A Letter to First-Year Teachers

Dear First-Year Teachers,

If you are reading this blog, you just survived your first year as a teacher. Congratulations! School is out, summer calls and the beach beckons, but your work isn't over... not yet! If you're like most first-year teachers -- including me -- not every day was a picture-perfect glimpse of the effective teaching and management skills you learned in the college classroom.

But, cheer up... there is good news!

With the help of Jennifer and Amber, two first-year elementary school teachers who are my former students at the University of Mobile, we compiled a list of reflective questions for you. If you answer them honestly, it will help you understand what went well during your first year and point out areas that need improvement for the second year.

Here is our list to help you begin your reflective summer moments. Ask yourself:

• Did I smile every day? Did I act happy to be there?
• Did I have open communication with my parents? (Try the website
• Did I arrive early each morning so that I could be organized for the day?
• Did I get to know each student individually? Did I attend baseball games or recitals? Could I share at least one special thing about each student?
• Did I stay out of school drama?
• Did I get to know the cafeteria manager and the custodian personally?
• Did I have a classroom management plan and did I stay consistent? Did it work?
• Was I open-minded, flexible and patient when things didn't go as planned?
• Did I give myself a break because it was my first year? Did I accept that things would go wrong and that I would make mistakes?
• Did I really survive the first year?

Oh my goodness -- I am re-reading this list and I see that there is no mention of "content/standards and teaching strategies." I certainly believe both to be huge parts of the teaching day, but it is interesting that the three of us targeted the "soft skills" in our lists -- caring, communication, organization, attitude and personal habits.

It only proves my belief again that if these areas are addressed first, the teaching will naturally follow and students will learn the content/standards critical for the grade within that kind of environment.

So, first-year teachers unite! Enjoy your summer break, relax and go to the beach. You have earned it! Reflect on your answers to the questions and discuss any changes you plan to make for next year. Good luck in your second year of teaching and, most of all, congrats on choosing the profession that creates all others! You are my heroes.