And school hasn’t even started yet, has it? I had those feelings, too, as a young teacher.
When I search the internet looking for ideas, it seems that all I find are neatly labeled bins, brightly decorated bulletin boards, rooms decorated by theme, and teachers who have their plans finished through October and are writing a blog to boot! They are selling their beautifully designed materials on the internet, managing a family, mentoring a student teacher, and on and on. It is very overwhelming. I was just looking at teacher websites this week and I started to remember that first year of panic…and I’ve been teaching for over thirty years!
Do not be disheartened by the flurry of activity that you see around you. You are seeing the BEST of the BEST on the internet. You are looking at the work of veteran teachers. Would you like to see what my classroom looks like right now…on August 10? Here it is:
I find it rather upsetting, too. But I know I will do what I did last year. I will plan out my week, set my own deadlines, and have my room in tip-top shape before school begins. It will be neat and clean, but not flashy. It will have organized bins, but no fancy labels. My teacher’s desk will be tidy…initially. Then reality will set in.
I will clean my classroom every afternoon after the last bell. But there will be experiments that are messy. There will be students who are careless about the mud on their shoes. I will find chewing gum on the bottom of desks. It’s kind of like your home. And believe me, my house doesn’t look like a magazine photo. But I will do THE BEST I CAN WITH THE MATERIALS I HAVE TO WORK WITH.
Remember, students won’t remember everything you say, but they will remember how you made them FEEL. Think back to your childhood and high school years. Can you visualize the decorations in all your classrooms? I consider myself to have a pretty good visual memory, but for the most part I remember messy classrooms, or those devoid of any decorations whatsoever. I simply can’t remember rooms that looked like the beautifully decorated ones that you now frequently find on the internet. But, oh, the memories! I remember the laughter, the fun lessons, the interesting conversations, and the occasional outlandish incident. BUT I DON’T REMEMBER ROOM DECOR.
I am not saying room decorations are not important. I am saying DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO VETERAN TEACHERS who have had years to compile bulletin board materials and make purchases! Unfortunately, in the teaching field, there are many of us who compare ourselves to others. Even I find myself judging whether I’m as good as the teacher next door. It’s really rather common. But do not let it paralyze you and prevent you from moving forward. Instead, get focused and get started!
I’m here to tell you it’s OK to be concerned, but it’s also OK not to be perfect. If you are already feeling overwhelmed and the first day has not yet arrived, turn your attention to these things:
- Clean your classroom.
- Plan your room layout.
- Decorate to the best of your ability and then LET IT GO.
- Make a great plan for the first day of school.
- Make lesson plans for the first two weeks.
- Make a list of things you would like to do in your “spare time” (another story).
- If you teach early elementary and will be recognizing birthdays, find out who has a birthday this month. How do you plan to acknowledge it? Make a decision and go with it.
There! You’ll be all set for the first institute days and you will be well on your way to a successful first year!