I have been an English teacher for seven years now and love to share my thoughts with others about literature and teaching strategies.
My First Year as a Teacher
I went into my first year of high school English teaching very nervous. I wasn't nervous about the teaching aspect, but more so the aspect of classroom management. I found out quickly that I was having difficulty with both. There was so much to do outside of teaching and lesson planning. There are staff meetings, parent meetings, department meetings, workshops, and duties that can eat up your entire planning period before you know it. I stayed after school for hours, only to go home for dinner and complete more work until I went to bed for the night.
Your first year of teaching, even your second, is all about finding your groove. If you did student teaching, you were lucky enough to have a cooperating teacher guide you through the process. That process, however, is their process. Everyone has a different way of teaching, and it can be hard to replicate when it just isn't you.
Why You Are the Lucky Ones
I started teaching in 2014. I always had to, and still do, plan extra work each day in case the students finish their work early. Administration wants to see you utilizing ever second of class, and some schools may even have consequences if they don't see you teaching bell to bell. Teaching bell to bell isn't just important for the students' educational experience, but also for you as a beginning teacher. When you teach bell to bell, you're less likely to have any behavior incidents because they're too busy to act up.
Being a beginning teacher now gives you an incredible advantage, and I envy you for it. It used to be so much time and effort to come up with extra work for my students. When you are starting on your own, let's be honest, you have no idea what you're doing. Now, there are so many teaching resources out there that have quality assignments ready to go at the click of a button.
1. Online Texts With Multiple Choice and Open Ended Responses
The following three resources are great ways to differentiate within your classes, which is what administrators look for during your observations.
- Newsela: All schools want to promote literacy among all subjects, not just English. This is a great tool to find objective articles that are geared towards your subject. They meet all Common Core Standards, and the website is easy to navigate. The best part about this website is that you can differentiate by having the students, or yourself, choose an adapted version of each article according to their reading level.
- CommonLit: I use this website for my honors class because the reading and questions are more advanced. It identifies each story, poem, article, or play as a grade level. As much as I love this website, I would recommend always printing it out for your students. For some reason, when the students complete it online, there is a glitch. Their answers do not save, and the teacher is unaware of what the correct answers are until someone submits their assignments. I started using this resource when it first came out, but it seems like there have been improvements since then in this area.
- Actively Learn: This is a great resource for you and your students to learn from. This website is filled with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that can be searched by theme and grade level. I would recommend all beginning teachers to take a look at this site if they're struggling with finding the right probing questions for students. This website will have critical thinking questions, aligned with Common Core Standards, spaced out throughout the text. Your students will only be able to read sections at a time and only be allowed to move on once they answered the question assigned to them.
2. Online Quiz Games: Quizlet Live and Kahoot.it
Both of these resources are phenomenal for a last minute change in plans. There are so many public Quizlet Lives and Kahoots out there that you are bound to find one that is best suited for your class. This means less work for you as a beginning teacher! I would still recommend though creating a quiz on one of these ahead of time, so you get the best results with your classes.
3. Teachers Pay Teachers
I recommend this only if you are extremely lost and desperate for help with lesson planning. The price for the lesson plans are very reasonable, and you're buying it from another teacher. As an English teacher, I have only used this for when I have an entire unit that's focused on one novel. The planning and pacing of the unit can get overwhelming to the point I don't know where to start. The two times I have used "Teachers Pay Teachers" has helped me gather my own ideas together to formulate a unit of my own. Even though I don't use more than half of the activities that come in the package, the few I do use are incredibly worth it.
If your school has this provided for their teachers, use it to your advantage! As a beginning teacher, you don't have the time to spend your entire planning period tediously grading tests and quizzes. Canvas does all of the grading for you as soon as the student submits their work. Open ended responses are the one questions you'll have to physically grade on your own. Canvas's grading system has allotted me the extra time to accomplish other tasks that are expected of me from my team, department, administration, and the school as a whole.
5. Graphic Organizer
The following picture is a screenshot of a graphic organizer I give to my students if they finish an assignment early. The graphic organizer in this screenshot was used during our screenplay reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. However, it could be used or adapted slightly to best fit the text you are assigning to your students for that day.
Hang in There!
There are going to be days that you feel frustrated and want to give up. All teachers have those days, not just beginning teachers. Keep your head up, and find a good support system to lean on. Each year gets a little more easier as you build a portfolio of lesson plans that'll help you grow as an educator.
Calling All First Year Teachers!
© 2019 Jackie Zelko
Feel free to leave advice or words of encouragement for our beginning teachers out there!
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 16, 2019:
Hi, Jackie, you'll welcome. Enjoy the week.
Jackie Zelko (author) on June 15, 2019:
Thank you! You too!
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 15, 2019:
Hello, Jackie, I am not a teacher. But the articles serve me some points to help my wards in their home works. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy the weekend.