5 Things I Wish I Knew as a First Year Teacher

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At the end of every school year, I take time to reflect on my career and provide guidance to the new teachers joining the profession.  I think back to the beginning of my teaching career and wonder if there are things I wish I knew as a first year teacher. I’ve compiled some tips for first year teachers to help make sure that your first year of teaching is not your last! 

Tip #1 Create a routine with online lesson planning

My first year as a teacher, I really planned loosely. I knew what I wanted to teach but the details weren’t kept together. This created gaps in time where I wanted to switch something up but didn’t have a tool to help me plan. I quickly learned that having a routine is what allows you to better identify where the opportunities for change lie. Having that routine also allows students to know what part of the class they are currently in. This provides students stability that allows them to focus primarily on learning without any surprises. 

(7.G.B.4) Skill Builder

With ASSISTments, I was able to create an online lesson plan and routine at ease. I could even assign Skill Builders as exit tickets that not only captured my students' understanding, but also helped create a routine. If there were gaps in understanding based on the data from the exit tickets, I could quickly plan a lesson to address my students' learning needs. Whether I decide to slow the lesson down or deviate from my plan entirely, ASSISTments is there to be a flexible yet integral part of my routine. 

Tip #2 Keep it simple and save time with math assessment tools

As a first year teacher you come in with a lot of ideas about the impact you’ll make on your students. I know I did! I wanted to grow students learning math while also raising their world awareness. Although I’m still passionate about that, I realized  that as a first year teacher you’re absorbing so much information for your daily job that it's difficult to work on the idealistic thoughts you originally envisioned. This isn't to dissuade you from saving those ideas for future use though! Those thoughts are needed to keep education progressing. 

In the beginning, keeping it simple can free up the time you need so that you can later bring those ideas to fruition. This is where a math assessment tool can really help a first year teacher. In ASSISTments, the user interface is really simple and includes student support features like hints and immediate feedback - saving you time on grading! The real time data reports (shown below) also take the guesswork out of pinpointing student learning needs.  

Sample Assignment Report in ASSISTments

Tip #3 Join a Teacher Support Group 

As a first year teacher, it is easy to feel like you’re drowning and overwhelmed. Once the year begins, teachers get laser focused on their own classrooms and as a first year teacher it can feel like you’re alone in an ocean. I definitely benefited from being part of a group of first year teachers. There were times where I thought I was doing the worst job ever and I would go to a meeting and hear very similar things happening in other classrooms. It’s very uplifting to be able to have a dialogue with other people who are dealing with the same things as you. It was even more uplifting to me when I was able to share things that worked and later inspired other first year teachers! 

If your school or district does not have a similar group, I highly recommend joining the ASSISTments Facebook User Community. There, both first year and experienced teachers can share their experiences and support one another throughout the school year. ASSISTments also offers PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), that connect you with other teachers using the platform. keep you feeling supported. You can share tips, get lesson ideas, and even remix materials others have used. Having been a part of ASSISTments PLCs for almost 2 years nowI really recommend this for first year teachers. 

Tip #4 Don’t reinvent the wheel, leverage online educational resources

As an innovative first year teacher, remember that education has been around since almost the beginning of time. It’s highly likely that an activity you want to do already has an established framework. I remember my first year and I wanted to do an activity where students learned about having a bank account and the effects of debits and credits. I was creating spreadsheets with examples of bank accounts, which was extremely time-consuming. When I was close to giving up, I did a quick search on bank account lessons, and suddenly there were plenty of examples with the framework already there for me. This allowed me to just remix the lesson to fit my current group of students. 

Finding educational resources like this online instead of creating from scratch allows you to build off a foundation and possibly see previous results. Then you can use your new, fresh thoughts and advance the activity with your own experiences. The benefit of using an education tool like ASSISTments is that they already have a complete library of problems, as well as several curriculums to choose from (including Eureka Math, Illustrative Mathematics, and more). You won’t have to build from scratch, and instead grab a framework that you’re already familiar with, or interested in implementing. can be a useful program to use, because they have access to several curriculums to give you a framework to start your lesson from. 

Tip #5 Make your classroom have a culture of learning

A classroom that has a culture of learning understands that mistakes will happen. It is not bad to make mistakes, but what you learn from the mistakes is what progresses learning.  In ASSISTments, students get three chances to solve a problem which can help develop a growth mindset in math. If students are having a difficult time, they use the hint button to help build their confidence and understanding. When sharing the assignment report with your classroom, students learn that they may not be the only ones struggling with a specific concept. These features allow students to feel comfortable as their learning progresses, and can even foster a conversation amongst peers.

Curious to see if ASSISTments can be a helpful tool for your first year teaching?

Learn more here.

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