Friday, July 13, 2012

Before You Enter the Classroom

As a first year teacher, this will be the first time you will have your own classroom.  There is a lot involved in running a classroom and curriculum.  I know that when I had chosen where I would be spending my first year teaching, there were a lot of questions running through my head at that time.  During the summer before my first year, I was lucky enough to participate in the Boston University Research Experience for Teachers (BURET).  This is a program designed for teachers who are looking to expand their horizons with current research while attending seminars in pedagogy and research.  The people who made up this program were put into pairs, one veteran teacher, and one newer teacher.  The point of this was to help out the newer teacher with the experience of the veteran teacher.  Through this experience, a lot of conversations happened about the classroom and things to consider for the upcoming year.  Now, after my first year, I have reflected and realized how important all of those points were in how well my first year went.  I also took some time to talk to some of my friends who were also first year teachers who ended up running into some of the points that I was lucky enough to have been exposed to before having my first year.

One of the most important things to consider is your syllabus.  This is a document that will include what you plan on covering over the year (units, topics, etc.).  It also highlights what is the purpose of the course, possible prerequisites as well as what classes the student will be prepared for afterwards, as well as some room procedures and rules.  This is possibly one of the most important documents you will create all year.

Also consider room layout.  This one can be a little trickier to control because as a first year teacher, it is highly likely that you may share a room.  I myself moved between 3 classrooms for my classes.  If this happens, it is important to talk with the teachers whom you will be sharing the classroom with and see how flexible they are with their seating arrangement.  If they are, you want to consider how to arrange the desks.  This can be related to how you think you might run the class.  If you think there will be a lot of group work then you may want to arrange the desks in groups.  Likewise, if there is a lot of individual work, it might help to  have desks arranged in such a way that this is encouraged.  Either way, it is important to consider how to organize, keeping in mind it is important to be able to move as well as you can in the classroom as well as handing out and taking in assignments and papers.

Think about at least the first two weeks of school.  This way, when you walk in you will at least know what the first two weeks will entail so that you can worry about all of the other jobs and duties that you will be adapting to during the upcoming year.  Depending how you are planning your units, along with requirements and your schedule, you may want to plan more.  It is important when planning a unit, that it is planned at once.  By doing this, the test will better reflect what is being done in class if it is all done at the same time.

Finally, within the last point includes the first day.  This should be carefully thought out as the first day helps to lay out the atmosphere for the rest of the year.  It is important to think of how you will introduce yourself and the syllabus.  It is important to make sure that in the introductions students have a grasp of what the year will look like.  One way to do this can be to have an activity similar to the type that you plan to use throughout the year.  If the year will have a lot of group work, then have a group work activity.  Something else to keep in mind, if you plan on doing something every day such as a Do Now or Ticket to Leave, then try to do that as well on the first day.  This reinforces that it happens every day and helps students to know what to expect.  The same idea can be said for classroom procedures.  An example can be handing out papers.  When I hand out papers in rows, instead of handing papers to the front row and having students hand it back to the student behind them, I have students had horizontally and I hand the papers out across the rows so that on the first day of school, I used the same method so students knew what to expect.

If you have the time over the summer to do so, make sure to really think about the above ideas and sleep on them so that when you have finally made your decisions they have been well thought out.  This will help for a successful year by working on starting on the right foot as well as distressing what can be an intense time of the year.  Good luck with your planning!

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