If you’re starting your first year in the classroom as a new graduate – CONGRATULATIONS! I’m sure your lovely friends and family have celebrated this awesome achievement with you, but it really is such a big milestone and your memories of this year will last for many more to come.
Me with my first class back in 2010 – these little learners would be in year 11 in 2021!!
While #teachergram is usually filled with classroom set-up inspo and cute notes of gratitude from kids, what you don’t see is the hours of overtime, or the classroom meltdowns, or the struggles to feel confident in the face of an unruly bunch of kids who would rather do *anything* than listen to their teacher.
When you’ve been looking forward to having your class for such a long time, it can be demoralising when you realise just how challenging the job can be. And that is 100% okay! In fact, surviving first year teaching is something we should talk about more.
One of my favorite things about MJLL is that I can now reach so many more teachers and give them the support that they need to navigate through the challenging moments. Because that’s all they are – moments – and they will pass! That’s why I wanted to share some classroom management strategies for new teachers, as I know *exactly* how it feels to be in your shoes.
Here are some of my tips to lead your little learners calmly and confidently through your first year in the classroom.
Come up with classroom rules… and stick to them
If you’re teaching kindergarten or early years elementary, your students will be looking to you to set the expectation on how to act in the classroom. They have no idea what will fly in the classroom setting – that’s why coming up with a set of guiding rules from the outset is really important to getting you all on the same page.
It’s tempting to ease up on the rules as the year goes on, but creating a display or visual reminder will help to keep those rules front and center! Check in after the winter break to get everyone back on the same page, and celebrate any rules that your students have done particularly well with following.
If you’re looking for resources to make your rule-setting a little easier, I’ve got a classroom rules student booklet along with classroom posters included in my Back to School Activities Pack!
It’s also got examples of whole class and individual lesson ideas for you to use in your first few weeks, so you can spend less time planning and more time getting to know your students!
Embrace a growth mindset to celebrate success
Your little learners will all have their own strengths, and areas where they need a little more support. One of the best classroom management strategies for new teachers that creates a safe, supportive environment is adopting a growth mindset!
I have a whole blog on this concept, but by teaching your students how to reframe self-criticism (and reframing how you give feedback and praise along these lines, too) – you’ll create an environment where your students feel comfortable to try new things and to celebrate the different strengths of their classmates.
They’ll also learn that they can trust you, and this is a real game-changer in building relationships with your students!
Teachers are such important role models, so promoting a growth mindset starts with your own communication!
Be firm, but fair
I’m sure you probably have a memory of an encounter with a teacher where you felt they were a little more on the firm side! There are definitely frustrating moments in the classroom, but the key to surviving first year teaching is to not lose your cool.
I’m a fan of the tactical pause when you sense disruptions brewing – waiting and utilising some of that famous teacher eye contact until the students realize that they’re holding up the whole class. Name dropping can also recapture attention of an off-task student without needing to be a big deal – e.g. “We’re going to get ready for our reading groups now, Harry, so if everyone can..”
If a firmer redirect is needed, it’s important not to get too forceful. As soon as your student feels that fight coming on, they will get their backs up and become even more resistant to whatever it is you want them to do.
Be assertive without raising your voice, and try giving the student a choice – for example, that they can get back on task or come and sit at your desk for the rest of the activity. This brings back that all-important concept of ownership – walk away and leave them to decide, but make sure you follow up on whatever that secondary option is if that defiant behavior continues.
Don’t take it personally
Even with the best of intentions, the most robust of lesson plans and the most supportive of approaches, there will sometimes be student reactions or situations that are just out of your control. Even the best classroom management strategies for new teachers sometimes won’t be a match for what you come up against sometimes.
There will be tears! There will be tantrums! And the students will be emotional, too 😉
Often, the way students are responding or displaying challenging behavior has absolutely nothing to do with you. They are learning about their emotions, too – some days they just won’t have a handle on how they’re feeling, and you’re first in the firing line.
Save the tears for after the bell and try your best in the moment to be the antithesis to everything that child is going through – be calm, be rational and be confident that you can absolutely ride out this storm.
Being a teacher is definitely not without its challenges! But for every low moment, there will be so many more highs to celebrate.
Surviving first year teaching can definitely be stressful and challenging at times, but you’re also in probably one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Remember – there is no right or wrong way of teaching, just your way of teaching – and your little learners are so lucky to have such a kind, passionate and generous teacher to guide them this year.
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