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Jane Fung, a kindergarten teacher, new-teacher mentor, and 2002 winner of the Milken Educator Award, has some advice in the August 5, 2008 edition of Teacher Magazine.
- Find a friend — Other teachers are your best resource for getting to know your school, so find a mentor or colleague who is willing to open up to you.
- Take a tour — Learn the school’s physical layout: find the bathrooms (are keys needed?), locate the nurse, the resource teacher, the office manager, the cafeteria, maintenance people; where the different grade levels are located; where recess is held.
- Planning and schedules — What do other teachers plan for the first week? Plan activities for the first days to help students get to know each other and you. And overplan! It’s easier with too much planned than not enough and having to scramble.
- Procedures — Plan class procedures: will kids sharpen pencils as needed; when can they use the bathroom; are cell phones allowed; how materials are distributed and put away.
- Classroom management and expectations — Settle on your discipline and classroom management strategies: what is and is not acceptable; how will you handle misbehavior; what kind of learning environment are you setting up… Involve the class in setting up behavior and work habit expectations; chart/model/practice/reinforce expectations; keep it simple and short (e.g. “Be nice, Be Responsible, Be safe.”)
- Take notes — Have a place where you jot down (and date) observations quickly as they happen, since informal observations early in the year are helpful later on.
- Know your students — Before school starts, learn about your students: which of them have special needs, IEPs, English language difficulties, special talents or gifts. This makes planning easier.
- Clarify procedures before the school year starts — Learn how to take attendance (is it computerized?) and where to send the information; where to sign in and out; official reporting hours; how to arrange for a sub; the general bell schedule; lunchroom protocols; what do do if a student becomes ill or is injured; where do they play at recess; how and where to pick up students and dismiss them; what are the rules for emergencies such as fire drills, how do you contact the office; how do you find out about and order materials; where do you check out playground/PE equipment; are you going to have a mentor?
- Check out the classroom — Does the key work; is the room clean; is it empty or filled with unwanted materials; are there enough tables and chairs; is there enough storage space; do the computers work; where are the projector/CD player/screen. Make lists and ask for what you need. Plan and set up the room; visualize where you may be teaching and make sure everyone can see; think about traffic flow. (Don’t be afraid to change anything as the year progresses if something isn’t working well.)
Fung suggests a good book: Harry and Rosemary Wong’s “The First Days of School.”
source: www.teachermagazine.org article by Jane Fung on 8/5/08.
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