Saturday, January 2, 2016


So I haven't blogged since September, and that's mostly because my first semester of teaching has been very busy! I've learned A LOT over the past few days/weeks/months and to kick off this new year, I'm going to share a few of these things with you today! Whether you are just beginning your teaching journey, or you're a veteran teacher, I think that you'll be able to find my "survival toolkit" helpful. Yes, these are things that helped me survive my first semester of teaching... but they are also practices that I plan to continue throughout my education career. And now, without any further ado, a few things that I learned that helped me to survive my first semester of teaching that will hopefully help you too!

It's okay to get personal! (but still stay professional)
Going into this semester I really geared myself up for the fact that I need to be professional with all people at all times. As a fresh out of college, first year teacher maintaining a professional, "I've got my act together" persona was very important to me. I wanted to make sure I wasn't wearing my heart on my sleeve, over-sharing about my life, or treating my students/colleagues like I would my friends whilst hanging out at a local coffee shop chatting about the latest episode of The Bachelor. One of the best things I learned though was to find that balance of still staying professional... but being personable as well! It was easy to do with my colleagues as well as with my students. In fact, I found out that sharing little personal details about myself with my students every now and then (such as my love for my dog, anecdotes about my childhood, etc.) actually kept them engaged and allowed for me to get to know more about them too. This, in turn, helped me figure out what makes them "tick" so I could more effectively educate them.

Drink coffee!!
Enough said. I will also add though that I treated myself to a "fancy coffee" from Starbucks or a local coffee shop a few times this semester, but with the mindset of wanting to save money so I could focus on student loan payments I often brought coffee with me from home. Also, (and this goes back to getting personal) one of the teachers on my team has a coffee pot in her room and we take turns getting creamer, coffee, and making it before school in the morning. Drinking coffee aided team bonding as well as provided fuel to help get me through the day.

Laugh it off! (and learn from it)
I have a lot of perfectionistic tendencies. I really try to think things through and even anticipate future problems... however, sometimes things just happen. Things will go wrong, your computer will break down the day you are getting evaluated by your Principal (yes this happened to me), or a student will throw up in the middle of your most profound lesson. Laugh it off!! It's important for your students to see that you don't take yourself too seriously and that you can learn from these "teachable moments." Perfect example from my first semester... I was teaching a lesson about cause and effect relationships. We were looking at different scenarios and trying to identify the cause and the effect. I talk with my hands. A lot. During one of my sweeping gestures while teaching I bumped the jar holding my whiteboard markers and the jar proceeded to fly through the air to the floor spilling its contents everywhere. I could have gotten red faced and flustered. Instead, we laughed as a class as some students popped right up to help clean up the mess. Then, I turned that exact scenario into a cause/effect relationship. I asked students to turn and talk with the students in their group to see if they could identify the cause and the effect in the situation that just happened! The best part, students actually learned from it and they remembered the situation much later in the semester when we came back to the cause/effect relationship concept.

Don't feel bad hanging out with people your own age!
Don't get me wrong, I love my students, but spending time with people your own age is so important for your sanity success as a teacher and human being! I have a lot of friends who are teachers as well, and I love spending time with them because we bounce ideas off of one another and share funny stories from our school days. I also have friends who are not in the education field at all which often provides me with fresh perspective, or the chance to talk about something other than my work day. Spending time with friends has reminded me that I have a name other than "Miss Whittaker." I've had a hard time spending time with friends consistently because it seems that every where I turn there's another unit to plan, paper to grade, or thing to do... but I promise you, even if you only set aside a few minutes a week for a coffee date or two with a friend, you won't regret it! In fact, you'll probably be more rejuvenated because of it!

It's okay to ask for help.
This goes back to my perfectionism. I don't know if you're anything like me... but sometimes I try to do as much as I can in my own power and strength. I especially did this as a first year teacher because I don't want others to see me as "needy" or "incapable." However, I learned that true strength can come from asking for help. Turning to my mentor teacher, my team, and other teachers in my hall was actually not a sign of weakness at all. In fact, I now think it's an integral part of being an effective educator. I see teachers who have been teaching for a few years, or many years more than I have, turning to one another (even to me) to ask opinions, bounce ideas off of one another, and ask for help.

There are many other tools, management systems, and routines that I set up at the beginning of the year that really helped me to survive and thrive during this first semester of teaching, and there will be more to come on that in the future. But for now, I hope that this helps you survive your first semester of teaching!

What are your tips? Something you'd like me to write about? Comment below!

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