Rearranging Your Classroom – 3 Tips For Teachers at the Beginning of the School Year

Unless you are the most meticulous of teachers and have contacted past teachers, former landlords, parents, friends, and old librarians, chances are that you don’t really know your students on the first day of class. Sure, there are a few stalkers out there that already have the perfect seating chart in place, but most of us need at least a few days to gauge personalities, observe academic skills, and suffer through bad pairings. In addition, you might notice that that box or cabinet that you thought was in a prime location is really more of a nuisance than a help.

After some time period, even the best teacher will often need to make a few adjustments within his or her classroom. Here then are three tips to teachers in the first few weeks of school for making your classroom a better learning environment.

1) Mix up your seating chart

Decide whether you want kids in rows and columns, in 4 or 5 desk “tables”, or in some other formation. Should this kid be sitting next to (or even within spitting distance of) that kid? Can these two kids help each other if they are next to each other? Will these kids get high sniffing the Elmer’s glue sticks if they sit next to each other?

Typically, some combination of behavior and academics will determine seating arrangements, especially if you have the kids paired in any way. It’s OK to change your seating chart a few times, just don’t do it every day. Give a new combination at least a couple of days to make sure it’s not working before switching it again.

2) Moving furniture can free up space

If your teacher’s desk or a nondescript table is taking up space that would be better served somehow else, move it! Perhaps it could be behind a shelf or an overhead screen where a student desk could not go.

While it is usually better to get big-item furniture arrangement settled BEFORE school starts, there is no law in place saying it can’t be moved around midyear. Remember, the easier it is for you to move around the room, the easier it will be to help students and to keep them focused.

3) Keep those paths clear!

This follows directly from point number 2. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, or even into the center of the room, by arranging desks or furniture with no gaps or openings. You want to be able to walk around the room (from potential trouble spot to trouble spot) quickly and unhindered. If you use a “horseshoe” pattern, be sure to leave some spaces to get inside and outside the shoe easily. Otherwise, that horseshoe will NOT bring you any luck!

Remember that you might find yourself rearranging your classroom more than once this year. It’s OK to take stock every few months and think about how the setup is working for you.

No matter how often you move things around though, these three tips will always keep you on the right course.

Career Guidance Tips For Teachers

It may seem like a long time ago since you took up that one subject in Guidance and Counseling in college but waver not! There’s no need to take a refresher course for you to effectively guide your students towards the most rewarding career paths for them.

  1. Be an example of happiness and contentment. The only competition that can give financial rewards a run for its money is happiness. Remind your students everyday that career is not an issue of immediate monetary returns but of enduring returns. Seeing you smiling despite the stress of your work (and the delayed salary if you will) will inspire them to choose careers they will enjoy in the long run. It will also show them how, even if industry demands change, who they are and what gives them joy will remain rock-steady.
  2. Encourage self-reflection and self-discovery. With all the diversions and recreation students have, taking time off to think and reflect might be the last thing on their to-do list. You can help them by giving them a few minutes at homeroom to ponder on some questions like: “What do I like best about myself?” or “What do I want to do for the next five years?” If this seems too serious, use games like Icebreaker or Query.
  3. Let them express their plans and dreams. Many students, when asked what they want to do in life, just shrug and say, “I don’t know.” Perhaps they don’t, perhaps they do but haven’t really thought about it. Allowing them to express their dreams-no matter how far-out-promotes the value of thinking ahead and the skill of planning. Ask them to create an image of who they will be ten years from now and to write about what they have accomplished within ten years. This way, it will seem like they have already achieved what they desire.
  4. Commend a student’s strengths to him and to his peers. Giving praise where it is due certainly makes a difference. Notice the smallest victories in any field or aspect of life. Did someone submit an exceptional drawing or essay? Made friends with everyone? Fixed a broken chair? Receiving positive remarks about his/her output or attitude boosts self-esteem and encourages a student to pursue his/her best attributes. Making a student’s peers see your sign of approval makes them appreciate the person’s worth, creating a community where students are not forced to see academics as the only standard of worth.
  5. Introduce them to a variety of successful people. Provide them with role models of passion and good career choice, be it a college graduate or a high school dropout. It is common fare for students to meet college graduate bigwigs in their lessons. There are many of them after all as if to prove that college is the only way out of poverty. What is difficult is to convince people that college is not for everyone and is not the only option. If you namedrop successful celebrities and tycoons who didn’t go to college, they just might rethink the entire thing.
  6. Talk about a student’s best qualities and possible options to his/her parents. Hearing of their child’s passion and perseverance in something never fails to make parents proud of their children. Hearing of the best qualities of their child from a teacher enhances their understanding of their child and makes them more open to options other than theirs. Inform them of possibilities for their child and emphasize long-term rewards over immediate gains. For those students who are not apt for college education, dwell on the positive traits of the student so that parents will see the benefits of alternative options like technical-vocational careers.
  7. Organize a simple education and career directory. Because of the unavailability of organized information on education and career options, make a simple one for your homeroom class. You can put a simple list of college courses and technical-vocational specializations and their corresponding job or industry requirements. At the bottom of the list, include contact numbers for some colleges or universities and institutions that offer technical-vocational programs. You may also include local bureau or government agency hotlines.

Finding Your Teaching Pal – Tips For First Time Teachers

It’s likely that you will find a veteran teacher that you feel comfortable around and who doesn’t seem to mind helping out a rookie teacher that needs it. Even though you might find some veterans don’t like first year teachers at all, you’ll find that special someone that will take you under their wing. This person, whom will be referred to as your Teaching Pal, is a very important part of your first year success. There will be so many rules for you to follow, so many meetings to attend, and so many multicolored Post-it notes in your mailbox that you’ll go insane if you don’t have someone nearby that’s already been through the trial by fire and made it through intact. Some schools will pair you up with just such a person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your own friend-making and finding someone that you truly click with.

One quick tip is to have your Teaching Pal look over your student lists when you receive them to point out any students that have exceptionally bad reputations. Those bleeding-heart teacher books say that this is not good practice, with the argument that it causes you to pre-judge the student and expect poor behavior from them, thus continuing the vicious cycle for that student. But if you’re realistic about the situation you’ll want to see the blows coming before the student starts to swing. It doesn’t mean you’re going to treat the student differently, it just makes it nice when their bad behavior doesn’t come as a surprise and you can be ready for it, taking the proper steps to handle the situation.

You should also take this time to find out if you have any local celebrities in your classes. These wouldn’t be kid movie stars, unless you’re teaching in Hollywood. These would be kids that have parents on the Board of Education, their parents could be fellow teachers, or they could be politically connected in some way. When it comes to these students you’ll want to give them a wide berth. Don’t give yourself an even bigger headache by making an example out of the mayor’s daughter – unless she really merits it. If you do, be ready to face the repercussions, they will come at your quickly and furiously.

It is also a good idea to partner up with another fellow first timer. No one will quite understand your pain as someone that is going through it with you. You’ll want someone to share the hardships, the joys, the frustrations, and the insanity with. You also need someone to hang out with on the weekends and outside of school. You can’t do that with your students, even though you spend so much time with them during the week, they can start to feel like coworkers.

14 Classroom Management Tips for Substitute Teachers

Classroom management was the biggest challenge I faced as a substitute teacher. Walking into a class for the first time, I was clueless about the absent teacher’s classroom procedures and expectations for students. Some students would use my ignorance as a weapon to their advantage. They would find ways to test my patience and manipulate the classroom environment for their personal gain. Others had antisocial personalities. They saw my presence as an opportunity to express their disrespect for authority.

In this negative environment, power struggles and other disruptions would inevitably arise. At that point, it became extremely difficult to get the class back under control.

Over time, I picked up some classroom management tips to help minimize student disruptions and make lesson plans run more smoothly. If you are a substitute teacher, here are several tips you can use immediately to create a more positive classroom environment:

Tip 1: Start each day by making sure that the students enter the classroom quietly, and begin the class on time. This will help establish the structure you’re working to build and maintain.

Tip 2: From the very beginning, establish your expectations of the students. Make sure each student understands the importance of following both the classroom rules and the teacher’s lesson plan. When you make your expectations understood, you’ll help set the class on the right tone.

Tip 3: After they’ve found their assigned seats, introduce yourself as Mr./Mrs./Ms.___________. Write your name on the board. Unless the school says otherwise, students should never call you by your first name. They won’t treat you with respect if you let them treat you as a peer.

Tip 4: Take attendance and (if applicable) the lunch count. Say the students’ first and last names, and ask them to raise their hands so you can see where they’re sitting. Tell the students to inform you if they prefer to be called by another name. Attendance reporting is one of your most important jobs. Pay careful attention to the required procedure and the accuracy of the marks you’re making. To minimize errors, I used a ruler when I went down the list. If you don’t know what to do, ask another teacher or someone from the office for help.

Tip 5: Announce the names of the absent students to make sure that you didn’t give an absent mark to a student who should be marked present (or vice versa). There may be two attendance rosters to complete: the office roster and the teacher’s classroom roster. If so, make sure that you complete both, and carefully compare them for accuracy.

Tip 6: Make sure that students remain in their assigned seats for the entire day. The teacher should have left you with a seating chart. If you can’t find it, ask a student for help. While taking attendance, you can draw up your own simple seating chart if one isn’t available.

Tip 7: When covering elementary school classes especially, take frequent head counts of the students. It’s a good idea to do this when they first enter the classroom, when they line up on the playground, after recess and lunch, and after you’ve escorted them to and from another campus location. And when working with younger students, remember to talk at their level–both orally and physically.

Tip 8: Do your best to stick to the teacher’s lesson plan. Explain instructions clearly and write them on the board. Let students know that you’re there to help them with their work.

Tip 9: Remind students of homework assignments and any other items the teacher mentioned in the lesson plan. To make sure they understand, you might want to have the students orally paraphrase the important points. If they are required to keep a homework journal, remind them to note their assignments in it.

Tip 10: Recognize the importance of flexibility in the classroom. No sub has followed every lesson plan to the letter. In some classes, even the best-designed lesson plans may not work as the teacher intended. By redirecting the students to a related assignment or activity (and leaving a note to the teacher explaining what you did), they are more likely to remain on task (and out of trouble!).

Tip 11: Get the students involved! Ask them to answer questions or explain concepts that their peers have raised. If students finish early, have them help other students who are still working, or tell them to sit quietly and read. If the students are cooperative and well-behaved, you can allow time for a game or other class activity at the end of the day.

Tip 12: If you know nothing about the subject that you’re there to “teach,” have the students work in small groups. I once covered a high school French class, but I know almost no French. I had the students work together in groups of about three. I assigned the more capable students to help those who were struggling.

Tip 13: If you have teacher’s aides or volunteer parents in your class, take advantage of all the services they can provide! They among other things work with students individually or in small groups. They can also help you understand the classroom routine and the special needs of individual students.

Tip 14: As difficult as it may seem, avoid forming friendships with the students. Children who are abused, neglected, or ignored seek attention from adults in ways that would go beyond the scope of this article to describe. They need stability and won’t get it from a teacher who is at school one day and gone the next.

Confidence Building Tips 101 – For New Teachers – What Works and What Doesn’t

When new teachers experience a difficult or challenging classroom experience, they quickly loose touch because that one 15 minute segment of an unsuccessful lesson simply tore them down. They quickly forget all those positive classroom teaching experiences. Since new teachers lack the confidence seasoned teachers work hard to establish, it then becomes very hard for new teachers to rebuild a positive flow of teaching energy. The worst thing for a new teacher to do is to start a Monday by bringing a bundle of nerves and and jitters into the classroom. It becomes a no win situation.

When you are able to shift the focus away from yourself and to your students, you are able to focus on true teaching moments of HERE and NOW. Even in the early Monday morning hours after you’ve prepared a well-prepared lesson and finished marking all those papers yet find yourself absorbing in a series of “what if’s,” stop yourself and ask: What is the most important thing my students need right now? How can I effectively cater to them?

It’s hard to do this because much of what happens in the classroom is often determined by a new teacher’s personality. But there are tips and tricks of the trade that you can use RIGHT NOW that will help you adapt to new classroom situations and develop the confidence you need.

New Teacher Confidence Building Tips

Keep a fresh ongoing perspective: If you find yourself nervously dwelling on any one aspect of classroom management (which is typically the case with newer teachers) stop and ask yourself: what were my students able to do well? What went successfully? Fifteen minutes of chaos may not really be chaos at all unless you choose to look at it in this way.

Exercise Flexibility- Adjusting to new classroom situations is a long process and requires an introspective mindset. what didn’t succeed? What could you have done differently helps new teacher realize that there are numerous other ways to deal with a problem and that he or she isn’t necessarily the cause of it.

Begin each lesson anew as if you just taught it for the first time –

Don’t take anything for granted – Assume your students know nothing and this will help you create more engaging lesson plans. I suppose the same principle can also be applied to life.

So what are you waiting for? Start taking charge in the classroom today!