By Otis Kriegel, author of Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know
This post was originally published on July 16, 2014.
When I think back to the summer before my first year of teaching, I remember a lot of things I did—and later wished I hadn’t done. New teachers need as much energy as possible for their first three months in the classroom. I forgot to rest up, and I paid for it. By the end of October I was beat.
Here are a few tips I wish I had gotten as I prepared for my first fall as a teacher.
I don’t mean you should sleep all summer, but take care of yourself. Do things that will revitalize your system, whatever that means for you. I wouldn’t advise spending the summer riding your bike across the country, ending at your classroom with three days to set up. That might be cutting it close. But do plan activities and experiences that will rejuvenate you and give you something fun to share when you arrive at your new workplace. One colleague who loves to cook tries out new recipes over the summer when she has the time and energy. The meals that turn out well she sticks in her freezer to eat during the school year when she’s too tired to cook. Pulling out one of those premade meals always puts a smile on her face. Do things for no one else but you, and you’ll arrive at school feeling excited, energized, and both happy and ready to get to work.
Become an expert on books at your students’ grade level by reading both classic and contemporary titles while you sit on the beach or picnic in the park. Also, check out some of the titles below and above your grade, because you’ll most likely have some readers who are far ahead or behind. If you do this, you’ll be able to recommend an appropriate book to anyone in your class.
Start a victory log. Write down the positive experiences you’ve had as a student teacher or in other practicums. Include notes about successes you’ve had in other walks of life. Add goals you want to achieve during the school year. When you feel lost in the weeds during the school year, look back on this journal for inspiration. It will help keep you on track and feeling positive in what can be a very challenging year.
There are many more things you could do to prepare for your first year in the classroom, but in this case, less is more. You want to be filled with energy and enthusiasm rather than exhausted from all the work you did over the summer.
Have a great summer, and may it be the first of many!
Teachers: How are you preparing for the school year?
Otis Kriegel is a seventeen-year veteran teacher, having taught in dual language (Spanish/English and German/English), monolingual, and integrated co-teaching (ICT) classrooms in the public schools of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Berlin, Germany. For the past three years, he taught at the JFK School in Berlin, where he also developed a teacher coaching program. He received his M.S.Ed. in bilingual education from the Bank Street College of Education and has taught at the Steinhardt School at New York University. Otis has also been a guest lecturer at the Bank Street College of Education, City College of New York, and Touro College. He created the workshop, “How to Survive Your First Years Teaching & Have a Life,” which was the impetus for his book. An experienced presenter, Otis has conducted this workshop with hundreds of preservice and new teachers and continues to present in universities and teacher education programs. Otis lives in New York City.
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