First year teachers enter their first year with a variety of experience levels and training. Many have completed four-year degree programs, some have a masters degree or even a doctorate, and a few arrive in their very first classroom with no formal training at all.
Regardless of how experienced you are, the idea of facing down a roomful of students on your own is daunting, and whether it’s high school or kindergarten, you’re going to need all the advantages you can get. Preparation is key, and if you have a well-thought-out classroom management plan and organize your supplies in advance, you’ll be in a position to handle almost anything that comes your way.
Of course, there will always be unexpected challenges (and you’re going to make mistakes too!), but if you follow these four first-year teacher prep suggestions, you’ll be able to face your inaugural year with the confidence and structure of a seasoned veteran.
#1 Clean and Prep Your Classroom
Getting organized is absolutely critical for any teacher, regardless of grade level. If your classroom or materials aren’t 100% prepped and ready to support the plan you’ve put together, you’re going to be treading water before you even learn to swim. You don’t want to start the year off in survival mode!
You’ll want to complete this step a few weeks in advance so you can focus on refining your lesson plans and classroom management strategies. And remember: supplies and planning differ widely depending on the age and composition of the students in your classroom, so think it through carefully.
Make sure the space is clean, organized, and physically walk through all aspects of what you anticipate a typical day would include. Also, organization is great, but complication is your enemy. Sometimes less is more, and the layout should support your teaching style and the anticipated traffic flow of your kids.
There will be lots of little minds and hands exploring, so design your layout to encourage positive behaviors. Students should be able to move around easily when getting materials and supplies, and teaching spaces should be well-defined and accessible. Also, ensuring reward and consequence management areas are easy to see will give your students a clear and direct understanding of current expectations.
Middle and High School
If you’re at a secondary school, you will probably need to focus more heavily during your first-year teacher prep on making sure your classroom has all the equipment and supplies you need. Hand-count everything, and then include a few backups in case something goes wrong (it will…)
If you’re involved in the sciences, CTE, phys ed, or any other subject that relies heavily on specialized materials you’ll need to build in time organizing and familiarizing yourself with them. Make sure you’re 100% comfortable with everything you’re going to ask your students to use, and be ready to explain it clearly.
#2 Create a Classroom Management Plan
Having a strong classroom management plan is essential for establishing and sustaining a safe and meaningful learning space. Getting it right can be the difference between a comfortable or chaotic year with your students, and a clear structure of behavioral expectations is arguably as important as any of the materials you’re going to teach.
Every district and school will establish their own set of standards you’ll need to keep in mind as you create your own plan, but the common denominator with any classroom management plan is that consistency is key. Creating an environment where the students know exactly what is expected of them will solve problems before they even begin.
Here are some tips for what your plan needs to include:
- Routines for movement, activities, and any other common or repeated actions are crucial. You can’t have too many of these!
- Rewards need to be small but meaningful. In elementary school, things like stickers are great. For high school, verbal praise and the occasional homework pass will do wonders.
- Consequences reinforce accountability which subsequently fosters a sense of safety across the group. They should be clear, reasonable, and escalation should be easily understood by all your students.
#3 Know Your Curriculum
If you don’t know your curriculum, your students really aren’t going to understand it! Before you set foot in any classroom—much less for the first time—you need to know exactly what you’re going to teach them and how.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have all your lesson plans for the year laid out, of course. Every teacher, regardless of experience level, has to be ready to pivot to account for student needs, snow days, and a whole host of other issues that may come up. Plan a few weeks in advance, and make sure you stay on top of your prep moving forward.
#4 Give Yourself a Break
Finally, while you’re running around trying to cover every detail before the first bell rings, make sure you build in a little time to relax, reflect, and decompress. When it’s your first year, teacher prep can seem like an unclimbable mountain, but everyone in that building has gone through it and come out the other side. Pace yourself, be methodical, and give yourself some grace; none of it will do you any good if you’re too frazzled to teach at the end.
Set Yourself up For Success With Some First Year Teacher Prep
Preparing yourself for your first year as a teacher is both daunting and exciting all wrapped up into one adventure. You’ve worked hard to get where you are today, and if you follow our tips and get your ducks in a row, you’ll be in a great position to make your first year one of the best.
To support you along the way, Premiere offers tremendous opportunities for professional development. Classroom Success—The First Years of Teaching by Danell Lynn, M.Ed.,
Learning and Development Lead Trainer, Arizona Department of Education – HES, and Introductory Classroom Management Course: Creating Classroom Expectations by Tiffany Whitcomb, M.Ed., Educational Strategist, Collaborative Teaching Solutions, LLC, both give new teachers an in-depth look of what to expect and how to prepare as they begin their teaching journey. They’re filled with solid veteran tips that will make you a classroom pro in no time.
All our industry-leading coursework is created and developed by experts in their respective fields, and Premiere puts their wisdom and experience at your fingertips so you enjoy a long and exciting teaching career!