I was thinking about the fact that colleges graduate next month and there will be a new batch of teachers to join our distinguished profession. I also work with Connecticut's Alternate Route to Certification program (ARC) which prepares people to switch careers into teaching. I am also a graduate of the ARC program. As I was preparing for a Saturday seminar with the current ARC class, I realized that the soon-to-be graduates and new teachers could use some advice. So here it is, my advice to new teachers.
Your best resource as a new teacher is yourself. Use what you learned in school. Seek out more information from colleagues and the Internet. Use your creativity. Remember what it was like to be a student yourself.
Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask other teachers for help. Do not isolate yourself in your classroom. Make connections with other teachers, whether it is in person, by email, Facebook, Ning, Twitter, web sites, or blogs.
Don't reinvent the wheel. Use the resources that are available to you. Most textbooks now come with instructor resource CD-ROMs and companion web sites. Use the resources that they have and then modify them as needed. Search the Internet for lesson plan ideas, activities, classroom management tips, and other tips and tricks.
Stay organized. You need to stay organized. Make sure you have a lesson plan guide and calendar of some sort. You can use a paper based planner and lesson planner or use an electronic or web-based system. Smartphones, such as those from Palm (Centro), RIM (Blackberry), and Apple (iPhone) are great for staying organized. You can also use online resources like Google, Yahoo, and others to keep your files, calendar, tasks, and lesson plans organized. Write things down and make sure you have your classroom materials organized and labeled.
Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Your district and school will run professional development sessions, but don't limit yourself to those. Look for free online sessions, webcasts, conferences, and sessions run by your local educational resource agency.
Join a professional society in your area. As a physics teacher, I have joined the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Find out what organizations are in your area and join them. You will find resources and contacts through these organizations.
Read journals. Subscribe to and read educational journals. Most are free, so you don't have to worry about the money. There are journals on general education, educational technology, pedagogy, assessment, and just about every other area of education.
Be creative with your lessons. Think outside the box. Come up with new, fun ways to teach the students. Use projects and project-based-learning as a way to engage and teach your students. You can find a huge number of resources and ideas for projects on the web.
Read some books on education. My personal favorites to start with are The First Days Of School: How To Be An Effective Teacher (opens in new tab)">"First Days of School", by Harry Wong, and Your First Year As a High School Teacher : Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional (opens in new tab)">"Your First Year as a High School Teacher", by Lynne Rominger, et al.
Don't pay for things if you can get them for free. There are tons of free resources, from software to web sites, that can help you in your classroom.
Make connections with the secretaries and custodians in your building. They will be some of your best resources for supplies, ideas, and help.
Make connections with local businesses, especially those that are related to your subject area. They can be a huge resource for guests, supplies and equipment, and funding. Many local businesses, such as Staples, have Teacher Appreciation Days with discounts and free gifts. Find out about these. Remind businesses that instead of throwing out things, they can donate usable items to your school as a tax write-off.
Get to know the publisher's representative for your class's textbook. They can get you a lot of resources.
Be flexible. Remember Murphy's law. Have plans for when your lessons run short or long, to deal with interruptions and fire drills, assemblies, and days when much of your class is absent because of a field trip. Have back up plans for everything and especially have backup plans in case of technology issues.
Know your local and State curriculum. Know what is expected of you. Know what is expected of the students.
Track your personal expenses and save receipts. Their is a tax deduction for educators.
Keep up on your certification requirements.
Ask for help, and look for help. Again, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Good luck and welcome to the profession!
Resources: www.physicsmedic.org , http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com, www.techlearning.com, www.edutopia.org