1. Communicate with parents and students before the school year starts. I always send home a letter for parents briefly explaining my teaching philosophy, letting them know what to bring on the first day, etc. In the same envelope I send home a letter for students welcoming them to school and letting them know some of the things we will do on the first day. I have found that giving them some details (for example which book we will read) helps them feel comforted.
2. Do things for yourself! My first year I was a crazy teaching zombie. I am sure my friends were bored out of their minds with all of my school stories. I would even go into school on Saturdays and during vacations! I know, it's horrible! I even stopped going to the gym because I was so exhausted from all of this crazy prep I was doing. My new philosophy is to take time for myself. I go to the gym, hang out with the girls and get massages and pedicures from time to time. Go ahead, you deserve it!
3. Don't be TOO nice to the students. Establish rules on the first day and do not cave in when they are broken. I highly recommend the book Teaching with Love and Logic for help with behavior management.
4. HAVE FUN! Find ways to sneak fun and excitement into your lessons. If you are teaching about measurements, cook something! If you are learning about plants, grow them! Kids always learn more when the activities are hands on.
5. Go outside! There is nothing wrong with teaching outdoors. My school even opened up an outdoor classroom last year! Simply going outside for 15 minutes for a read aloud will give students a whole new perspective.
6. Don't bankrupt yourself. Yes, we all spend money on our classrooms but don't overdo it! I totally did my first year. Ask for donations from stores, ask parents for items they might have at home, and use Donors Choose.
7. Find a mentor at your school if your district does not provide you with one. One of my fabulous teacher friends stepped up my first year when I was afraid to fight for special ed services for one of my kids. She taught me to not be afraid to stand up for what you know is right.
8. Collaborate with your grade level team whenever possible. Why reinvent the wheel? If someone has a great activity or worksheet, ask for it. Then share yours with them.
9. DON'T GOSSIP. This can be hard in schools, but it can also get you into trouble!
10. Keep yourself educated. There is a lot of teacher and union bashing going on in America today. We need to stand up for our profession and demand the respect that we deserve.
11. LOVE YOUR JOB. There are very few jobs where you can get your hands dirty, laugh, sing, play outside and learn something new every day. We are very lucky to be educating little minds, and learning from them as well.