I have always associated the MLB All-Star game as the half way point of the summer. It is the time of year where we have one foot still lingering in the early stages of summer and the other half thinking about our return to the classroom. As a student, I can always remember my Dad saying, “Well, summer is half over. Time to start getting ready for school. “ This statement was part teasing and part reality, however, it always reminded me that school was not that far away.
As a new teacher this time of year can be hectic and intimidating. The clock is ticking, kids are prepping for YOUR class, what should you be doing? You talk to your mentor, other teachers, but there are really no specific guidelines for this time of year and this type of situation.
All new teachers experience different anxieties and hurdles in the months leading up to the first bell. The following list are three things that I feel will help teachers in a variety of ways and alleviate some of the anxiety that is associated with those first few weeks of teaching.
Reflection is one of the best ways to learn from past mistakes and develop new ways to combat similar problems in the classroom. Writing a blog also opens up your teaching struggles to a new audience. This concept is nothing innovative or earth shattering, but it will allow you to access a new audience beyond your school.
A blog also will also help in that daunting second year of teaching. Throughout the first year of teaching you are given more advice and information than you know how to handle. You encounter eureka moments and glimpses of success that you want to chronicle and retain for next year. Having a blog allows for this type of year to year reflection. This is not to say that you should have 182 blog posts at the end of your school year (although if you do that would make for an incredible reflection portfolio), but simply write when you can and include the highs, lows, and in-betweens of your first year. I can guarantee you it will be a valuable learning tool going forward.
I would recommend using blogger.com if you are a novice user, wordpress, if you are more advanced, or edublogs because they are designed with the teacher in mind.
This piece of advice can be redundant and I feel as if I have wrote about it far too much, however, this tool has become one of the most valuable resources in my career. Not only did twitter open my blog up to a new audience, but it allowed me to connect with a vast network of people on a daily basis. Why is this necessary?
Example: I am struggling to find a interesting writing prompt for my students. I have used every writing prompt site out there and they are all your typical “if you were a car, what would you be and why” type prompts. I send out a tweet to my followers and within minutes I have several writing prompt suggestions from my twitter network.
This is just one, small example of how powerful twitter can be for the new teacher. When I started using twitter I looked to follow a few people here and there and not just Retweet everything they said, but read their links, read their blogs, and provide constructive feedback or dialogue to keep the conversation alive. Many times we can get lost in the ego mania of twitter. My advice: eliminate the “mentions” column from your page and see what people are saying. Become a listener before you become a follower.
In short, twitter is one of the most valuable tools I have used in my career. I can honestly say I have learned more from my network on twitter than I have in any professional development or graduate classroom. Use twitter wisely and you will soon find a vast network of educators willing to help and answer questions for new teachers.
If you are a new teacher and are interested in creating a personal learning network or PLN you should seek out #ntchat (new teacher chat) and attend ntcamp (a one day conference in Philadelphia, PA for new teachers).
While Twitter is one of my favorite social networking tools, Google Docs is one of my most frequently used tools in the classroom. In fact, I am writing this post on a Google Document and will soon be transferring it to the Edudemic Blog.
If you are unfamiliar with Google Docs I will present you with the abridged version of what this tool can do for you and within your classroom.
Google Docs allows you to house any document in a cloud. A cloud is basically an online storage unit that allows you to access all of the contents from any computer or mobile smart phone. Say you start writing a lesson plan at school and you don’t quite finish or your computer crashes. Lesson plan lost right? No. Google periodically backs up any document you start. If your school computer crashes, you simply find another computer and log in to your Google Docs account and everything you wrote is still alive and well.
Google Docs also allows you to share folders and documents with other users. New teachers can link up with their mentor or a member of their PLN and share ideas about new lessons and curriculum ideas. The document saves automatically and is a running conversation of what you discussed and added to the document. The doc also has a history feature that allows you to see edits and updates.
Finally, two of the newest features of Google docs is the ability to update any type of file and there is also a chat box on the right-hand side of the screen that allows for a real time chat between document collaborators. Both are invaluable to a new teacher building a portfolio and collaborating with his or her mentor.
That’s it. Keep it simple and allow yourself to try these three learning tools as you approach your first, second, or even your thirty-first year of teaching. Take the time to try something new that will surely make your job as a teacher a little easier.