10 Important Tips for the New Teacher Part 2

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Are you still excited about being a new teacher?  The Department of Education states that up to 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.  Don't be one of those teachers!  Read the rest of my new teacher tips to get some insight into what to expect if you want to make this your career and not just a job.

TIP #6 DON'T BURN YOURSELF OUT


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When I first started teaching, I was issued an emergency credential.  That meant, I had to take classes to obtain my credential.  I taught full time while going to classes twice a week from 4 pm to 10 pm.  I did that for two years until I received a clear credential.  It was exhausting.  After a year break, I went back to get my Masters in Education and another credential.  I also went back about five years later to obtain another certificate.  I did all this before I had children.  I don't think this is something I could have accomplished as a single dad.  The lesson here is to not burn yourself out by doing it all.  You can't.  Prioritize what you need to do on a daily basis, weekly basis, or monthly basis and even yearly basis.

No teacher goes home right after school.  We stay late.  We take work home with us.  We work on the weekends.  Even during the summer, we plan for the new year.  It seems we never catch up or it is hard to get ahead of the game.  So in your first year of teaching, you're going to get burnt out if you don't pace yourself and develop routines to make you more efficient.

To avoid burn out, develop routines such as:
  • a set time of the day when you grade (this is something that can be done at school or at home)
  • fill in your lesson plan book for an entire unit or even month and adjust weekly and daily
  • work with your grade level as a team to distribute the work (copying, developing resources, sharing resources, etc.)
  • clean up your desk or work area every day before you leave so you come back to a ready to go environment
  • get your students involved with some of the routines like stuffing folders or filing or recording
  • get all your materials and resources ready for the following week on Thursday.  Why Thursday? It's one of the few days in which there is never a meeting after school!  
  • if you are required to give homework, see what you're grade level already does or gives out and just copy it!
  • use the time after school to prep for the next day -- make this a habit -- there's nothing worse than teaching unprepared!
  • if you're using ClassDojo or Remind, set office hours for those Apps so parents know that they can't contact your at 10 pm at night to ask about homework!
  • if you're going to miss a deadline, let your administrator know!  They will understand if you need more time.
  • record grades once you finish grading a set of assignments or tests (papers get lost!)
  • take pictures of everything you do so you can remember what you did and how to do it!
If you develop a set of routines, habits and learn to prioritize, you will avoid burn out!


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TIP #7 DON'T VOLUNTEER FOR EVERYTHING


This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip about not burning out in your first years of teaching.  As an eager young teacher, we are all tempted to volunteer for every committee, festival, training, etc., that comes our way.  I suggest you DON'T!  

Your first years will be very busy learning to establish routines and habits to keep you from burning out.  All that will go out the window if you're busy attending meetings after school or training on weekends.  You may be required by your school to be on at least one committee, but most principals understand that first-year teachers have a lot on their plate so will usually assign you to a committee that meets infrequently.

Here's something you should know as a new teacher.  If you're young and single and have no children, you will get VOLUNTOLD frequently.  Yes, you get volunteered without your consent!  Why?  The staff will think you have nothing to do after school because you do not have the responsibilities of a spouse or children.  Learn to say NO politely.  Just explain that you are new and you want to make sure that you can do the best job possible to secure tenure.  

Yes, first and second-year teachers do NOT have tenure (this may vary by state, county or even district so check your contracts!).  As a first and second year teacher, you can be dismissed if you do not pass your evaluations.  If you want to gain tenure and secure a spot on the staff, it behooves you to focus on effective teaching, effective classroom management and being organized.  That is what an administrator is going to evaluate.  

If you are volunteering for everything, you will not be focused on your students.  You will not have time to prepare lessons or materials.  Your room will be a mess.  You'll end up taking so much work home that you will start to resent your job!  

Remember Tip 3?  Find a mentor?  This is why you need a mentor.  A mentor can help you politely decline being VOLUNTOLD.

Here's what to do when asked to volunteer:
  • say no politely
  • say no politely
  • say no politely
  • say no politely
You might have to say NO many times before they get the message.  Once you feel comfortable with routines and teaching and classroom management and communicating with parents and everything else that involves your students, volunteer as many times as you want!


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TIP #8 WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER


When I first started teaching 30 years ago, there were no copy machines for teachers to use.  We had to use a duplicator machine (check out this funny video).  If we saw something that we wanted to use in our classroom, we had to make our own handwritten carbon copy to use on that machine.  Or we bought ditto books.  We kept attendance by recording attendance on an official State Register.  Everything was hand written.  We had phones in the classroom, but they were internal use only, no dial out. You wanted to dial out and phone a parent?  You went to the teacher's lounge and used the rotary phone there.

Thirty years later, I'm creating my own resources to use in my classroom using a desktop computer, laptop, iPad, and iPhone.  In my class, I use my MacBook Pro, my iPadPro, and my iPhone.  I take attendance on my phone using the PowerTeacher App.  I keep grades on my iPad using the Grade Book Pro App.  I do my lesson plans online at www.planbookedu.com.  I communicate with parents using the ClassDojo App.  If I need to talk to one of my team members, I text.  I share resources with my team on Google Drive.  I assign work to my students using Google Classroom.  Data is shared digitally.  When I make copies on the copier, I can have it double sided, stapled and hole-punched.  I can combine several worksheets onto one page using the copier.  The copy machine is also a scanner and a printer and I can send an email from it.  I have a fancy phone in my classroom that I can dial out, make announcements over the PA system and it also acts as an answering machine.

I point all this out because the demands of teaching have gotten more intense but all this new technology has helped me work more efficiently and saves me time.

As a new teacher, you should work smarter by:
  • keeping grades on an electronic grade book 
  • take attendance on a device
  • communicate with parents via ClassDojo or Remind
  • use text messaging to communicate with colleagues (no going to the classroom phone to call another colleague and watch your class go bonkers while you're talking)
  • use an online lesson plan book so you can collaborate with colleagues (also you can look back and see what you did the previous years)
  • use your phone to jot down notes or reminders (if you use Siri, tell Siri to remind you!)
  • use your phone or tablet to take pictures of your class to share with parents via ClassDojo or Remind
  • use Pinterest to find ideas and tips and suggestions (why reinvent the wheel!)
  • back up all your files regularly to an external drive or to the Cloud (I use Dropbox).
  • use Google Classroom, NearPod, EdPuzzle, etc. with your class. 
In five years, digital will be king or queen.  Those who can use it efficiently will be working smarter, not harder.


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TIP #9  FIND YOUR STYLE!


My teaching style?  I use hands-on learning (manipulatives) a lot.  I use technology a lot.  I use children's books a lot for reading aloud and shared reading.  Sounds like fun?  But I'm also a disciplinarian, too.  I don't take any talking back, attitude, slacking off or excuses.  Sometimes I feel more like a parent than a teacher in my classroom.  So my teaching style is a product of my training and my comfort zone.  

I started teaching in the 80s so a lot of my training involved bringing in children's literature into the classroom.  Making math hands-on learning (I was trained in Math Their Way).  Doing science rather than just reading about it.  I was taught to use Lee Canter's Assertive Discipline. What you will find out as you develop lessons, is that they will be influenced by your training, other teachers, district mandates, your creativity...and even Pinterest!  Within the first five years, you will cement your style and your preferences (and grade level).

If you're in a Common Core state like I am, everyone teaches the same Common Core State Standards.  You're entire team will be teaching the same standard.  Does it mean you have to teach it the same way?  NO!  You can add your own style, your own ideas.

As long as you are teaching the standards, the curriculum and your students are learning, then you can be as creative as you want.  
  • don't be afraid to try new things
  • incorporate what excites you as a teacher (your enthusiasm will carry over to your students)
  • if you're not comfortable with doing something, then don't!  Better to get comfortable first, then incorporate it into your lessons
  • if you're trying something for the first time, know it will get better then next time
  • district mandates may change, but you're teaching style shouldn't...adapt!
  • part of your teaching style should include adaptability...things happen, be prepared and adapt!
  • adaptability needs to be part of any teaching style....I could not teach my current students the same way I taught 30 years ago...students are different today!
You'll also find that you prefer teaching primary or upper grades or middle school or even high school.  Over the 30 years, I've preferred teaching third grade.  I did teach first grade for seven years, but I know I couldn't do that now. I know that I couldn't teach middle or high school because my teaching style would not fit those age levels.

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TIP #10  PLAN FOR RETIREMENT NOW!


I am within five years of retirement.  I am so glad I started planning for retirement within my first five years of teaching.  By doing that, I know that financially I will be ok and I won't run out of money and have to depend on my children (while also leaving them an inheritance).  

DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT a tax specialist nor a CPA nor a financial planner. The advice offered here is from my own life and may be different for you! Please speak with a certified tax specialist, CPA or financial planner about your situation.

How did I do it?  In my fifth year of teaching, I started saving into a Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA).  I started with just $50 a month taken out of my paycheck before deductions.  Eventually, over time I upped the amount put into the TSA to the maximum allowed yearly.  TSAs function like IRAs.  You put the money in before it's taxed, which in effect lowers your current tax liability.  When you start withdrawing that money in retirement, that is when you pay taxes on it.

Talk with a financial advisor that specializes in teachers.  We are a special lot.  I work in California, so my pension is guaranteed in the California State Constitution.  I contribute to the pension monthly and my district matches that or more.  The pension is known as the California State Teachers Retirement System (CALSTRS).  They offer financial planning workshops for new teachers, mid-career teachers and those close to retirement.  Every state is different in offering pensions to teachers.  With the California system, you can expect to receive about 70% of your salary after retiring with 30 years of teaching experience.  That means you have to come up with the other 30% if you want to maintain your current lifestyle!

Every pension has a formula for figuring out the pension you will receive.  Find out from your district or teacher's union how it works.  In California, my pension is based on a formula that takes into account my age at retirement, years of service, and my salary.  You also have to be at least 55 years old and be vested in the system (five years of service) to collect a pension.  Every pension is different.  Find out how yours works!

Start saving for retirement now!  Yes, it's 30 or more years away.  But remember you will have to come up with that 30% or more gap to maintain your current lifestyle!  Your savings or contributions will multiply substantially through compound interest.  It's amazing to watch your money grow and know it will be there when you retire.

By the way, those of you that have worked at other jobs and have qualified for Social Security will find out that Congress has passed regulations that do NOT allow us to collect the entire Social Security Benefit.  It's called the Windfall Elimination Provision.  I am one of those affected.  So don't count on Social Security.

Also, think about health care!  Yes, at 65 you can apply for Medicare.  But Medicare does NOT cover all your medical expenses.  What if you pass away before your spouse or vice versa?  Do you have life insurance?  You will need that, too! I've also purchased disability insurance through my district as well.  If I become disabled, I know that I will not lose income because of it. 

In California, unused sick days can be included to add to your years of service.  So if you don't use them, they will still be valuable for retirement!

I hope that my tips have helped you in some way.  I have been a master teacher, mentor teacher and new teacher advisor many times during my 30 years of teaching.  If you need advice or have any questions, please ask in the comment section!  

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