One of the scariest parts of a teacher is the summer before they are hired for their first teaching job. There is so much that is unknown.
So many ideas, emotions, and questions and yet you’re powerless in a way because you just need to get into your classroom, meet your students, and start teaching before you can actually get the questions answered and the ideas tested.
I have heard horror stories from my teacher friends about how they went home crying almost every day of their first year. I didn’t.
I had a really rough group my first year, however, it never felt unbearable for me. I felt prepared and received tons of compliments from my principal, mentor teacher, and other teachers that first year of teaching and they all said the same thing, “You don’t act like a first-year teacher.”
If you just got hired and are feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start, then keep reading because I reverse-engineered my summer leading up to my first year so that I could figure out what I did that made me a confident first-year teacher and I am spilling my #1 secret.
I read A LOT.
My number one goal was to master classroom management, something that was not as heavily emphasized in my college classes. My second goal was to feel confident about the management of what a day would look like teaching reading. Like how much time would I spend on independent reading versus reading aloud? What would the rest of my class be doing while I met with my small groups for reading instruction?
These are the exact books I read the summer before my first year as a 3rd grade teacher:
1. The First Days of School
This book was actually given to me by my school district. This really helped me start off strong from day 1 of my teaching career. Harry Wong, the author, does a great job of describing what effective teachers do on the first day (and beyond) compared to ineffective teachers. He also goes into detail about what procedures you need to have in place.
This book is so good I reread it every summer as a refresher. It’s definitely one you don’t want to rent from the library simply because you’ll be going back to it often.
2. The Classroom Management Book
This is by the same author as The First Days of School. It’s another one that is read every single summer. Harry Wong talks about classroom management in The First Days of School, but reaaally expands upon it in this book. I 100% recommend getting both, but if you only had to get one this one goes into more depth of every little thing you need in place before the first day of school.
3. Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6)
If you are teaching reading and writing, this book is GOLD. Fountas & Pinnell are the QUEENS of LITERACY. This book is gigantic and expensive, so I checked it out of my library. It was always on my wishlist to own though. Guiding Readers and Writers will help you launch the first 30 days of teaching reading and help you develop your own philosophy on teaching reading. I feel like it is important to know what is best practice for teaching reading and writing regardless of what program you have to teach. That way you know what is important to emphasize in your limited amount of time to teach.
This book is helpful for first-year teachers because it breaks down sample schedules of a literacy block and includes management lessons for reading and writing workshop. For example, how to set up a reader’s notebook, how to select a good-fit book and how to abandon a book. No matter what curriculum you have to teach, you usually have wiggle room the first three weeks of school to set up and establish procedures for reading and writing. Don’t forget, you can tweak any ideas to fit your own style.
4. The Daily 5
The Daily 5 is a way to set up your literacy block when you are meeting with groups. I think it was really helpful for me to read both Guiding Readers and Writers AND The Daily 5. Both have ways to structure your class so that all of your students are engaged in meaningful work when you are meeting with your students. It’s funny because you can tell the authors of this book read Guiding Readers and Writers and basically put their own spin on it. This book is geared for all elementary grades, so if you teach first or second this is a great resource, plus it’s a quick read. With exact scripts of what to say to your students on the first day, second day, etc. during reading. One of THE best parts of this book is how to get students to read and REMAIN reading for long periods of time. They refer to it as “reading stamina.” Remember when I said I would get compliments about not seeming like a first-year teacher? I think using the steps outlined in this book on how to roll out independent reading (they call it “read to self” time) was one of the reasons I was able to manage my class so effectively from day one. Think about it. As new teachers, we think we will be able to just have the class read quietly to themselves for 15 minutes immediately. What ends up happening is students start to chat with their classmates, get up and walk around searching for more books but end up wasting the whole time looking for new books, or they start playing with their shoes or something on their desk. This book will teach you how to have a class that is on task during this time. #lifesaver
5. The Morning Meeting Book
The Morning Meeting book will help you build a classroom community and really make it feel like your class is family. It gives you a step by step method of starting each day for grades K-8. Too often our kids never talk to each other if they don’t have to. This book provides tons of community building games. I think as a brand new teacher if you have a guaranteed successful way to start your day it can help relieve your stress. Plus, kids love predictable routines. You will notice the more structured you are, the fewer behaviors will be a problem.
By now, you may be noticing a trend. All of these books have classroom management at their core. As a new teacher, you want to maximize your students’ time on task no matter what you are teaching and these authors have thought of it all so that you don’t have to. It’s like I spent my summer swinging on the front porch with these authors as we sipped sweet tea and chatted about all things teaching. They passed their wisdom to me which made me “experienced beyond my years” and more prepared than ever for my first year teaching.
I strongly recommend looking inside the books on Amazon to make sure they are a right fit for you. Yes, buying books gets expensive as a first-year teacher. I know it is so easy to run out and buy borders and labels, etc. but what will help you thrive your first year is having a solid game plan and being able to manage your classroom well. I am obsessed with having a beautiful classroom environment, but I’d pick a book that’s going to make me a more effective teacher any day.
Here are the links to the books mentioned in this blog post: