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Stories from a First Year Teacher #1

I remember my first day in front of my own students.  I remember feeling terrified.  I remember feeling inadequate, and completely intimidated.

This post started as a single idea, which developed into a very, very, very long post.  So I’ve decided to make it into a series of posts, of which this is the first.   I hope that some of you who are in your very first classroom this year can commiserate and might find some support in the fact that you are not alone out there your first year.

I remember my first day in front of my own students.  I remember feeling terrified.  I remember feeling inadequate, and completely intimidated.

I remember my first day in front of my own students.  I remember feeling terrified.  I remember feeling inadequate, and completely intimidated.  I was really lucky my first year teaching.  I only had to work as a substitute teacher for 2 months before I found myself with my own classroom.  Those stories are for another day, however.  Today I want to tell you about my first year in my first classroom.

The classroom was old, as many are, in the city where I teach, which meant it was very big.  It was a Kindergarten classroom, so it had its own bathroom, an art sink, and a huge storage cupboard.  The kids were almost completely ELL, which was also something that I was struggling to get my head around.  Most of these children, although born here, did not speak English at home.  It was also a Kindergarten class.  My training had been in Grades one and two.  Fortunately, I had spent many days in those 2 months of substituting in a variety of Kindergarten classrooms in my district, so I had lots of ideas, just minimal experience.

The teacher who left this classroom, two months into the year, was close to retirement and had injured her back.  She didn’t return for the rest of that year, so I got to consider the classroom my own after some time.  She did pop by a few times to pick up some of her own things, but left most of them for me.  She had been teaching Kindergarten in that same classroom for 25 years.  She told me that of all the classes she had taught, this group was the calmest and easiest to manage of all the classes she had ever taught.  I didn’t realize at the time, but I had been given a true gift, with this well-behaved class.  I was able to concentrate more on covering the curriculum, and less on classroom management.  In fact, I must have reorganized that classroom multiple times over the year, and the kids were able to take the change with minimal disruption.  I can’t imagine that happening now.

The curriculum here was very vague and open-ended in 1992.  It was student centred, and very unclear.  I know I missed out a lot.  I feel badly for those kids, but I also know that I did my best.  I am a very organized and structured thinker, and open-ended curriculum was hard for me to get my head around.  I was also the only Kindergarten teacher at this school, and it was before the internet and social media, so I had nobody to reach out to for help.  Eventually I found an older curriculum guide that was much more specific, and I used it to guide my planning and lessons for the rest of the year. 

I realized that if I wanted to stay teaching Kindergarten, then I needed more guidance.  So I enrolled in an Early Childhood Certificate program at the local University.  This helped me somewhat, but I also found an excellent mentor my second year teaching and she really saved my tail if you know what I mean.

I remember my first day in front of my own students.  I remember feeling terrified.  I remember feeling inadequate, and completely intimidated.

If you are a new teacher, remember that all of us teachers started somewhere, and most of us remember our first days.  Nobody is perfect.   One piece of advice I’d like to offer is to be open to all suggestions.  You don’t need to follow this advice, but you should at least listen to the ideas of more experienced teachers.  Just because someone is older and they don’t relate to you on a personal level doesn’t mean they don’t know a lot about teaching.  Something that contributed to my struggles as a beginning teacher was my resistance to advice from older teachers.  I call it the “arrogance of youth”.   I thought I knew a lot, when in fact I knew very little.  I only know that now in retrospect. 

So whether you are starting this year with your first class, or your 20th, I hope you have a great one.  Remember that all of us started out somewhere and there is nothing more rewarding than that look in a child’s eye when they finally “get it”.  And there’s no better job in the world than teaching to experience it.

I remember my first day in front of my own students.  I remember feeling terrified.  I remember feeling inadequate, and completely intimidated.

Thanks for stopping by again today.

Back To School Blog Hop and GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to the Back To School Blog Hop
Today I'm getting together with some other fantastic Teachers Pay Teachers sellers to share some wonderful freebies and a chance to win a gift card and some other fantastic products from Teachers Pay Teachers.
I wanted to share with you a great idea for setting up your classroom rules.  The great thing about this lesson is that I have a set for Kindergarten, and a set for older primary students as well.  Oh yeah, and it's FREE too (my favourite four letter word!)
First you need to read the book David Goes to School by David Shannon.
It's available on Amazon.

In the book David's Teacher say "No Running, No Pushing..."

In my classroom I like to use positive phrases when setting up the classroom rules.

I have 5 classroom rules:

Use nice words
Use a quiet voice
Walk carefully
Share the toys and supplies
Play carefully

These rules have served me well over the past 25 years.  And I really like the fact that they don't use the word 'no'.  So after reading David goes to school, I brainstorm with the class ways they can say what the teacher is telling David, without using the word "no".

FREEBIE – a perfect Back to School lesson about classroom rules for your class.  I love how easy to prep this is, and there’s even the flexibility for K to 3rd Grade.

Then we make the craftivity below to create a bulletin board showing their knowledge of the class rules.  I like it when they use 'I can' statements.  Like "I can walk carefully", or "I can share my toys".

FREEBIE – a perfect Back to School lesson about classroom rules for your class.  I love how easy to prep this is, and there’s even the flexibility for K to 3rd Grade.

for the instructions and templates.

Then get them to cut out a speech bubble and write down one of the phrases from the class brainstorm.  It can be one of my 5 rules above or any of the other positive statements that the class came up with.

Now on with the blog hop.   Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a Gift Card to TPT and the products in the picture.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for entering and click on the apple below to head on to the next part of the hop!

or you can CLICK HERE to go on with the hop!
Thanks again for taking the time to stop by today!

Tips for New Teachers #1

  Well, it’s been a long time since that first year, but I made a lot of mistakes.  Seeing as we learn from our mistakes when I look back I know now that I learned a TON. 

I made a lot of mistakes that first year teaching.  Seeing as we learn from our mistakes when I look back I know now that I learned a TON.

The first thing I did was came in with assumptions.  We all presume to know things about the world around us, but sometimes it’s important to ASSUME NOTHING.  And, let me tell you, that is a very hard thing to do.

I made a lot of mistakes that first year teaching.  Seeing as we learn from our mistakes when I look back I know now that I learned a TON.

I remember spending a ton of time decorating my classroom.  I’m sure we all do when we get our first classroom.  Well, I remember getting very frustrated one day with one of my little boys.  You see, I hung a great poster on the wall near the sandbox.  And this poor little boy was playing with the sandbox, but he kept rubbing up against the poster.  Eventually he rubbed it so much that it ripped off the wall.  I was horribly disappointed.  I had spent a lot of time creating that poster (remember this is before we had color printers).  I assumed that this child had control of his body.  What I learned was that spacial awareness is a learned trait and that young children have not learned it yet.  I ASSUMED that he was aware of his actions and he wasn’t.

I remember asking a child to color and cut out a picture.   Now the child in this next story was not mentally delayed, she was not severely ELL, she was simply a child who had never had to do anything for herself.  Everything in her household was done for her.  So after asking her to color the picture, the child simply sat there until I finally noticed that she had not done any work.  I told her eventually to color the picture but until I pointed out what the other children were doing, she had not thought to look around and see what the others were doing.  I ASSUMED that she knew how to look around for help.  Some children need guidance to learn this skill.  When she finished coloring she sat there again.   I ASSUMED she would come and ask for help, but again, many children need help learning how to ask.  And finally, when I asked her how to cut out the picture she stared at me blankly.  I took her over to the supplies and pulled out the scissors and gave them to her.  She stared at me again and it finally clicked for me.  She had never used scissors before.  So I showed her how to put her fingers through the holes and make a cutting motion.  I ASSUMED that all school aged children knew how to use crayons and scissors.  Silly me.

I remember the time that somebody peed on the carpet.  But there was nobody with wet pants.  I ASSUMED that someone would fess up.  But nobody ever did.  All I can gather from this is that it was a girl in a skirt.  I also ASSUMED that all children came to school fully toilet trained, but I learned that accidents can happen.  I’ll never forget the day during Centers Time, a little girl followed me around the classroom to ask me if she could use the washroom.  The thing is that it took a while for me to notice her.  In the meantime, she had left a trail of pee all through the classroom while she followed me.  So after a quick phone call for help to the custodian, there I was standing in the middle of the room blocking children from stepping on the wet trail.

So, like I said at the start, the best way to start your teaching career is to ASSUME NOTHING, because children are people too and they come from all different experiences and backgrounds, so you cannot assume anything will be like you expect it to be.

If you are an experienced teacher, I'd love to hear a little anecdote from your first year, and if you are a new teacher, I'd love to hear what your biggest fear is about your first week of school.  Please leave me a comment below.

Speaking of new teachers.  I thought I'd help you out and offer you a little freebie.  Here's a checklist of classroom routines.

to get your own copy

Classroom Routines can be so confusing to remember.  This toolkit is perfect for setting up and making sure you remember everything for back to school

If you'd like to check out the entire toolkit it's now in my TPT store.
 It's part of my new product line:  New Teacher?  No Problem


Classroom Routines can be so confusing to remember.  This toolkit is perfect for setting up and making sure you remember everything for back to school

Thanks for stopping by today!


August 1 and 2 on TPT  28% off

The Back to School Sale is on Monday and Tuesday August 1 and 2.

You can get up to 28% off. 

It's a sitewide sale, so get your wishlist primed and ready!

I've got my store prepped and ready for you.

I can't wait to go shopping for some of my favourite things on my wishlist.


Back to school is just around the corner for most of us.  I don’t actually go back until after Labour Day, but I assume that many of you are thinking about classroom set up and planning.  And some of you are already back in the classroom.  Even though the first day of school is a month away for me, I thought I’d write down some of my thoughts on back to school and what it means to me.

I am always excited to go back to school.  I love that feeling of being reunited with the people you spent so much time and effort, (and sometimes blood sweat and tears) with during the past year.   There’s a definite feeling of anticipation.  I wonder how many of my students went on a trip, how many saw each other over the holidays, how many went to summer school, etc. etc.   And I wonder if any of them will not be coming back to our school this year.  My school has a little bit of transiency and I usually have one or two kids who move away over the summer break.

The past few years have been very difficult for me as far as classroom management.  I feel that kids are changing and self-regulation is becoming the focus of all my time and effort in the classroom.  (But that’s a post for another day.)  I just want to bring this up, because the last few year ends have had me in a complete state of exhaustion.  I can’t think straight, I’m overwhelmed, I’m getting high blood pressure…  So even after all of this, I still feel that excitement of anticipation when the school year starts back up again 2 months later.

It’s something that you don’t find in most jobs, that sense of a new beginning every year.   A new year means a fresh start every time.  In June, I clean up the cobwebs, and the dust bunnies that have gathered over the year.  I find things that have fallen behind furniture, and put everything away in it’s place.  So this means in September I can start anew.  This year will be my 25th Back to School.  I feel the excitement just as much as I did my first year (I’m just not as nervous). 

There are some fantastic choices for back to school classroom decor.  I can't wait to try this one out in my own room.

For the past 12 years I have been in the same classroom – some years I change up the room layout a bit, but for the most part I’ve been really happy with the layout I have.  This year, I’m not going to change it up.  I think I might change the theme.  I have several that I made in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  I’m leaning towards the purple but I also love the Summer Party, so I have a decision to make.

There are some fantastic choices for back to school classroom decor.  I can't wait to try this one out in my own room.

I’ve been busy this summer and I’m sure all of us have.  But after going to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Florida last July, I tried to focus on my family and let my store be my second focus.  The past few summers I have spent so much time and energy on my store, that I think my family has suffered.  This year I have tried to make it balance.  I think it worked out well.  My kids and my husband look happy and refreshed, and I feel like we had sufficient time to bond together.  My kids are of an age now that I really enjoy hanging out with them.  We have some very interesting conversations these days. And I know that once they are teenagers they will no longer want to hang out and talk with us, so I’m trying to savour these days.

       There are some fantastic choices for back to school classroom decor.  I can't wait to try this one out in my own room.

Anyway, the school year will be starting soon, and my point is that even after all my years, and all the changes to me and my teaching, I am still excited about a new year, a fresh start, and a new group of students to hang out with every day.  I hope you feel the same.

5 back to school ideas


These are great tips for Back to School, especially for new teachers! I really like number two!

I found these 5 great ideas on Pinterest for Back To School.

I love this post from Aimee at Primarily Speaking.  She really gets into details about routines and procedures that will help.

This is a great idea from Jillian Starr at the Star Spangled Planner.  These Friend Wanted Ads are a great first week activity.

This great article by Michael Linsin from Smart Classroom Management about setting a good tone the first week of school is very insightful.

I really like this great article from Jodi Southard at Fun in First.  She has some great ideas about how to explain classroom expectations using pictures.

Here's another great article by Michael Linsin about how important a first lesson on classroom management can be for the rest of the school year.

After you look at these great articles about, check out this great post from Linda at Teach 4 the Heart.  She points out 10 common mistakes that you should avoid to have a great first week.

And there you have it. Some ideas that I hope you find really insightful to help you with your first week back to school.

Thanks for stopping by again today!

ORLANDO 2016 for the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference.

I just got back from the trip of a lifetime.  The whole family and I went down to Orlando.  After going to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Las Vegas last year, I knew I really wanted to go again this year.  And this year did not disappoint.

Here's what I learned from the top TPT sellers at the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Orlando Florida.

When I was there last year, I made a lot of good TPT friends and it was great to reconnect with them again this year.  I got to meet up with some TPT rock stars, and I also got to meet a few people in real life (IRL), who I have become facebook friends with over the past year.

This year I also came with my family, so once the conference was over we spent 5 days in Disney and had a great time (but that’s another blog post on another day).

The conference started out with the Cool Kids Meet and Greet put on by Kayse Morris and Sherri Tyler.  After that we went to the Florida Bloggers’ Meetup.  After that, a group of us Canadian TPT sellers hopped on a bus and went to Disney Springs to have drinks on the dock and watch some fireworks in the distance.

The next morning was early for breakfast and then the keynote by Amy and Adam from TPT and Jen Bengel from Out of this World Literacy.  After that the sessions started.  I attended 4 sessions each day.  Let me tell you, they were all fantastic, and they were all SOOOO informative and right now my brain is very full of all the information I learned.

The second night I went to the big Blogger Meetup and won $100 of Creative Clips swag!  Then I went out for dinner with some Canadian blogger friends.  I skipped the breakfast the next morning as it was outside and even at 7am it’s flipping HOT in Florida in July.  So I slept in and had 4 more sessions and then went to the Happy Hour put on by TPT as a wrap up and good bye.  I was really sad to say goodbye to everyone that I connected with, but then went out for dinner and to EPCOT with my family that night.

Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Orlando 2016

Instead of boring you with the little details of the conference I thought I’d summarise what my takeaways from the conference were.

1                     COMMUNITY - The top sellers were all very friendly.  Whenever I met one, they were always happy to pose for a photo and spend a few minutes talking about TPT.
2                     FIND YOUR NICHE!  This one was drilled home to us in almost every session that I attended.  And after much time and thought, I think I may have found mine.  (I’ll leave that for now, and see if you can figure that out after a few more posts from me next week).
3                     TIME MANAGEMENT – plan out your TPT time.  This is one that I am terrible at.  I tent to just go with the flow when working on TPT and seriously, I need better time management.  I can manage my time really well in the classroom, so why not with TPT.
4                     SOCIAL MEDIA – it’s extremely important.  Find one or two platforms that you are comfortable with and then manage your time appropriately.  Learn all you can about them, but don’t waste your time on them.  Personally I can get totally sucked into facebook, and it’s such a time waster.
5                     VIDEO is the way of the future.  Get on the bandwagon now.  Learn how to put video in your posts on social media and your blog.

I can’t wait until next year to meet up with all the friends I connected with this year, and I can’t wait to develop the product line that I have in mind.
Thanks for stopping by again today!