Revisiting my first year of teaching, which dates back to the 1995-96 school year, requires delving deep into my memory. Despite the challenges, it’s always nostalgic to reflect on those times. For every new teacher out there, these struggles are familiar. Remember, you’re not alone, and you will conquer them! I assure you!
After graduating from Iowa State University in May 1995, I was accepted into the CADRE Project at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the 1995-96 school year. This program placed me as a full-time teacher in a classroom within one of the surrounding public school districts while pursuing a Master’s Degree simultaneously. As part of the program, I had a “Master Teacher Mentor” who periodically visited my classroom, offering guidance and advice to navigate through the initial year. I was assigned as a 4th-grade teacher in the Omaha Public Schools.
My classroom was situated in a building constructed in 1912, maintaining its antique charm with wooden floors, towering ceilings, tall windows, an old radiator for heat, and an absence of air conditioning! Interestingly, the K-4 building had more classrooms outside in portables than in the actual structure. Fortunately, I was allocated space within the main building. Just outside my classroom door was the “office,” consisting of a large counter in the hallway for the secretary and a small back office for the principal. A security guard stationed at a small table sat right outside my classroom.
I started my teaching journey with very minimal supplies as my class was added late in the summer. The room had math and reading textbooks and a set of old metal desks. There was access to large rolls of colored paper, writing paper, and pencils in a school-wide storage room. But anything beyond basic office supplies like pens and staples required a supply order, and it took several months to get a working pencil sharpener!
Such conditions pushed me to create my own teaching materials, which turned out to be a hidden blessing. It sparked my passion for curriculum development and equipped me with skills for my career beyond teaching!
The greatest challenge in that first year was adapting to such a diverse population, both racially and socioeconomically. My teacher training hadn’t prepared me for this. Coming from Sioux Falls, SD, where my high school had minimal racial diversity and mostly middle-class students, the contrast was stark.
My classroom consisted of about 50% black students from a high-poverty neighborhood and 50% mainly white students bussed in from an even lower-income area with a homeless shelter. The transient nature of the shelter caused significant student turnover—I’d have about 18 students on average in my class, but by year’s end, I’d have had around 40-50 different kids pass through.
Around the same time I started teaching, a police officer, Jimmy Wilson Jr., was shot and killed by gang members, causing unrest in the city, particularly in the area where my school was located. One hot Friday afternoon, lacking air conditioning, I took the class outside under a big tree for our reading time. Instead of reading, a discussion about the shooting unfolded among the students. It was eye-opening; their perspectives differed vastly from mine as a white woman from a middle-class area. I learned a great deal about their lives and experiences that day, realizing how much innocence these young 9-10-year-olds had lost due to their mature exposure to life’s struggles. It was a profound and educational moment for me, fostering a more empathetic attitude toward their life experiences. The discussion offered me a deep insight into their lives and shaped a more compassionate approach to understanding their challenges.
The most significant challenge also turned out to be the most rewarding aspect. It expanded my openness and ability to collaborate within a diverse community. I ended up learning as much from those kids that year as I taught them.
Among the students, there was one in particular whose growth I felt deeply connected to. I’m immensely proud of how I was able to bolster his confidence that year. Moreover, I helped change the perspectives of others in the district who had dismissed him, viewing him solely as a troublemaker with limited potential. I proved them wrong and unveiled the remarkable potential he truly possessed.
At times, it might feel like you’re at a standstill, but you’ll overcome it. Each year following that initial one, you’ll build upon your knowledge. You’ll discover the significance of organization, the value of approaching each child with fresh eyes (avoid reading past files before meeting them), and recognize that a classroom doesn’t have to achieve a “perfect” look. Instead, investing in instructional materials outweighs the need for overly decorative bulletin boards! You don’t require a “Pinterest Pretty Classroom” to excel as a teacher!
You’ll come to realize that you can’t solve every issue, but you can certainly give your best effort. It’s crucial to safeguard your own well-being—don’t let the challenges in your classroom consume your entire life. Allocate time for your mental health to prevent burning out too quickly. Embrace your mistakes as valuable learning opportunities instead of letting them stress you out. Remember, we all make mistakes, and you’ll make your fair share too!
To all teachers, especially those starting their first year, I wish you the best of luck and many happy days ahead! Take a deep breath; things will fall into place eventually, and you’ll excel! There’s nothing quite as invigorating and infectious as the enthusiasm of a first-year teacher!
Utilizing technology in classrooms today comes with numerous benefits, yet it’s not without its downsides like glitches and user frustrations. To support educators in leveraging available technology without the hassle of creating their own files, I offer my novel studies and social studies resources in both printable and Google Drive formats.
Given the novelty of these formats, I frequently receive technical queries from buyers. To address these common questions and offer guidance on customizing the files to suit specific requirements, I’ve crafted this blog post featuring answers to these inquiries and a tutorial on file manipulation.
How do I get the file into my Google Drive?
While each of my products includes an instruction guide, occasional issues may still arise. One common oversight is when teachers aren’t logged into their intended Google Drive account to store the purchased file. Clicking the link without being logged in often prompts a request for access, which shouldn’t be necessary after the purchase. Neither you nor your students should need to request access if the instructions have been followed correctly.
The solution typically involves ensuring proper login to your Google Drive before clicking the file link. Once logged in, you can seamlessly share the file via Google Classroom without any access requests needed.
To proceed, ensure you’re logged into your Google Drive and then click the link provided within your resource, resembling this:
A new tab will open with the force copy prompt.
The file will now be visible in your Google Drive account under the name “Copy of File Name.” You can conveniently modify this name to your preference by clicking directly into the name box and making the desired changes.
How can I assign individual chapters or activities to students instead of the whole file?
I aim to streamline and share this content as efficiently as possible. Each Google file I create has a unique link. To prevent confusion, I usually keep unit materials consolidated into a single file link or a few links for larger files divided into sections. This consolidation avoids overwhelming teachers with numerous individual links for chapters or activities.
Understanding the need for flexibility in tailoring materials to suit classroom requirements, I often receive inquiries about sharing specific sections—like a single chapter—with students. To assist in creating customized assignments from your master file, I’ve outlined straightforward steps below for quick customization to meet your specific needs.
Once your master file is in your Google Drive, follow these steps:
The dimensions mentioned earlier apply to all my novel study products. However, for social studies materials, sizes can vary, often set at 12×12. To ensure your file matches the right dimensions and avoids distortion, check the page setup of your master file.
I trust these details and suggestions will assist you in tailoring your files to suit your students’ and classroom’s specific needs. Should you have further queries or need clarification, please don’t hesitate to reach out—I’m more than happy to provide tips and clear up any confusion. You can find my email address on the initial page of every file downloaded from my store.
As the summer draws to a close and the start of a new school year lies ahead, it’s time to think about the challenging back-to-school season. Preparing for the return of students can be a daunting task, but with effective organizing strategies, teachers can set the stage for a successful and smooth transition.
Here are some essential tips and suggestions to help you organize for back to school, and create an environment that fosters learning, engagement, and growth.
- Create a Master To-Do List: Kickstart your back-to-school preparation by compiling a comprehensive to-do list. Divide it into categories such as classroom setup, curriculum planning, administrative tasks, and professional development. This list will serve as a roadmap to guide your efforts and ensure that no critical aspect of preparation is overlooked.
- Declutter and Deep Clean: Start the school year fresh by decluttering your classroom. Get rid of unnecessary materials and clean all surfaces, shelves, and storage areas.
- Designate Learning Areas: Create specific zones for various learning activities, like reading corners, writing centers, and science exploration stations.
- Organize Supplies: Arrange school supplies in labeled bins or drawers for easy access during lessons.
- Update Materials: Check teaching resources and update or replace outdated materials to keep the content fresh and engaging. Ensure your lesson plans align with your district’s requirements.
- Integrate Technology: Explore educational apps, online resources, and interactive tools to incorporate technology into your lessons effectively.
- Create a Yearly Calendar: Develop a yearly overview of key academic events, holidays, assessments, and deadlines to help you plan accordingly.
- Set Realistic Goals: Define achievable goals for yourself and your students. Break them down into smaller milestones to track progress effectively.
- Draft a Welcome Letter: Draft a warm and informative welcome letter to introduce yourself to parents and provide them with essential information about your classroom and contact details.
- Parent-Teacher Communication: Establish clear channels of communication with parents, such as email updates, a class website, or a communication app.
- Join Professional Communities: Connect with other educators in person or through online forums to share ideas, resources, and experiences.
- Prioritize Well-being: Remember that taking care of yourself is essential for being an effective teacher. Prioritize self-care, maintain a work-life balance, and avoid burnout.
- Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid excessive after-hours work and dedicate time to hobbies and relaxation.
Organizing for back-to-school is a crucial step in setting the tone for a successful academic year. By creating a comprehensive to-do list, organizing your classroom, refreshing your curriculum, managing time effectively, fostering parent-teacher communication, connecting with colleagues, and prioritizing self-care, you can ensure a smooth and successful start to the new school year.
Remember, a well-organized teacher creates an environment that encourages students to thrive and reach their full potential. Here’s to an exciting and productive academic year ahead!
Numerous stories highlight how much teachers personally invest in their classrooms. I’m sure this isn’t news to you! And let’s not forget about all the “off the clock” time teachers dedicate to preparing their classrooms!
During the 1995-96 school year, I embarked on my journey as a fourth-grade teacher. I vividly recall feeling incredibly overwhelmed by numerous aspects. Teaching in a low-income school was a significant culture shock—I had some foresight, but it still took me by surprise. What truly astonished me was the utter scarcity of supplies and the condition of the building and classroom I was assigned. College never prepared me for the complete lack of support I encountered when it came to classroom supplies!
During my initial year at the school, which dated back to 1912, it was clear that it was in dire need of maintenance. Between 1995 and 1999, the building showed its age. Stepping into my classroom for the first time, I encountered a collection of 20 older metal desks, a worn-out teacher’s desk with broken drawer locks, a single empty bookshelf, two smaller tables, and a dusty, antiquated overhead projector on a cart!
After a thorough cleaning, I took inventory of what I had. The supply room offered some giant rolls of colored paper for projects or bulletin boards, a few pencils, and that thin, brownish-tinted student paper. To acquire basic supplies like scissors, pens, and other essentials for my desk, I had to place an order. Unfortunately, our school lacked any form of a Parent/Teacher organization, leaving us without additional funding sources. Despite the limited inventory, I was excited to decorate and transform my classroom into a welcoming space for our community to gather and learn!
To create a reading area, I purchased a carpet remnant and scoured garage sales for an old chair and as many chapter books as I could find. With hardwood floors and lofty ceilings, the room lacked coziness and had terrible acoustics!
Given the income level of the area and district policies, we couldn’t request students to bring any school supplies. I took advantage of Target’s back-to-school sales to stock up on folders and necessary supplies for the students. Of course, I depleted my checking account at teacher resource stores, buying bulletin board supplies and classroom decor—the days before Teachers Pay Teachers, where creating and printing resources yourself wasn’t an option.
A computer wasn’t added to my classroom until about a year later. I found solace in using the laminator provided by the district at the Teachers Administration Building in another part of town.
I was immensely proud of how inviting my classroom looked, but my bank account definitely felt the strain of those initial school days!
Throughout the year, I made efforts to expand our class library with $1 books from Scholastic orders, desperately seeking chapter books. As our school only went up to the fourth grade, the school library had a limited selection, especially of chapter books. Unfortunately, many students didn’t have access to public libraries, making the school their primary source for books. It was crucial to me that they had access to age-appropriate books. Expecting fourth-grade reading levels without appropriate materials felt unfair when they had access only to second-grade and below books.
I continuously replaced folders and other supplies, ensuring a steady stock of tissues. Surprisingly, the district didn’t provide tissues, leaving us with coarse paper towels that were uncomfortable and not very hygienic!
Over that first year, I ended up spending around $1400—more than a month’s pay—on supplies to create a conducive learning environment in my classroom. I didn’t go for anything extravagant; I aimed to furnish the basics to transform the room into a proper learning space.
Reflecting on that room fills me with pride. However, there’s a lingering feeling that the school should have provided more. I don’t regret spending on those kids; they deserved a welcoming classroom. Yet, it shouldn’t have solely relied on someone earning a mere $10,000 per year*!
In the subsequent years, I didn’t have to invest as much since items like the carpet, chair, and bean bags were reusable. However, I continued contributing to various other supplies, and it all added up!
Seeing the media portray teaching as a cushy 9-month job and hearing disrespectful comments really frustrates me. The public often doesn’t realize that my experience is a common reality in classrooms across the country every year. How many other professions expect employees to contribute a month’s pay annually back to their employer or clientele?
I’m aware that teachers’ financial situations haven’t improved over the years; if anything, they’ve worsened due to legislation that harms or eradicates teacher unions.
Statistics reveal that 94% of teachers spend from their own pockets. Frankly, I find this number surprisingly low—I’ve never encountered a teacher who spends nothing, let alone just 6% of them! The national average spending by teachers out of pocket is $479. How does this compare to your experience? Do you receive adequate support for essentials or extras?
Where do you usually find the best deals for classroom items? Share your thoughts and any fantastic deals you’ve come across in the comments below!
*In my first-year contract, I received a stipend of $10,000 with my tuition for a Master’s Degree at UNO covered. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any medical or other benefits.
Here are a few of the most frequent questions that I am asked from buyers, and potential buyers, about my resources. Hopefully, you will find these answers helpful.
If you cannot find the answer to your question. Please email me directly.
If you still have questions, please email me directly.
It’s the heart of winter here in Nebraska and with winter comes illness. You get sick, your students are sick, your own children are sick! It is the season for a sub! We all know that it is almost more difficult to prepare for a sub and get everything back on track rather than just come to school sick and push through.
For the health of the community, I ask you to please stay home, take care of yourself, yet be prepared for that inevitable day so that you can focus on getting well, not stressing about your classroom!
A little planning will do you and your sub a world of good, not to mention that classroom full of kids!
• One great thing to do for prep is to make sure you’ve stocked your classroom with games, puzzles, and stories for students and subs to read for a short quick lesson. Click here for some ideas for a “sub bag”. Have these items right there for your sub to have if he/she didn’t come as prepared as you’d hope.
• Leave a list of game ideas and writing prompts that the sub can pull from to fill the time. Click here for some quick time-filler activities.
• Click here for some “No Lesson Plan” activities for your sub to utilize.
• Finally, one of the best places to go for a quick, no-cost lesson and prep for a sub is Teachers Pay Teachers. Click here to find FREE downloads for all your sub planning needs!
A little prep when you’re healthy can save you a lot of stress, frustration, and time when you’re not feeling 100%. Plus, your sub will thank you for taking that time to make their day as smooth as possible for your students!