When I first started teaching last year, I hunted the web in earnest looking for "first year teacher tips". I found some pretty depressing stuff. I remember seeing things like, "You will never have a life. Get ready to spend every waking moment worrying". Needless to say, I was a bit petrified with fear my first day of teaching. But in the last four months, I have survived and I definitely feel like I still have a life. However, I did find some tips that made being a brand new teacher easier to bear. My top 10 tips for new or first-year art teachers:
1) Caffeine. A cup of coffee after lunch is the perfect pick-me-up for afternoon classes. If you don't like coffee, pop or tea works well too.
2) Student help. Hanging artwork up around the school is great, but takes A LOT of time. I have several students who finish early on projects and volunteer to hang things up around the school. It's also great to have students go through supplies and help organize the last few minutes of class.
3) Snacks & Gum. Have some granola bars and Mentos on hand. I don't know how many times I got all the way to school and realized I forgot to eat breakfast. Having a snack in your desk drawer can keep you tided over until lunch time. Keep a stash of gum for when your breath starts going south.
4) PlanbookEdu.com. This website is basically a daily plan book, but entirely online. It is free to use and you can organize all your lesson plans by classes. I like the fact I can insert websites/URLs into the plan for easy access. You can even "bump" your schedule ahead if you have a snow day or unexpected day off.
5) Footwear. While those 4-inch black heels look fabulous on you, you'll probably be cursing them an hour into teaching class. Choose footwear that feels good and have more than one pair. If you wear the same pair everyday, your feet can still get achy. Switch up some ballet flats with some dressy tennis shoes. My favorite footwear is a pair of leather cowgirl boots I found at a thrift store.
6) Organization. Use folders or a binder to organize lesson plans, assessments, PGP stuff, etc. Use sticky labels on classroom drawers to organize art supplies. Keep each lesson and the handouts/resources needed together in separate boxes or folders. This makes packing up at the end of the year so much easier.
7) "Me Time". As soon as you come home from work, do something for yourself for at least 30 minutes. Take a bath, paint your nails, have a glass of wine, read a book, watch Downton Abbey, WHATEVER you enjoy. Whatever you choose, make sure it relaxes you and takes your mind off of teaching.
8) Go away. Go to a conference if you are able to. Visit an art museum on the weekend (and take a camera with you). Getting away not only leaves you feeling refreshed, it can give you ideas and resources for teaching new lessons.
9) Connect. I consider myself a bit of a loner when it comes to my personality. I like being independent and my own boss. However, connecting with other teachers and parents can mean a world of a difference. Having one person you can go to when you have any questions is extremely helpful, whether it's a receptionist, veteran teacher, or if you're lucky like me, another art teacher. Connect with parents by sending a monthly newsletter. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a quick note about what you're doing in the classroom and what is coming up.
10) Stay positive. Build positive relationships with students. We've all heard it, but I mean it. Some of my best students are the ones struggling in every other class. If you can be the one person that a student looks forward to seeing, your job is already half-done. Talk about what they like to do. Talk about yourself and what you did over the weekend. I like to tell my students about what I was like in middle school. Stay positive. Smile, even if you have a pounding headache. Kids can quickly sense if you're in a bad mood, and they will try to take advantage of it. Act positive and everything will be just fine.
I am a 7th year high school art teacher in Rochester, MN. I have taught middle school for 2 years and high school for almost 5 years. I truly enjoy working with students on a daily basis. I also enjoy teaching real-world skills such as problem solving, using technology, and the power of teamwork and collaboration. My joy is sharing my passion for art with others!
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