By Carlo Gonzalez
I remember my first day as a new teacher as though it were yesterday: I walked into my classroom on a hot September day thinking, “Man, it’s hot in here” and then, “Who do I call if my air conditioner doesn’t work?”
Eventually, I figured out my room didn’t have AC—problem solved!
First-year teachers don’t have the luxury of knowing the school’s maintenance worker or Betty in Human Resources. They are, rightfully, focused on teaching and starting a career. Therefore, this article isn’t about best teaching practices or the newest theory in learning; it’s about those incidental things that make a new teacher’s life a little easier.
I’d like to share with you some tips that have helped me on my journey. I hope that as you engage your new colleagues in conversation, you can give them this advice, or your own, to make their first year as smooth as possible.
It’s important to know not only your student’s names, but also the janitor, the secretaries, and bus drivers too. Using a first name lets the person know you value and respect him or her. It can help cultivate meaningful relationships.
As a first year teacher, you aren’t only new to the profession, but new to the district and building, as well. Who do you go to if you need 1,000 stapled, color copies? What if you need to make a change to your health insurance? Asking questions is the only way to find out an answer. Ask away! I’d rather ask 100 questions to make sure I understood something, rather than get it wrong or miss a deadline.
Who can you go to with a question about IEPs or special education? Cultivate relationships with people on the child study team. Who can you ask if you need advice about a lesson or classroom management? Talk to your colleague whose classroom management is on point. Have a question about your contract or your rights? Get to know your association rep. Not sure about your paycheck? Get to know someone in the benefits department. Having a few trusted contacts can make your life a little easier when you are unsure about something.
Get to know the teachers and paraprofessionals around you. Teaching can be a lonely profession, and it helps to have a colleague you can talk to. Experienced neighbors are a good resource for ideas. I got know my neighbors well enough that I sent student over when they (or I) needed a break. It’s good to have friends.
As you welcome new teachers into your schools, share with them some tips that have made your life easier. Does the copier jam if you use colored paper in Tray 2? Let them know! The night janitor likes when your chairs are put on the desks on Friday? Tell somebody! Things like these aren’t common knowledge to a new teacher, so make sure they know the nuances of your school. Here’s to a new school year full of knowledge and friendships!
Carlo Gonzalez is a school counselor at Whitehall Elementary School in Monroe Township, Gloucester County.