She hides her smile behind her coffee cup as she waves goodbye to her husband as he heads off to work. She couldn’t tell you the month let alone what day of the week it is. To top it off, she wears jeans or leggings every day. She is, the teacher on summer break.

We’ve all been there right!? Well, I am enjoying my first “teacher summer” in Alaska, and it is amazing.

Before the next school year started, I wanted to reflect on my journal from last year. As I read, I remember so many lessons learned. Some are practical lessons, many are desperate prayers, and some make me shake my head and laugh. Through my reading, I have compiled a list of the top 10 entries I could find from my 1st year teaching. You might read these and think, “Duh!” And that’s okay! My hope is that you would either learn something valuable, or, be able to shake your head and laugh like I did!

I thought it was appropriate to start with the most “duh” moment I had.

1.Have a seating chart!

I had this great idea that I was going to teach my kiddos self discipline and ownership by allowing them to sit where ever they would like. Bad idea. Not because I want my class to be “pen drop” silent, but because I was not setting my kiddos up for success against my previously made, not so clear, expectations.

When I could feel students wandering from the lesson, I would threaten, “Do I need to make a seating chart?” And though that usually got the class to quiet down for a few moments, I realized, yes, I do need to make a seating chart! My classroom desperately needed structure and consistency.

It took me until the 2nd week of school, but I made a seating chart for all my classes. There were zero complaints. I even found that some students got excited to sit by people they did not know, but were afraid to initiate conversation with. When I made the seating chart, I was in control of my classroom and we could dive into the adventure of learning!

BONUS: Free seating is a great FREE reward for awesome class behavior.

2. “Dislike or resentment toward a student will sabotage my ability to love them, help them, or manage my classroom.”

I am sure I wrote this after giving an impatient, sarcastic answer back to a kid that soon afterwards, shut down.

The difference between using sarcasm to uplift and to hurt is heart posture. (To be honest, I don’t like the word sarcasm, because it insinuates rudeness, I prefer to think I have sassiness. To each his own).

Everything I want to speak on this I learned from Rita Pierson’s, Every kid Needs a Champion, if you haven’t seen it, take the time to watch it. This video brought a defining shift in my teaching pedagogy.

3. Get finals done 3 weeks early!

Enough said right?

4. Give more feedback on assignments.

ESPECIALLY ON WRITING! I don’t want to reach 3rd quarter and wonder why student’s can write a solid paragraph, that’s on ME! My mentor had a great recommendation, time consuming but VALUABLE to create fundamental foundations!

Have a simple/fun argument writing assignment at the beginning of the year. (Example: I gave my students a great list of This vs. That topics that they could choose from. I included simple ideas such as: Dog vs. Cat, Pepsi vs. Coke, Batman vs. Superman). After going through brain storming and outlining, I have my student’s write their first draft, here is where the time consuming piece comes in..

Sit down with every student and read their piece out loud to them, making corrections out loud. I told you, it’s going to be time consuming. But now I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my students know my expectations for their writing. I of course, have them turn in their rough draft with the final draft to ensure proper edits were made

This foundation establishes a base on which everything is built.

5. “I determine the energy of the class.”

“Your positive energy must be greater than anyone and everyone’s negativity (Jon Gordon, The Energy Bus).” That is powerful! Read it again if you have to! As a teacher, I fight negativity, apathy, doubt, complaining, and this list goes on. It is my job to IGNITE and AWAKEN creativity in learning, this is no easy task but I sure as heck can’t do that if I act like I don’t want to be there!

I will not sit in my desk as students walk in, it makes me feel apathetic and gives me a slow start. I get so excited for class to start that I will walk outside and talk to a few teachers, say hello to kids walking in the halls, or greet kiddos as they are coming into class. Once that bell rings I am racing to the front of the room clapping and yelling something along the lines of, “LET’S GET LEARNING!”

Get the ‘buy in’ of your students by setting up expectations of energetic learning at the door. Whew, I am getting excited just thinking about it, anyone else?

6. “I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender.”

A prayer I use not when I give up, but when I stop trying to do things on my own and align with God’s plan. 

7. “Worrying is just a cute little word I use when I refuse to trust you.”

See above 🙂

8. “Follow me one step at a time. That is ALL I require of you.”

I got this from my Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. They are 1-2 minute devotionals written from the perspective of God to you, the reader. It is encouraging and life giving; gets me every time.

9. Keep journals IN classroom next year.

Another practical. How many times can I tell my kiddos, “You should have 1 notebook for THIS CLASS ONLY!” and see 8 other class notes, a personal diary, and photo album!? Lord help me.

10. Hang up more student art!

In the beginning of the year, do a project where students create something or bring something in and hang it on the walls. This shows students they have ownership of the classroom AND you are proud of their work. I would like to think this also creates accountability to make projects AWESOME if they think they are going to be hung up.

11. Start a journal

Yep! That’s right a bonus!

When I started my student-teaching, my mentor got me a cute pocket agenda. For every day of the week, she encouraged me to write 1 thing down that happened that day. It could be:

I will once again challenge myself to write down 1 thing that happened in the day, so that I can look back on all the lessons, all the prayers, and all the laughs.

Thanks for reading!

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