What I Wish I Knew My First Year Teaching (Mrs. Grooms' Room)

Hey everyone!  I am so glad to be blogging here with The Elementary Entourage.  We are all sharing our own story, tips and advice to new teachers because we all have been there. 

Sometimes just a little bit of advice goes a long way and it can make a HUGE difference. In the teaching community, there are bazillions of brilliant ideas out there you can use and or create. Teachers don't just teach kids...we teach each other, too.  

There are so many things that I wish I could go back to tell my young teacher self. Really, I had no clue, and my mentor was only available with worksheets. Sigh. My first year was very overwhelming.

Here are some things that I wish that I knew: 


Your room doesn't have to be perfect.  I know you want it to be perfect because I sure did! Everything had to be new, and it had to match a theme. (FROGS...you can totally laugh but seriously they just made me "hoppy.") 

I wish I could tell the young me...YOU are going to change your mind and your classroom a lot!  Decor and trends will change so DO NOT spend the big money!! I wish I hadn't. Your room doesn't need to be perfect but it does need to be tidy, and inviting to you, your students, and your parents.  

Tidy means supplies should be neat, and organized, no trash on the floor, and everything put away.  I learned in the beginning to "tidy" my room everyday before I left. Starting the day with a neat and ready room feels great!  

Get your students to help you at the end of the day. It just takes 5-10 minutes at the end of the day! Put on some awesome tunes (KidzBop or Storybots) and the students will put up chairs, clean tables, and pick up trash. Then give those kiddies a small prize, or a Class Dojo point, or five minutes of extra recess for their hard work. That incentive is worth every piece of scrap paper that you don't have to worry over.  

Having an inviting and tidy classroom are things that you want your parents and students to take away from you. AND it teaches your kids to be responsible for their mess. 

As a first year teacher, it's so easy to get crushed under the paper avalanches. It's hard to know what you will really need to keep from professional developments, meetings, and conferences.  Through time you will learn what to keep and throw away.  Usually, I will keep professional development hand-outs or papers until I know I don't need them.  For conferences, student portfolios, permanent records, and IEP meetings,  I keep my students' work until I can physically give their work to their next teacher or put it in their permanent records. 

BUT when it comes to papers to grade...

Papers to grade can easily grow into a paper skyscraper. I used to spend hours grading and sorting papers. BUT my teacher friends were spending their weekends NOT grading and sorting papers!! 

What? What was I doing wrong?  

And they told me...I wasn't prioritizing. I was just grading everything! I was a grading machine! 

So I started checking papers during class (and by that I mean I was checking to see if they understood the material we had just gone over and giving them a check on their paper.) If they didn't get it, I put an "x" on my checklist and back to the table we would go for small group.  If I felt like they were not getting it still or I felt like there were other issues, I would keep their papers for evidence. I would check their spelling journal and homework papers while I was doing homework folders. Tests still got graded on the weekend BUT it was a thousand times better. 

Here is what I learned....
A teacher's job is to assess the student not just grade the paper.  That paper is just a tool to see what my students understand.  I can use that tool to provide evidence of strengths and weaknesses in that student. I can use it to assess my self and what I need to give my students. I can, also, use it to show growth in my students throughout the year.   

There are lots of things I have to do as a teacher but I couldn't spend all of my weekend just grading papers, anymore. I had to prioritize!


I will grade homework daily. 
I will give students a check for their completed morning work. 
I will check for understanding in math and reading with a checklist and revisit with students who need help. 
All tests will be graded. 

Plus, there are so many other ways to assess...projects, checklists, rubrics, exit tickets, and I could go on and on.  I wish I had used them. 


When you first begin teaching, there are things that you know, and there are things you don't know about what you know.   

ME:  Why yes, I know there are procedures for walking in line...we walk quietly, keep our hands to ourselves, and we walk in a straight line. 

ME:  BUT wait...we have to walk on the tiles on the right side that are in a straight pattern, and we have to go through this side door when we go out but not the other door? And we cannot hold onto the bars in the hallway? 

ME:  Oh...okay. 

Procedures are everywhere but they are absolutely important in the classroom. Things will be cuh-razy without them!!  You have to have a procedure for everything, and I learned that quickity-quick! From pencil sharpening, to opening the classroom door, class procedures will rule your day. 

If one is performed wrong or differently, you will know! Your students will be more than happy to alert you or interview you about how the procedure works.  

But these procedures help to keep your classroom running like a well-oiled engine (most of the time), and they keep your students safe.  This is why seasoned teachers tell you to set your procedures in place immediately...as soon as your students walk through the doors. 

To create your procedures...sit at your desk, visualize the procedure, and how you want that particular procedure to work. Then practice the procedure as a teacher and even as a student. Then remember to write your procedures down just in case you can't remember all 5,000 of them. Practice with your students daily for the first week...correct them and practice again and again if needed.


This chant is a procedure for any cut and paste worksheets or craftivity I do with the little ones. Yep! My students can cut and paste, but they don't know how.  In the beginning, my students love to grab the scissors and they just cut and cut!  Or they grab the glue first and we have a gluefall.  


So before we begin, we say our cut and paste chant. It helps tremendously!!! They color first, then they cut, and next they glue. I wish I had known.  


One of the most important things is to ask and talk to your grade level friends. The best teachers I know...ask! 

We are cheering for your here at The Elementary Entourage!!  You got this and we know you can do it!!  Have a great beginning of the school year!!!  

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