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Classroom Survival Tips and Strategies for the First Year Teacher!


I was fresh out of college and bursting with enthusiasm in anticipation of the first year of my teaching career. I thought that I was fully equipped to handle any challenges that came my way, but when I entered the classroom, I had a rude awakening. It did not take me long to realize that college did not prepare me for half of the things that I was confronted with.

My class consisted of many students who had severe emotional and behavioral problems, and I had very limited knowledge of how to deal with them. Because of the severity of the situation, I grew frustrated and was ready to, "throw in the towel." I ultimately devised and implemented strategies that not only promoted my students' academic growth and development, but modified their behaviors as well. I systematically learned how to survive the classroom and not become a victim of it. This was 23 years ago, but these tips and strategies still work for me, and will work for you too. You will find them helpful whether you are an elementary, middle, or high school first year teacher.

To maintain discipline, establish rules and consequences, and be consistent with them. Introduce the students to them the very first day of school, and initiate a discussion about their importance. Never fail to consequence any student who does not comply with the rules. You may provide older children with the opportunity to generate their own rules and consequences.

Be firm, but not abrasive. Some educators believe that in order to get students to be obedient, they have to display an aggressive attitude. But being a bully is not the answer. You can have a well disciplined classroom without any display of hostility. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Your presence should command respect, but should not spawn fear. Students should feel comfortable with you, but they should not be too familiar.

Use words of encouragement frequently as these often motivate children to do well. Your words of encouragement may be the only ones a child has ever heard.

Be a good role model. Exhibit the behaviors that you would like your students to emulate.

Set high expectations for your students. Encourage them to set attainable goals for themselves.

Be fair, and do not show favoritism. This often creates an unstable classroom environment, and children are experts at detecting this.

Show respect for your students, and it will be reciprocated. Avoid using sarcasm, and do not speak to them in a condescending manner. Calling students such names as, "idiots, little twerpts, and losers" is unacceptable. Remember that you can totally destroy a child's self esteem with your words and actions.

Never argue with your students. You are the adult, and you have to set the example.

Set boundaries. Your storage and desk areas should be out of bounds.

Design a seating plan and make adjustments to it as the year progresses.

Establish a reward system so that students who conduct themselves appropriately are given incentives for doing so. Be careful not to reward behaviors and attitudes that you would like to curtail.

Treat each child on an individual basis. Be cognizant of the fact that no two children are alike. They learn in different ways, and some are more sensitive than others.

Show them that you have a genuine concern for their welfare. Explain to them that you are there to assist them in any way possible.

It may be necessary to explain to elementary students in particular, the importance of being in school. Unbelievable as it may sound, some students have the misconception that school is not important, and are completely oblivious as to why they are there. Others need to be frequently reminded. I can recall how astounded I was when one of my students asked me why he needed to come to school. I thought this was something that he should have known even before coming to school. However, each time I am asked this question, which is not very often, I never hesitate to explain why. My explanations seem to have an impact every time, as students usually demonstrate a more positive attitude towards school.

Select teacher helpers each week. Students enjoy helping their teachers as it makes them feel valued and gives them a sense of pride. You could also utilize this as a form of motivation.

Place disruptive students in the front of the class so that you can better monitor their behavior, and assign special jobs for them to do. Paul could be in charge of watering the plants, while Drew's responsibility could be to feed the fish.

Assign both individual and cooperative group activities. Children need to interact with one another in the classroom and not just at recess time.

Be well prepared for each lesson.

Lastly, communicate frequently with the parents by any available means. You cannot do it alone; you cannot survive the classroom without parental involvement. Keep them informed of their children's progress, and solicit their assistance when needed. You will discover that this will also help you to maintain discipline in your classroom.

As a teacher, you are a change agent. You do make a difference in the lives of your students. These tips and strategies will not only ensure that your students become more productive, but that you survive to see the next school year.