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How to prepare for my first year?

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Navneet Schworetzky Navneet Schworetzky 200 Points

Hi Everyone! I am about to finish my teacher education program and will be qualified to teach high school biology and chemistry this upcoming school year. I have a month coming up where I will be free to prepare for my first year of teaching. Any suggestions on where to start? Keep in mind I don't have a job lined up yet. I just want to get as much material ready beforehand as possible. Thanks!

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Since you do not have a specific job yet, I would suggest reviewing things in both subject areas that you feel uncomfortable with or weak in. It you try to prepare specific things you might be wasting your time if you do not get a job in those areas.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 89208 Points

Hi Navneet and welcome to the NSTA discussion forums!
The NSTA has a collection of resources for new high school teachers that you might be interested in perusing: SCIENCE CLASS High School Edition: August 2012, New Teacher Tips.

Let us know what you are finding helpful to you and good luck as you embark on your new career!

Loraine Ramirez Loraine Ramirez 70 Points

Good luck!! Be positive, energetic, and open minded.....

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

If you have money and don't mind spending a little, you could invest in things to organize your future room (I live in Dollar stores and Big Lots sometimes looking for clearance stuff). I use clear plastic shoeboxes to put materials on desks - not necessarily lab materials (although it is not a bad place to place chemicals and such for each lab group). I have markers available and when I can find it inexpensively, 11 x 14 in paper or maybe 1/2 posters for groups to report out on for projects (students feel more a part of a class when they contribute to decorating the room), glue sticks, scissors, scotch tape, a personal stapler and staples, and a personal hole-punch. No matter what you end up teaching and where, these are materials that will be useful. You might also consider creating computer files where you put references for various topics you might teach in the future - images you might need for lessons (like lessons on safety, equipment quizzes, or topic specific), TED-Ed talks or YouTube videos for reference, so that when you have a position, you have materials to put together immediately. I have a large USB drive (I do not mean MB, I mean I have one of the USB books that I keep all my school information on as my main backup as well as the smaller thumb drives with specific lessons and such) where I organize all my things - I teach integrated science classes, so I have a folder for teaching the metric system, one for phase changes/kinetic theory, one for periodicity, one for atom theory, etc. I agree it is difficult to prepare for a job you do not have yet, and it could lead to wasted time. But there are things that you will be needing, regardless. You will also probably be teaching lessons on things like the Metric System, Science Safety, and Classroom rules no matter where or what you teach so why not prepare for these lessons (if you have not done so already in your college classes) and collect a few supplies which may (or may not) be provided so you are ready to start one of these types of lessons?

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43125 Points

Welcome to the forums Navneet. I applaud you for your forward, positive thinking. It is fun to prepare for your first classroom even though you don’t know where it might be yet. Take heart, many positions don’t get filled until August because everyone is on vacation for the summer and generally don’t return until the first week in August. When I was in your position, I did some of what Tina recommended, heading to Dollar Trees and Big Lots to find “cool stuff” that made my life easier as a teacher. Also, many of the name brand office supply stores such as Office Depot, Staples and Office Max have incredible sales on school supplies. Generally they have a bunch of items each week that are a quarter to get you in. The little known secret is if you take the ad from one store into any of the others, they will price match if they have the same item. It’s a great way to stock up on the items you will need. Tina also suggested putting materials together that you would use, such as TED or YouTube videos, interesting articles, safety contracts, team building activities … The list is endless. The key of course is organizing the materials so you can find them when you need them. I also spent some time putting together PowerPoints of safety rules, Scientific Method, and “Who am I?” “Who Am I?” was the most fun because it gave me a chance to put together a series of slides of interesting facts about myself. I included photos of my family, baby pictures of me, photos of my dogs, interests and things I thought would connect me to the students. One of the most important things you can do is build a relationship with them. If you appear human students are more likely to bond with you quickly and make life easier overall. Best wishes to you as you begin the adventure of a lifetime. Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers you could ever choose. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Dana Dunnan Dana Dunnan 280 Points

You are exactly who I wrote my book Notes to a New Teacher for. I did a 15 minute interview on education with WCAX, Vermont’s leading TV station. It is at http://www.uvm.edu/extension/atfence/?m=20131018 The interview covers topics including schools and public relations, advice to new teachers, classroom discipline, teacher training, economic inequalities between schools, and the failure of my Vermont hometown to pass a school budget- in five tries! I also repeated the collapsing can trick, as well as the variation described in the Chemistry chapter of Notes to a New Teacher. Because the soda can had to be carried across the studio from the kitchen, and then waited until the camera was back on the set, the soda can failed to collapse. So, instead of demonstrating condensation and atmospheric pressure, I demonstrated the thermal conductivity of metals and bad stage management. There is also a link to both TV interviews on the website www.chalkdustmemories.com


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Dana Dunnan Dana Dunnan 280 Points


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Jessica Gibson Jessica Gibson 970 Points

This is a great topic to bring up because I feel that science is going to be the most expensive subject to get materials for. I have a year and a half left of my teaching program and whenever I see cheap things I can use somehow in my classroom I pick them up. I figure it is better to start now and store these things then to get them all later, even though I have no idea what grade I will teach but I figure that I can share and trade with fellow educators.

Norma Gonthier Norma Gonthier 3415 Points

What a great idea, Betty. We can't be the subject matter expert in all areas, so brushing up on those we feel we're weak in is a great way of using that free time before starting the new year. Like Jessica, I have about a year left before I begin teaching and will definitely put some of your suggestions to use. It's never too early to get a head start!

Leah Mehler Leah Mehler 3115 Points

I have always wondered where to begin when it comes to finding a position as a teacher, and how to know you are really prepared. I will be doing my student internship next fall semester and I am pretty nervous . I do the field hours where I get some experience but it is usually with a small group of students and not the entire class. What are some suggestions to feel for prepared for my first year?

Stephanie David Stephanie David 2435 Points

Hi Navneet, I think that you asked a very important question. I believe that one of the best things that one can do to prepare themselves for their first year of teaching is to prepare themselves. I suggest that you work on your areas for growth for both subjects. If there are particular concepts that you do not fully understand, you can find great resources online and this NSTA website to depend your understanding. If you have any friends or family members that are teachers, ask them to show you the pacing guide for those two subjects. With knowledge of the information from the pacing guide, you can practice some of the labs/activities that you might have to do with your students. If you stay informed on the changes, and current literature on what you are soon to teach; you be well equipped to teach your class. Just remember to BREATHE and take it one step at a time.

Elizabeth Ferrari Elizabeth Ferrari 2445 Points

As a future teacher, what is the best way to get hired? Should I be volunteering at my local school, should I try to substitute teach? What is the best way to get a job once I am qualified? All advice is very welcomed! Thank you!

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

Elizabeth, that is a very good question! But rather than answer it here, I am going to suggest you start a new forum topic with that question, because I know there are a lot of people who would also like to know the answer, and it deserves its own place!

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43125 Points

Leah, I thought about you some more after making my initial post. One of the things I really wish I would have been better prepared for was the little stuff. How to make seating charts was easy, how to place students was hard. What do you put on bulletin boards, how do you tell students they are not doing well, how do you write the first email to a parent telling them their child is failing? What do I say and do at my first parent conference? How can I intervene before the student fails? Was there something more I could have done? How do I arrange my desks, ask questions of students to insure equity? As you enter your first year of teaching, you will find there are a million things you never learned in school. Given this, some of the best advice I can give you in terms of getting prepared for the first year is to read, read, read as much stuff as you can possibly and then find someone that you can share your thoughts and ideas with. There are a couple of books that are standard in the industry for new teachers. One is “The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher,” by Harry and Rosemary Wong, http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Days-School-Effective/dp/0976423316/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391917378&sr=8-1&keywords=first+days+of+school Another is, “Teaching Like You Hair’s on Fire,” Rafe Esquith, http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Like-Your-Hairs-Fire/dp/0143112864/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391917463&sr=8-1&keywords=teaching+like+your+hair+is+on+fire I tend to like the humor in the writer’s style. A newer book on the scene is, “Teach Like a Champion,” by Doug Lemov, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_sabc?url=search-alias%3Daps&pageMinusResults=1&suo=1391917545414#/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_18?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=teach%20like%20a%20champion&sprefix=teach+like+a+champ%2Caps%2C189&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ateach%20like%20a%20champion This book provides so many wonderful ideas of how to engage students in learning as well as formative assessment. I use it quite frequently with my National Board Candidates. I also would not consider going into a Science classroom without Page Keeley. She has several wonderful titles. I use her “Uncovering Student Ideas” books all the time with my middle school students. It really helps me understand their ideas and misconceptions. A search of the NSTA book store brings up a list of all her Uncovering” titles, http://www.nsta.org/store/search.aspx?action=quicksearch&text=Uncovering Page’s “Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction and Learning,” http://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9781412941808 provides lots of wonderful ideas similar to those in “Teach Like a Champion,” but geared specifically with Science in mind. Good luck as you prepare for your first classroom. Teaching is the most rewarding career you could ever choose.

Mary Bigelow Mary Bigelow 10255 Points

I would also suggest NSTA's Rise and Shine: A Practical Guide for the Beginning Science Teacher. A preview chapter is available online at the NSTA site and The Extras page has downloadable templates for many tasks, too.

Bethany Waugh Bethany Waugh 1430 Points

I would also try your teacher resource room at your college of learning. I know first hands that the resource room will contain information to help you prepare. Also, speak to other teaching professionals that are certified in your field of interest.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Hi Navneet -
Good luck as you search for your first teaching job! You already have some terrific suggestions in this forum for what to start preparing.

- I'd definitely recommend you think about Classroom Management and read widely on the subject to discover good techniques and begin to form your own classroom policies and rules.

- Also, get well grounded in Science Safety and think about how you will teach and test safety procedures to students.

- Read widely and deeply in your teaching disciplines. Keep up to date on the latest discoveries and enjoy the journey.

- Begin collecting creative lesson plans for labs and field trips.

- Read and think about your approach to differentiation strategies and technology integration.

- Network with NSTA colleagues and use the NSTA Learning Center Resources.

- Continue to build your Teaching Portfolio.

Dive in and enjoy, but remember, be patient with yourself.
Your skills and expertise will grow with practice and hopefully continue to build your entire career.

Good luck!

Ali Neugebauer Ali Newgebauer 1170 Points

Start stalking all staples sales, trust me you can never have enough supplies. Since you are teaching Biology and Chemistry, it would be helpful to start brainstorming ideas of labs and getting a file systems set up for labs. Another tip would be to start envisioning how you would like to organize your classroom and what materials you would need to make that system work. I require all my students to have binders, so I always purchase some binders cheap for the students who can not afford them. That is something you can start doing now. Also- if you ever find any posters get them! I am in my second year teaching and I always wish I had more things to hang on my walls.

Valerie Hoyos Valerie Hoyos 185 Points

Hi! I am a first year teacher and I have to say: Seriously sit down and develop one solid unit plan! Trust me!!! Your first year is going to be a VERY busy one! You will thank yourself later and lighten your own load by knowing you have this in your back pocket. Since you have the time, pick a topic you do not know the best. Then start googling tests, pretests, worksheets and everything. Do not spend your entire life making your own worksheets. (One day I will finally get around to writing up my own, but until then, use what is already out there and tweak it.) Start with your state standards, What do the kids need to know? then figure out how the kids will show you that they know. Map out what you will teach from day 1 to test day. Write out 3 part objectives, activities, and how you will differentiate the lesson. You will need to write out probably 2 weeks worth of lesson plans in advance and submit them in advance to your supervisor so start looking into the details now. In my opinion, the best way to prepare for your first year is to create an arsenal of plan A, B's, and C's. Get a flash drive and save everything for a particular unit on its own flashdrive so that if you loose it at least it is only one unit. Make sure you have that stuff saved on your computer at home. Good Luck! You will do amazing!

Carmen Cruz Carmen Cruz 2125 Points

I gained a great deal of my experience by substituting in a classroom, mentoring with other teachers, expanding my knowledge through professional development, becoming a member of websites such as NSTA, and challenging myself to continue to increase my learning curve. Best of Luck!

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

Ali presents some good ideas as far as thinking about notebooking - I also keep an eye out for beginning of school sales and stock up on a few notebooks (like I will be requiring) for students who cannot afford them or whose parents don't seem to find time to get them (which is probably the same problem). As far as posters go, you can buy or collect them - I usually get several nice ones at NSTA and state conferences - or you can have your students make them throughout the year as a part of different units. The posters need not be big, sometimes I just use oversized paper (11x14 in works nicely) and have them brainstorm what they know about an upcoming unit and then refer back to them throughout. Sometimes I ask them to diagram a concept we are learning about and post those. Sometimes they are projects we do for assessments. So, 1 pkg of large paper (either white or colors) is also on my summer shopping list (till I get a school budget to buy it out of).

Elizabeth Moran Elizabeth Moran 490 Points

Navneet, welcome to the NSTA.org website and congratulations on your new career! I myself am a new teacher and find it difficult to find materials. Here are some tips that I have found very useful: This is a wonderful website to start looking for FREE worksheets for your future students. You can always get ideas on unit plans or even making your own lesson plans. I like to get ideas and then add my own touch. More experienced teachers can create their own account and upload lesson plans The benefit from sharing their knowledge is that they get paid for sharing these documents. The website is called Teacherspayteachers.com I would encourage other educators to share their documents on this website so that new teachers like myself can continue to pass on the wealthy of knowledge. Good luck Nayneet!

Dana Dunnan Dana Dunnan 280 Points

You are just who I wrote a book for: www.chalkdustmemories.com I did an eight minute interview last Friday with Neal Charnoff on Vermont Public Radio about new teachers, unions, testing, and the Common Core: http://digital.vpr.net/post/retired-educator-offers-advice-new-teachers Good luck. Dana Dunnan


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