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New Teacher Survival Central
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It's your first year as a teacher and your welcoming students who are also new – new at being a student, that is. You probably have more in common with these 4, 5 and 6-year-olds than you realize.

More than likely, they are nervous and scared about the new school they are entering, and their new role of being a student there, just as you probably are feeling some of the same pangs of apprehension about your new venture as a teacher.

Whether you're teaching kindergarten, first grade or second, your students are still getting the hang of being a student. Some kindergartners may have a year or two of preschool under their belts, or have spent time in daycare, however you may get a few students who have never been away from their parents on a regular basis.

You play a vital role in the development of these children. What they learn and experience during their early years can shape their views of themselves and the world around them.

Getting Started

Every school has a different system for how teachers first meet their students. Frequently an open house is held a few days or weeks leading up to the new school year. This gives your students and their parents the opportunity to meet you before the first bell rings.

This is your chance to make a good first impression. Take time to introduce yourself to each student and parent as they come in. If you have a difficult name to pronounce say it several times, possibly coming up with a rhyme or word association to help them learn how to say and remember it.

Some children may seem apprehensive at first. Assure them that this will be a great year. Tell them about one or two fun things you will be doing as soon as school starts.

Give each student a chance to introduce him or herself. Have them say their first and last name. Then show them where they will be sitting. Give the students a tour of the classroom.

If possible, post the daily schedule on the blackboard, as well as hand it out. This may help parents with an anxious child. Send a letter home with parents telling them about your plans for the year and your wish to have them actively involved in their children's education.

This is a good time to have a packet ready with any forms that need to filled out.

Most importantly, be genuine and let the students know how much you are looking forward to being their teacher.

Learning Styles

For every student you teach, there are as many different approaches to learning. You're going to be focused on so many nuances of each child, that trying to understand and work with these styles may be challenging for a new teacher.

You soon will notice that what works for one child is not necessarily as effective for another. Each child will have his or her particular blend of techniques for mastering subject matter. No matter what your style is, figuring out how to work with a variety of different learners takes time.

Typical types of learners:

  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Kinesthetic/tactile learners

Auditory learners are often known to talk A LOT. These students will do best by hearing things explained as opposed to reading instructions. They will enjoy stories, and will remember things that are spoken to them. They easily can memorize things, and may read aloud or whisper read so that they can hear the words.

Visual learners easily remember details they see. They prefer to write down instructions and may have trouble following directions given aloud. They enjoy reading and looking at books and pictures. Whenever possible, write things down and demonstrate how to do them. Using color to organize information will help them keep things in order and remember information better.

Kinesthetic or tactile learners prefer activities that allow them to do what they are learning about. These students like to touch things in order to learn about them. They find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time, preferring to move around when talking or listening. Organization is often difficult for these children.

While it might be easier for you to work with students whose learning styles are most like yours, be sure to encourage all of your students regardless of how they learn best.

Food Allergies

If you've never experienced a food allergy yourself, you're likely to see your share of it as a teacher. It's estimated that food allergies affect six to eight percent of school-aged children. Some are more severe than others, but all have to be taken seriously.

Food is everywhere in schools. It's at lunch, in the classroom, at parties. Sometimes it's used as rewards/incentives, for art projects and in other activities.

Undoubtedly, your school has a plan in place for handling children who have food allergies; however as a classroom teacher, you need to be aware of the basics. School time exposure to allergens is not uncommon. According to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one in five children with food allergies will have a reaction while in school.

If a child in your class has a known allergy, you probably can expect that their parent is vigilant about making you and the school nurse aware, as well as providing a plan or antidote if an allergic reaction occurs during the school day.

It's important for you to let the other parents know if you have a student with an allergy so that this is taken into consideration when they send in snacks or treats to be shared with the entire class.

Most common food allergies are to:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening, and can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing/breathing
  • Throat tightness or closing
  • Swelling of mouth/lips
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

Helpful resources:


Playground Bullies

As you know, teaching students is not all about reading, writing and arithmetic. Some of what you will be doing may involve non-academics. Your role likely will include being part referee, part diplomat and part therapist. This means taking time out from grading papers to get involved in the overall well-being of each child.

Your students will get what little social time they are allotted during lunch and on the playground. While these are probably their favorite part of the day, it is also the time that there is most likely to be conflicts between children.

Most classes have one or more children who dominate the social setting. These kids may be the most popular ones in class, or just the ones who seem to run the show. Unfortunately, these "alpha" children are not always the nicest ones.

While you certainly can get a school guidance counselor or the principal involved, many times you might want to deflect the situation yourself. To be an effective intermediary, a teacher has to be aware of the interactions between students, sensitive to their needs and situations, and respected by them.

When one of your students is being bossy or aggressive, take time to allow those involved to tell their side of the story, letting each listen to the other one's side. Then you need to clarify the situation, establish where you see fault, and discuss with the children involved a possible resolution.

Tell them that while you don't expect them necessarily to be friends, they do need to peacefully coexist, get along with one another and not hassle each other.

Parent-Teacher Relationships

One of the most intimidating situations you'll likely face as a new teacher has nothing to do with managing a class of 20 or more 6-year-olds, or answering to a principal with 25 years of experience. It will probably be your interaction with your students' parents that gives even the most relaxed new teacher a case of nerves.

Be proactive! Reach out to parents as soon as possible. This will establish good feelings from them, and hopefully a positive yearlong rapport. One way you can do this is by sending home a parent questionnaire during the first days or weeks of school. On these ask about their child and their goals for the new school year.

Acknowledge the fact that they know their child best, while showing them that you value their input. These surveys will provide you with valuable information you wouldn't have known otherwise.

A month or so into the year send home a survey that asks parents to comment on how their child is adjusting to class, and invite them to relate any concerns they might have.

Many schools hold parent-teacher conferences early in the year - often at the end of the first grading period. When parents come in for that first conference, use the questionnaire and survey as a way to break the ice and to initiate conversation.

Make a positive phone call or send an encouraging e-mail to each family at some point during the first nine weeks. Tell them about a good grade or some other success that their child has experienced at school. This will make hearing from you a positive experience, rather than one of angst. This way, they won't cringe every time they get a call from you, and it lets the children know that you are communicating with their parents on a regular basis. A positive relationship with a parent can make a huge difference if problems arise later in the year.

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