Your First Day as a High School Teacher
The first day
My first day of teaching high school biology was a very eye opening experience. Sure, I had finished my student teaching and did not have any problems but that classroom actually belonged to someone else. It is a little different when the bell rings and the students enter the classroom and there is nobody there except you. Teaching was a second career for me so I had not been around teenagers for a while. But whether you are 22 or 50 years old, as I was, your first day can be nerve racking. Some school systems do a great job of training new teachers while others don't do much training at all. At my first teaching job I was given a key and told what room I was teaching in and that was it. Unfortunately this happens to a great number of first time teachers.
Things to know
No matter how well you did in college and how prepared that you think you are you will need help from time to time. The best help you can get is from other teachers. Remember, they have been where you are so don't be afraid to ask for help. Sure, you may run across someone who doesn't seem to want to help but most teachers will be glad to.
The key thing to remember is that teenagers will be teenagers. They may look very innocent but beware! Because of this, I recommend that you have assigned seats for your students. This is something I learned the hard way. For example, after the first week of school I had desk that were just randomly coming apart. I thought that these desk had to be the worst quality ever assembled. Come to find out, I had a student who was bringing a small screwdriver to class with him. He would hold the screwdriver under his desk out of my vision and take out screws during class. Eventually he had taken out enough screws that the desk began to come apart. If I had assigned seating it would have been very easy to catch him. Assigning seats doesn't take long. Just place a number on each desk and as the students enter the class on the first day tell them to check the alphabetical list to find their name and seat number. This can easily be done in about one minute.
Who are you?
Some teachers simply write their names on the board and tell the students that they are Mr. or Mrs. Does that really tell someone who you are? Tell the students about yourself. Don't just give them your name but give them some background. Are you married? Do you have kids? Where did you go to college? Tell them a funny story about yourself. Let them know that you are not just a robot but a real person who has real life experiences.
You also need to know a little about your students. After my first year, I always had printed out questionnaires. Most kids were more than happy to fill these out. Of course some did question why.
Establish a few rules
The first year of teaching, I had a long list of classroom rules. As the years past by, I shortened it considerably. You don't need 50 rules for kids to learn, just a few. My final list consisted of the following:
1. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
2. Be respectful.
That's it. Those two cover a lot of other rules. The more rules you have the more that will be broken. Also, don't add consequences for breaking rules unless you are willing to enforce them. I always told kids that each situation is different and I would handle it appropriately. After 10 years of teaching, I can only remember a handful of misbehavior in my classes so I must have been doing something right. However, every teaching job is different so by all means if you feel that you need more rules for your classes that is up to you. I am only stating what worked well for me.
Have a Script for the first Day.
My first day of school as a rookie teacher was filled with mistakes. I knew what I wanted to do but when the bell rang I forgot most of it. Kids remember their first impression of you so you want to look professional on the first day. Make a script, or outline, for the first day and refer to it regularly. With an outline your class should flow smoothly. Make sure you have all of your materials organized for handing out. These things make it look like you know what your doing even if you really don't. I learned to use an outline for my lessons each day. Kids like organization as well as anyone. If you try to wing it each day it won't take long before the kids look at you as a phony. Give some thought about how you are going to dismiss the kids for lunch and practice that procedure the first day. Do the same things about handing out papers and turning in papers. How are you going to handle homework? Practice, practice, practice.
Know the subject you are teaching
This was a big problem for me. I made almost perfect grades in college, but passing a test and teaching a class are not the same thing. You may think that you really know your subject matter, but you don't really know it well until you teach it. Study after college just as you did during college. Even then someone will still stump you with a question sometimes. When that happens try not to act like it really bothers you. Simply tell the students that you can't think of the correct answer right now but that you will have an answer tomorrow. Just make sure that you do have the answer tomorrow.
Hopefully some of these suggestions will help. Don't ever give up teaching because things may seem to be going bad. After my first day years ago I went home thinking I had made a big mistake by retiring from my previous job to become a teacher. However, I did go back the next day and I am so glad I did. I can honestly say that there is not a more rewarding job on Earth.