Switching Schools? 7 Tips to Help You Settle In

Switching Schools? 7 Tips to Help You Settle In

7 Tips To Help You Settle Into A New School

I’ve switched schools four times over the course of my teaching career. I think that each switch provided me exactly what I needed next in my career. I’ve also seen many other teachers enter into a new school. Some have transitioned seamlessly while others have quite a hard time. I think part of that comes down to personality but some of it comes down to actions and mindsets. Here are 7 tips to help you settle in when you switch schools. 

Tip 1: Keep an Open Mind and AN Open heart

Remember when you interviewed something about this school stuck with you and that is why you chose to move there. Be open minded. This school will not be the same as the one you just left. They might have different rules, routines or procedures. They might have traditions or things they’ve always done that don’t make any sense to you. Enter with an open mind and an open heart. Part of changing schools is learning from new ways of thinking and new ways of being. Listen in as people talk about the school. Listen to understand not to criticize or put down. Listen to truly understand. 

Tip 2: Ask Questions

There will no doubt be a lot of information thrown your way. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask enough questions. And, once again, listen to understand. The responses you get might not be the ones you were thinking of. If you don’t ask questions then you’ll never know. I remember when I switched schools a teacher came in and told me I wasn’t asking enough questions and he was worried about me. Truth was, I was asking questions but just not to him… BUT I do sometimes feel the same sense of concern when new teachers don’t ask a lot of questions. Oh, and, don’t make assumptions. It probably won’t end well. 

Tip 3: Find A Mentor

Like I said in tip 2, I was asking questions. I found a teammate who I felt I could trust and who I felt understood me as a teacher. I popped in and out of her room all year long asking many, many questions. Find someone who you can trust. Someone who will take time to explain how things work or what goes where. My first year teaching I was assigned a mentor and it didn’t go very well. She didn’t want to be anyone’s mentor and I was left to seek out a mentor on my own. I think natural mentorships are the best. Don’t force anyone to be your mentor just see where things go and find one naturally. 

tip 4: Build Relationships

Build relationships with everyone at your new school. Just like you build relationships with your children build them with the new staff around you. Know that some teachers are weary of newcomers and might take a while before they open up to you. Some people will jump right in. Be cautious of using gossip as the foundation of your teacher friendships. Relationships built on gossip almost always turn negative and end up becoming toxic.

Tip 5: Practice Positivity

Be positive! Like I said, gossip is one of the worst ways to build relationships. Something I dread as a teacher is the person who is a drain. If you don’t practice positivity you might become a drain yourself. You don’t want to suck all the energy out of every room that you enter so be cautious when you criticize and try to practice positivity in regards to your new job.

Tip 6: Go With THe Flow

Be flexible. So you thought that you needed to decorate your whole classroom only to find out that all classrooms are left blank and are designed with the students. Or you didn’t realize that you had to take your kids to snack at 10:00. You are going to make mistakes. You need to give yourself a learning curve and allow for those mistakes to happen. Go with it. So maybe you have an assembly the first day of school that lasts for 60 minutes instead of 30. Go with it. There isn’t much a negative attitude or reluctance to change will do other than stress out both you and the kids. Go with the flow! 

Tip 7: Share Your Ideas

You were hired for a reason. You said something that people liked and people wanted to learn from you. Share your ideas openly. Remember that maybe not all of your ideas will end up working out at your new school but don’t be afraid to respectfully share new ideas! 

Do you have a tip for a teacher who is changing schools this year? Leave it down below in the comments! 

Sharing a Classroom

Sharing a Classroom

I was recently talking to a teacher friend of mine and she was going on and on about another teacher who teaches a special in her classroom. She was beyond frustrated by what happens during that class and was hitting a breaking point. When another teacher comes into your classroom space to teach their class it can become frustrating. In the past I’ve had health, guidance, technology, German, drama, and Polish in my classroom. Iʼm sure any teacher who goes from classroom to classroom also has a hard time managing many different sets of expectations and rules.

Here's How I Navigate The Situation

Set clear expectations with teachers.

In the beginning of the year I clearly explain my expectations to the other teachers. Currently I have health once a week and Polish four days a week in my classroom. I explained to these two teachers that I donʼt mind sharing our supplies (markers, scissors, glue, etc.) as long as they are put back and taken care of. Other teachers in our school do not allow specials teachers to use supplies. I havenʼt had a problem with it so I allow it. I also listen to what their expectations are of me. I explain that I am willing to leave the classroom if they would prefer I was not there. 

Items to Consider

  •  Classroom supplies– Are you going to share? How are the supplies organized? What can and cannot be used by students? What are the clean-up expectations
  • Stay in the classroom or leave– Some teachers don’t mind if you stay. Others would prefer you leave. I try to cause minimal distractions if I stay in the room and sometimes I just need to get out myself and find a quiet space to work. 
  • Space– What space will be shared and what will not be? I have a cabinet in my classroom for Polish notebooks and workbooks but I can’t give up any wall space for Health. (We have very oddly shaped classrooms with limited wall space and lots of windows. It looks great but there’s only space for maybe 3 anchor charts on the wall.) 
  • Technology– I always keep my remote and pen for our interactive TV in the same place and I ask the teachers who use our space to put it back in the same spot. We also don’t have an HDMI cable in my classroom so teachers using my room need to learn how to cast to the TV using ChromeCast. 
  • Cleaning Up– I expect my classroom to look the same way that I left it. The chairs need to be pushed in. There shouldn’t be papers or markers all over the floor.  
  • Behavior Problems– This is a tricky one. Sometimes the teachers who use my classroom expect me to step in as the homeroom teacher and deal with behavior problems. This gets dicey and I don’t like it. I think it takes the authority away from the other teacher and I don’t like responding to behavior problems where I wasn’t the teacher. I explain this to the teachers using my space but at my current school it is sometimes an expectation to step in. 

Set clear expectations with students.

I sit my class down at the beginning of the year and explain the somewhat confusing situation of having two teachers (and sometimes three because of our assistant teacher) in the classroom at once. I explain that I am in the classroom but I am not the teacher. They need to treat the special teacher with respect and they need to follow our classroom rules. I teach them to pretend that I am invisible during another teacher’s class. They shouldn’t come over and ask me if they can go to the bathroom or go fill up their water bottle. Those questions need to be asked to the teacher. If there is an emergency I am always there but I have work I need to get done during that time.

Now, we all can set up clear expectations and things donʼt go according to plan. One year I thought I had clear expectations until I walked back into my classroom to grab something and the kids were going through all of the cabinets in a game of hide and seek! I cannot tell you the horror I felt as I grabbed my notebook and headed back to the meeting I was in. You never know…

When Things Don't GO According To Plan

Assume Positive Intentions- Talk it Out

If you feel that the other teacher isnʼt following your agreed upon expectations the very best thing to do is to talk to them about it. The teacher playing hide and seek figured it out all on his own after seeing my face. He was also a first year teacher and didn’t realize kids going through the cabinets wasn’t ok in our classroom. It was something I didn’t even consider explaining. Make sure to assume best intentions before speaking to them. Iʼm sure people might see snippets of my class and also get annoyed. It happens to all of us.

MYOB- Mind Your Own Business

This has been my most challenging piece this year. I see so many behaviors that I want to correct right away even though it is not my class. Sometimes I hear kids trying to pull things over on another teacher that they wouldn’t try with me or other teachers. It bothers me so much and I want to step in. The problem is that it isnʼt my class and it isnʼt my place to step in. Sometimes I just have to leave my classroom so I don’t overstep. Sometimes teachers have asked me to step in. 

Get Away

Sometimes when the stress and chaos becomes too much I get up and I leave my classroom. I find somewhere else to work. Sometimes I go to the library, the elementary commons, the chairs by the front office. I find a place I can work and I work there. Once last year I just worked on the window sill in the hallway outside of my classroom. If you canʼt handle being in the room, donʼt be in the room. I know this can get tricky because there are some things that we can only get done inside our classrooms but if it is causing you too much stress- leave, get out.

Additional Advice?

Have you ever had to share your classroom space with other teachers or have you floated from classroom to classroom yourself? What other tips and advice would you give? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below! 

Friday Five: Teacher Self-Care

Friday Five: Teacher Self-Care

One

Leave School

This is the first step I ever took in teacher self-care. I was drowning as a teacher. I felt like nothing was working in my classroom and that I wasn’t good enough. I started staying really late at school and going in on the weekends and I was always at school! Always! This might be you as well. A good starting point for self-care is to leave school. Leave. Pick a time and don’t stay a minute later. Don’t go to school on Saturday and Sunday. Leave. 

Two

Take School Email Off Of Your Phone

The next step I took was removing my school email from my phone. At the time I lived with another teacher and we both took this step together. Too often we found ourselves in the middle of The Bachelor when we would get the email ping and get catapulted back into teacher life. Once we took our emails off of our phones we were able to enjoy our trash tv without worrying about school stuff. There is no need for you to be on your work email 24/7. It isn’t good for you. Take it off your phone so it isn’t always looming overhead. 

Three

Set Business Hours

This ties into the two above. Business people have business hours. My friends who work in non-teaching jobs have set hours when they work and respond to work emails. They set these hours and they stick to them. Teachers could learn a thing or two about it. Currently my business hours at 7:45-4:45. I check my email starting at 7:45 am and the last time I check my email is immediately after getting home from school. I check it one final time to ensure I didn’t miss any end of the day emails that could be important. After that check, I am done. I am no longer Ms. Natasha I am just Natasha. I also have no business hours on the weekend. I have taken my weekends back for myself. Parents, other teachers, and my administrators have respected these hours and they understand. I haven’t had any problems with them at all. Set yourself some business hours. Maybe set longer hours now and slowly ease yourself out of them. It will be a great change for you. 

FOur

Get A Hobby

Last year I literally did a Google search for hobbies! I am not kidding a friend and I searched and we each made a list of hobbies we would like to try out. Then we had brunch and discussed our lists and set goals for ourselves. I now do yoga every other day and I blog more. Find a hobby that you love. Try out a new hobby. Developing interests outside of school makes you a more well-balanced but also more interesting individual. 

Five

Find What WOrks For You

I discovered so many different things that I love through exploring different self-care options last year. I do face masks all the time. I go for walks outside and explore the city I live in. At least once a month I try to have brunch with my friends. I say yes to more opportunities. I journal. I found out I do not have a love for baking and cooking. I learned so much about myself when I took the time to develop myself as a person, not just work work work as a teacher. Take some time and figure out what works for you. 

First of all, I am nosey but second of all, I think we can learn from each other. So take a quick minute and let me know what self-care you like to do and how you build a balanced life outside of school. Together we can learn more! 

Happy New Year! Resolutions for Teachers

Sparkler New Year Teacher Resolutions

Happy New Year! 

I hope this new year brings a lot of great things your way. While I’m not a big fan of resolutions in my personal life, I do always set some in my teacher life. Here are 10 resolutions I think all teachers should have this year. 

1. Build Stronger Relationships

Classrooms rise and fall based on the relationships within. Take time to get to know your students. Each morning or class period when they come in take a moment to greet them by name. Ask them how they’re doing. Acknowledge them when they do great things or when they attempted to do great things but didn’t quite make it. The more positive your relationships with your students the better atmosphere within your classroom.

Create stronger relationships with the adults that pop into your room too. Check in with them when you see them. Say hello with a smile! Get to know a bit more about them. Even if it is just a teacher who pops in for 10 seconds to pull a kid out. The stronger the relationships between the adults in your classroom the better functioning your classroom will be. Remember it takes a village, you aren’t at this alone. 

2. Become More Culturally Responsive

Over the last few years I have learned a lot about being culturally responsive. I am in no way done learning and have so much that I am still learning. I learned a lot in 2018 and I’m working to learn ever more in 2019.

Every educator should strive to be culturally responsive. We have racist educators all over the country and even the world. At Halloween, we had teachers dress up as the boarder wall and Mexicans. As if that’s not bad enough we had more teacher defending what they did because they’re “good people.” Now, let’s get real here, good people aren’t racist. They just aren’t. We can’t ignore the fact that this was blatant racism. Sometimes we like to find comfort in calling racist acts things like “a lapse in judgement” or “insensitive” while it is both of those things it is also straight up racist. Step outside of your comfort zone.

It isn’t enough to not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist. 

Ok, so how do you become more culturally responsive and anti-racist? Good question. First of all you must understand that it is not a member of the global majority’s problem to fix racism. You also learn about terms like global majority and don’t brush off politically correct terms but learn why the shift in language is important. It is also not their problem to educate you when you don’t understand something or when you feel uncomfortable or attacked. Ok now here are some easy steps to follow to become more culturally responsive.

  1. Follow people of the global majority on social media. We all have social media so do a little review of who you’re following. If you are only following people who look and think like you (or slightly differently but pretty much the same) then this is a place to start. Your social media should be both a window and a mirror. I would argue a window more than a mirror.  If your social media just provides a mirror to you then you must find some windows. I started with my social media this year and it made a world of difference. 
  2. Teach about different cultures year round… and accurately. You better not be pulling out resources about Black Americans for the first time on Martin Luther King Jr Day. Don’t teach that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream has been realized in this country when there is inequality all around us. When I was in college we learned that the old way of teaching went like this… Imagine a storage room near a classroom and in the storage room there are different boxes filled with books and activities related to people of the global majority. During certain points in the year the box comes off the shelf and is taught about and then returned. Oh, it’s Black History Month, let’s learn about slavery and civil rights. Oh, it’s Cinco de Mayo let’s learn about Mexicans. Time to learn about Native Americans because it is Thanksgiving. Oh it’s Woman’s History Month let’s learn about women’s place in history. Let me tell you that I went to college a long time ago but there are classrooms who still pull out the boxes (perhaps figuratively), feature a global majority group, and put the boxes back on the shelf. We have to do better. 
  3. Buy resources created by members of that culture. Is the resource about Black History Month created by a Black American? What better way to make sure your resource is accurate than get it directly from the source. Also what better way to support people of the global majority than to purchase resources from them. Don’t do cute, do meaningful and educational and accurate. 
  4. Examine your own bias and explore your identity. Sometimes I see posts on Instagram or Twitter and they rub me the wrong way. When this happens I reflect a bit and try to decide why that happened. Then I do research and try to educate myself further. We all need to do this. I was raised in a white family in a white conservative neighborhood. I didn’t know much about people who were different than me. I can’t live in that bubble and I need to realize that I may have certain biases because of this. I need to recognize my own bias and work to learn more and confront it. We can all learn more about ourselves and grow. 
  5. Remember: You don’t get to decide what is an isn’t racist. If a First American says using the word tribe or spirit animal is offensive to their culture you stop. If someone says it is offensive to dress in their cultural dress, you don’t. As a person who is not a member of the global majority, I listen to those who are and take the lead from them. Just because you just don’t see racism on a daily basis does not mean that it does not exist. Recognize that privilege and try to do something for the cause. It isn’t enough to not be racist we must actively be anti racist if we want to see true equality in our future. Isn’t that what we want for all of our students? 

3. collaborate More WIth Your Peers

First of all, if you skipped number 2 because it made you feel uncomfortable or because you’re not racist go back and read it- it is 100% meant for you. 

Stop. Collaborate and Listen. Can you ever start writing about collaboration without a little nod to Vanilla Ice? I don’t think so. Collaboration is what makes or breaks teachers. I have learned so much through collaborating with peers. A district I used to work for constantly repeated that the smartest person in the room was the room. Think about that. We can learn so much from each other and I think collaborating is sometimes overlooked. You are surrounded by so many smart, wonderful and brilliant teachers-why not collaborate more with them. Even if you disagree about education philosophies you can always learn something new through collaboration. 

4. Create a Classroom With More Joy

Once when I was teaching in WI we had to write our SLO about reading. We emailed a professor at a nearby university because our district always said students below grade level should move up 1.5 years over the course of a year. We wanted to read more research on this practice before setting our goal. Instead of emailing us back with any research she emailed us to say we should set a grade level goal based on joy within the classroom. While it didn’t work for our SLO, I think creating more joy in the classroom is always a good idea. 

This resolution goes hand in hand with the first resolution on this list. How often are kids smiling in your classroom? Do you hear laughter coming from within? Are kids eager to learn and engage in learning? Are student interests at the heart of your classroom?

5. Use Your Planning Time Intentionally

Sometimes I like to pretend that I always use my planning time wisely but I don’t. Sometimes I spend my planning time chit chatting with my teacher friends who also have prep. Sometimes I spend my planning time catching up with my assistant. Sometimes I use my planning time to walk a lap around our entire school, which is sometimes needed. All of the things I do can be great but they can also get in the way of the work that needs to be done. 

Sharing assessment data and planning next steps for certain students is important to chat about with my assistant teacher. Getting ideas and brainstorming is helpful chatting with my teacher friends. Taking a walk while reflecting on an idea is useful. 

Plan out what you use each prep time for and stick to it. I started doing that at the start of the school year and it has been a game changer. First of all, I am so much more productive during the day. I hardly bring anything home anymore. Second of all my classroom has run so much smoother. Of course from time to time I have to step away from my scheduled out preps due to a meeting or something but it really does work wonders. 

6. Learn a New Skill

When was the last time you learned a new skill? If you are a teacher and you can’t remember then that is a problem. This past year I became a Google Certified Educator, maybe that would be a place to start. Read a book, try something new, engage in a twitter chat, do SOMETHING NEW. 

Right now I am working on my Level 2 Google educator certification and it is tricky. Mostly because I teach first grade with one iPad so I don’t have a lot of use for all the cool Google features but I am learning a lot. Learning is what is important. Seek out opportunities for learning and growth in your professional life. 

7. Organize Yourself and Your Time

A major goal of mine within the classroom is organization. If you only know me outside of school, you’ll think this is hilarious because I am the least organized person in the world. At school, I must have a Sasha Fierce type of alter ego who is extremely organized. (If you do not know who Sasha Fierce is then you need to hit up Google ASAP or unfollow this blog #beyonceforlife) 

This resolution obviously relates to resolution number 5. I do have one schedule prep (not the whole time but a chunk) set aside for organization. When I am organized the world is happy. I don’t have the most organized class this year and we are taking time each month to work on different organizational goals. Currently, we’re working on putting caps back on markers. We’re in the midst of a serious marker crisis. Each day we’re losing upwards of 7 markers due to cap issues. I find this insane! We might have a marker lockdown if this sitch continues into February. Also, if you have any solutions, hit me up! 

8. Increase Student Engagement

More student engagement leads to more joy. (Something I just made up but can probably be proven true.) Please see resolution number 4 about joy. Every once in a while I’ll do a quick engagement survey to see where we’re at. A post about completing an engagement survey will be up on the blog soon. You might want to subscribe so that you don’t miss out. 

Increase engagement by following student interest. We recently read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville and my kids were fascinated by Wilma Rudolph. We then searched our classroom library database and found Wilma Unlimted in the grade 4 classroom library. We had to run to that classroom immediately and interrupt their learning to get it! We were so excited! This story is LONG. Like really long for first graders. It also uses so many hard words. I thought for sure our class was going to give up the quest to learn more about Wilma but we did not. After reading (over the course of 3 weeks) the story they wanted to see if there were any youtube videos of her racing. There were. Now some kids are researching further. This was not in the plans. I just read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville with the intention of focusing on character actions and feelings but we ended up doing a little research on Wilma Rudolph. Instead of learning about characters we learned that readers can find out more about what they read by researching. The squeals of delight that came from our classroom as the kids saw a picutre on google that was also in the text wmade this completely worthwhile. 

9. Use Less Worksheets

Yeah… we gotta talk. It might be time for you and the copier to start seeing other people. I’m not saying you can’t be friends and see each other from time to time but you don’t need what it’s giving you on the daily. Trust me you and your students will be better off if you just take a break. I don’t make many copies at all. We use a lot of whiteboards and scrap paper to work on problems. Recently our school’s copier has been on the fritz and it has caused me to rethink a few things. Maybe just play pretend that the copier is broken. Can you still deliver your content without the paper? Maybe not, then make your copies but maybe you can reimagine your class and find a new possibility. 

10. Create a Better Work/Life Balance

Since living in Poland my work/life balance has hit the ultimate balance. This is partially due to the culture and the expectations of teachers at my school. I wouldn’t be honored as a teacher or be considered so dedicated if I worked all weekend or extra long hours each day. People would be concerned about my time management and just think I was straight up crazy. There is more to life than teaching. Happy teacher, happy classroom. Stressed teacher, stressed classroom. 

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Happy New Year! 

Take a moment to leave a comment with one of your resolutions for the rest of this school year!

Friday Five: Back to School Things You Really Don’t Need

Friday Five: Back to School Things You Really Don’t Need

This summer I’ve been on my teacher Instagram and I found myself starting to feel not cool as a teacher. I saw teachers going to Target and buying out the dollar spot. I saw teachers buying so much stuff for their classroom on Amazon Prime Day. I saw teachers literally spending the entire month of July in their classroom getting it really cute. I was one jealous teacher. Then I started to think about my classroom and my teaching philosophy. I am very minimalist in my classroom. I don’t like too many trinkets type things to clutter up the space. I like to use cool and calming colors as research suggests this is best for children. I like my kids to decorate the space with my through our shared writing so I don’t like an overly decorated room. I also live in Poland so many of these shopping endeavors are simply not available to me. I know that I am a good teacher and I don’t need a bunch of stuff to make me a better teacher. Would it be nice to have twinkle lights in the classroom? Yes. Can I have twinkle lights in the classroom? No. I need to keep doing me. 

If you’re a new teacher or even a returning teacher, please listen up! You need to do what feels right for you in your classroom. You also need to spend responsibly. I always ask the school to purchase the materials I need for teaching. They almost always pull through. Make sure that you’re taking advantage of the resources available to you before you are going broke from spending your own money. It isn’t worth it. 

Here is a list of five things that I do not need or back to school. 

One

New Coordinating Storage Bins

I saw so many teachers buying new bins for their classrooms. I don’t need new bins. Well…. actually I do, but the school is going to buy them for me. I will get what I get and I will use them to the fullest of their potential. I don’t need to go out and have color coordinating everything. The broken bins are being replaced and I can live with that. Of course I would love it if all of my bins matched and all of the bins I had were the right size for what I need but that isn’t going to happen and that is ok. 

Don’t buy things that the school will buy for you.

Two

Teacher T-Shirts

There are so many adorable t-shirts for teachers with so many adorable sayings. I want them so badly. I have been eyeing one up that says, “Ok students now let’s get information” for over two years. The thing is, we’re not allowed to wear t-shirts at my school. It’s too casual. We do have casual Fridays where we can wear jeans but t-shirts are a no. This past year I wore a NASA t-shirt I got at H&M because my kids were obsessed with NASA. The kids loved it but all day I was waiting to be called out on it. Not worth it. Maybe someday but not today. 

Think about your school when purchasing things. Are these sorts of things ok at your school?

Three

New Books

As an international teacher, I won’t be staying at one school forever. I know that some teachers do but I wanted to teach internationally to explore the world and learn a lot about many other cultures. I don’t want to stay put. In my two years here I’ve already purchased too many books to take with me to my new destination… wherever that may be. I can’t buy any more books. None. 

Talk to your school librarian about getting some new titles you saw over the summer. That way you can use them in your classroom but so many more people can take advantage of the great books you’ve discovered.

FOur

Things to Make my Classroom Homier

I had the coziest classroom ever when I taught in the States. I had so many lamps and comfortable seats. It felt like a home. Now my classroom feels like a classroom. I don’t have any lamps, although I do have excellent natural lighting. I don’t have any cozy things that I have purchased myself. It’s ok for a classroom to be like a classroom. Even if everyone else’s classroom is like a home. 

Don’t spend excessive amounts of money buying cute and comfortable furniture and other things.

Five

Makerspace/ STEAM Materials

I see so many teachers doing such cool stuff in makerspaces and with STEAM in the classroom. I will also be incorporating these ideas into my classroom more in the fall but I will be using supplies that the school already owns or supplies that I ordered last spring. We don’t need all the newest and greatest things for good teaching. Is it nice? Yes. Is it necessary? No.

Have you talked yourself out of purchasing anything this summer? Have you purchased something that everyone else bought only to discover that you don’t need it or use it?  Let me know in the comments section below!