Day One for Teachers

Yesterday I had the honor of helping my daughter work on setting up her classroom for the year. This is her third year and it is amazing to watch her skill and organization. I know she was feeling crazy because she held all the information in her head. As the old retired teacher I got to just sit and cut out labels, put on trim for bulletin boards, work on leveling the library, cleaning the fish tank, hand out advise – all that little stuff that just takes time.

She as the TEACHER was running routines in her head and what does she need in each area of her room to be successful and to be sure her students are successful from day one

  • Morning meeting – what is needed in this area
  • Mini lesson for literacy – where do I want the white board to make anchor charts
  • Reading routines – F and P ( are we still using it- I hope so)
  • Beginning with reading stamina – what fiction books to I watch
  • Routines for new classroom library check out
  • Writing routines – notebooks, mentor texts
  • Science Kits- routines for materials and science notebooks
  • Take a Break chair – use of the book – The Quiet Place and samples of student work to help her new 3rd graders understand
  • Responsive Classroom routines
  • First week read a-loud books

The list goes on – you could see it swirling in her head as she gave me task after task to complete. It was a wonder to watch and know how far she has come in the last two years of teaching. Amazing really how teachers learn and grow!

BUT – just as I watched her skills I also saw the newbies up and down the hall. This school is high poverty with all that comes with it. The teacher turn over was great this last year – some due to retirements and some just moving on to a school with less stress. You know what this means – new teachers – some new to the high poverty setting and some new to everything – those fresh with the diploma in hand and the wide eyed look.

Just as my daughter was overwhelmed with so much in her head these new teachers were overwhelmed and staring at empty walls and shelves.  They had a few plastic baskets –SONY DSC

  • I need these, don’t I?
  • What do I put in them?
  • Where do I find poster?
  • Where do I begin?

These young teachers are smart, they will learn as my daughter did, as I did years ago but it seems we make it so hard on them. So much of the fun and homey look of a classroom is bought by the teacher or pulled from their homes. Fresh out of college they have no money, no home really – they are usually just setting up apartments as well.

These young teachers have no routines yet or student work samples yet. They don’t have a classroom library assembled yet (teacher bought). They know they need to put up a calendar (you go buy it), they need student folders and notebooks (you go buy it). They have heard about responsive classroom but can’t afford the training so are hunting for books to read. (the training will come through the district but that is next summer – they need it now).  They leave at the end of the day with long lists of things to buy and a pile of curriculum books to read.

Everyone was ready to help – suggestions were given – where to get things cheaply, extra supplies were found and brought in, ideas for where to place things in the room, and how to set up classroom routines. We were all helpful but in the end they return to their empty rooms with a few more ideas, a few posters but still looking lost.

Can we do this better? What would happen if we teamed these newbies with retiring teachers -the last year or two of a teachers career and the first year or two of a new one career.  What if an experienced teacher

  • helps to do classroom set up,
  • models the routines,
  • shares the student samples,
  • share materials as they leave with their new friend and beginning teacher
  • teaches the first of the year and pulls back and lets go step by step through out the year

Oh my – as I write this it sounds like good teaching – gradual release – I do, We do, You do!  It is a mentoring model for new teachers. I know many schools pair teachers – a person to go ask questions of but what if they hold the space together.

I am aware of the ups and downs of putting two teachers in a room – everyone needs to be a willing learner but what a great learning experience it would be for all – new teacher, experienced teacher and students!

We need to change our models – education is changing, needs to change and so does how we teach teachers to teach!


What happen at your school as fresh new teachers enter the profession?  How does your school help them begin their career?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection, Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Day One for Teachers

  1. Terje says:

    I like your idea. I hope that you get to share it and actually make it happen. Your daughter is lucky to have you as a mentor helping and supporting her.

  2. This makes me think of all the great ideas Two Writing Teachers blog continuously. You could do a whole blog of your own for preservice teachers! I like you idea, too!

    • I like the idea of a blog fro preservice teachers or new teachers – something that tracks the year and each new event that comes along –
      day one, building community, early testing, – it goes on and on doesn’t it!

      • You’d kind of have to live it to do it, and if you “lived” it, you wouldn’t have time to do it. Double-edge sword! And if you took notes and wrote a book on it, it would change by the time the book was published.

  3. arjeha says:

    I remember going into my classroom mid-August to get things set up and ready so my students wouldn’t walk into an empty institutionalized looking room on their first day. In service days before school began were devoted to district goals. I was lucky enough to be asked several times to mentor new teachers in our building. Hopefully I was able to ease some of the stress they felt entering a new position.

  4. rosecappelli says:

    Great idea! Reading your post brought back many memories.

  5. Jaana says:

    Wonderful idea! I sure wish that I would have had that experienced teacher guidance my first year!

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