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Sorry this is long because...
Old 01-30-2019, 11:31 AM
 
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I have been in your exact position. I only had a couple of days to prepare, so I definitely had to prioritize between “must do” and “want to do.”

I just had to survive. There was a reason the former teacher left. If it had been an easy class, my predecessor would have just stuck it out for 4 more months. But they weren’t, and she didn’t, and it was extremely hard to step in and try to fix things.

I focused on the biggest problems: student behaviors and establishing parent trust.

I had to let students and parents know that I would make the transition as smooth as possible. That is what they most needed to hear.

I also had to reassure them that I knew what I was doing (even if I had to fake my assuredness). I communicated to the parents my qualifications (education) and experience (professional, and personal as a parent of children attending schools in our district). I did this by way of a letter and it must have been effective. I did not get a fraction of the push back that my predecessor did.

With that said, I did not make sweeping changes. I tabled many of my plans and decided it would be best to introduce them at the beginning of the next year with a new group of students. I was able to give lots of thought to these ideas (“I definitely will/will not do this next year.”) over the course of that first challenging semester.

Instead, I focused on routines and procedures more than curriculum for the first 2 weeks. I chose activities that allowed practice of those routines.

I read ‘Back to School Jitters’ about a teacher who is nervous about meeting her students. It provided an opportunity to practice where/how students sit for read alouds. Also an opportunity to share information about myself.

Relationship building activities - sit in a circle, take turns rolling dice, answer a question based on the number it lands on: 1. How many brothers and sisters do you have? 2. What is your favorite animal? Etc. Students are practicing your expectations for taking turns, listening when others are speaking, respecting each other’s responses, etc.

About Me Posters - do a little bit at a time and give explicit directions on filling out one section at a time. Students are practicing listening to you and following your directions.

Class discussion regarding behavior expectations. I read the hilarious “Do’s and Don’ts” by Todd Parr, followed by creation af a Do’s and Don’t s anchor chart. It gives students a voice in establishing ground rules and sharing with you some of the routines that are already in place.

During this time, you will gradually increase the amount of time devoted to curriculum with lots of very intentional front-loading of procedures (how to get a pencil, how to sit to show you are ready for the next step, etc.). Do not rush or scrimp in establishing procedures. It will save you time in the long run!

Finally, don’t spend tons of time or money on trying to make your classroom decorations look like all the others. You have not had the same amount of prep time as those other teachers. You are in survival mode. Minimalist is fine. Next year you can fulfill your Pinterest dreams!

I wish you the best of luck! For me it was a very positive experience as I learned to focus on what really matters and gave myself permission to forget about what didn’t.
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