literacy Association Board of Directors. She taught most of her career in secondary reading intervention classrooms and now serves as teaching and learning specialist for secondary reading in Anoka-Hennepin schools in Minnesota, working with teachers of all content areas to foster literacy achievement. She teaches graduate courses at Hamline University in St. Paul in literacy leadership and coaching, as well as reading assessment and evaluation.


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  1. Rebekah | Sep 18, 2015
    This was beautifully written. I'm not a 'new teacher', but sometimes it helps to remember we are not alone in this journey. There are so many others to help us. Those two weeks leading up to school, you are frantically working to ensure you have everything in the right spot, copies made, birthdays posted, desks ready, and everything organized. Then comes the paperwork to stuff in student folders to send home the first day of school. It will get overwhelming, but remember, we are here for the students. It might take a few weeks, but a routine will get set. Thank you for the reminder to not loose our focus.

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