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Thursday, July 16, 2015

What I wish someone had told me, a linky party

I have seen some fabulous advice floating around for teachers. But I have been thinking for a while now that I'd like to link up and share my not-all-that-vast amount of knowledge about teaching Kindergarten and what new Kindergarten teachers need to know. But the truth is, I've gotten some of the best advice and gleaned some great knowledge from teachers who were not teaching my same grade level. There is a lot of universal teaching gems that are relevant for every grade level. So I am coming to all of you, the experts. I am entering my fourth year of teaching, my third year in a self-contained classroom, and my fourth year in a new situation/school. (Whew, can you say "exhausting!"???)

But I'm gaining some self-confidence and I know a few things about what works. I know that my little friend who graduated with me and said...."Tell me what to do with students that first week before curriculum is introduced and no one say 'procedures'!" I know she got eaten alive by 5th and 6th grade students when she started. I know that I can't afford to be that arrogant. I know a few things (It surprises me how simply staying alive and moving through life has educated me and made me an expert of sorts). I know that classroom management is the key to a successful year. I am excited and terrified all at the same time. I hear experienced teachers talking about students who throw chairs.... eeks! And I know I have no desire for my start into Kindergarten to be like this. It's not actually my start. It is more of a homecoming. I student taught in Kinder and my first year of teaching was in Kindergarten. And I know this: I. LOVE. Kindergarten. So after a brief detour.... one year as a reading assistant (guided reading/reading interventions), and one year in a PBL multi-grade classroom.... I am back!

I am nervous. My teaching partner is super organized. I am so excited. But my jumbled up organization probably doesn't look like organization at all to her. Believe it or not, my classroom will look very organized and I'll know exactly what procedures I want to teach and my kids will practice, practice, practice. Which brings me back to my real point.

What are the most important things that a new teacher needs to know. Or a teacher who is changing grade levels. So tell the story from your grade-level point of view. What is the most important thing that someone told you, taught you, or you WISH they had taken the time to let you know when you ventured into your current teaching situation? We are the experts and we are the ones who will help our colleagues be just that, colleagues, and we'll influence whether they "Keep Calm and Carry On" or turn tail and run for the hills.

For me, the answer is, procedures, procedures, procedures. You have to teach Kindergarten students how to do everything. What does it look like to keep your hands to yourself? What does it look like to line up? To cut? To glue? To follow directions? Every procedure/rule/guideline has to taught. And re-taught. Over and over and over again. Don't expect them to know just because you do. It might be an unrealistic expectation. And I was taught that this will cause trouble.... having expectations on others.  So.... just expect that they don't know what YOU want, and teach it explicitly, implicitly, and over and over and over.

P.S. Praise and encouragement. I remember thinking.... "I am losing them, they are going off the rails" one day during student teaching, and I asked my mentor what was going wrong. She said, "have you caught them being good? You might try increasing that, that is what I do." And I had one little guy... it was HARD to catch him, you only had a 30 second to 1 minute window before a less desirable way of getting attention was going to surface yet again. So I had to really keep an eye out and sometimes it was not what anyone else in the class might be getting praise for.... "(Johnny) I see you are sitting in your chair! That is wonderful! You may put a sticker on your chart!" Every kid is different and if (Susie) is sitting up straight, it may not be a praise-worthy feat, but there is something that she needs praised for, even if she is a model student. And there is something I can find to praise that not-so-much-of-a-model student as well. I better be on my toes looking for it. It doesn't take very many "I love how (Judy) never gives up! She just keep working until she gets it!" until all students are applying themselves even when the going gets tough. So I guess that is two things: Teach procedures and practice them... often and to great lengths; give authentic praise often.

Link up and share your knowledge! Or what it is that was missing, that one thing you wish someone had told you.

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