Thursday, June 6, 2019

Find Your Teacher Tribe

Spring is the season of graduations and new beginnings. It's a time for reflection and change. I've been in the classroom for 32 years and still continue to think about how to better my teaching practices. I've teamed up with some amazing teaching buddies to share 7 tried & true teaching tips.
I graduated with my bachelor's degree in December of 1986 and started teaching on an emergency credential in January 1987. I knew NOTHING about teaching or children, yet there I was! I'm sure I must have looked wild-eyed and frantic because the teacher next door, Elizabeth, took me under her wing. Not only did she fill me in on school policies and procedures, but she shared curricular materials, invited me to teaching conferences, and quickly became a sounding board for me. She was so knowledgeable about all things developmentally appropriate for kids. Having someone whom I respected as a teacher and trusted as a colleague is what helped me not only survive, but thrive.

Find your teacher tribe! In those first couple of years, Debbie and Claudia joined our primary team and we quickly became inseparable. We brainstormed together, shared new ideas, ranted and cried together, and again, Elizabeth became our mother hen. We each had our own strengths: creativity, organization, knowledge, attention to detail, enthusiasm. Together we developed fabulous teaching units and lessons, always cheering each other on. We eventually moved on to different schools and districts, but remain close to this day.

Two schools later, Charlena became my grade level partner. Although initially we were hesitant to teach together, we quickly began to share ideas and finish each other's sentences. We always laugh because she is louder than me so she had the reputation of being strict and tough, when in reality, I'm much more the no-nonsense control freak. She tolerates my often crazy ideas and just shakes her head as I take on elaborate projects or try new strategies. She keeps me grounded and more focused. We were both devastated when I moved schools to be closer to home, after 10 years of teaching together.

I wasn't sure how I felt about having a new teaching partner, but I lucked out when Danny and I became the fourth grade team at our new school. For 10 years, our classrooms were next door; we ran ideas by each other, we departmentalized for social studies and science. He relied on my experience (he was brand new when we started teaching together!) and I was so glad for his tech savvy and his genuine desire to help kids think critically.

All this reminiscing to say, my number one tip for surviving teaching is to find your teacher tribe! I would not be the teacher I am today, if it weren't for my teaching besties. Find those you can collaborate with, question pedagogy or latest teaching fads with, go to conferences with, and read the latest professional books with! (Oh and of course, to socialize with!) If you don't have that camaraderie at your school site, then find your tribe online. There are plenty of teacher Facebook groups or find like-minded educators on instagram or Twitter. Having your teacher tribe keeps you balanced, sane, and inspired!

To remind you of the importance of surrounding yourself with a support network, click on one of the quotes below. Download and print; put in a cute frame to keep in your classroom!
Check out the advice from my upper elementary teacher friends. Click on the advice to learn more about their tip for a successful school year and grab free reflection tools, checklists, questionnaires, and more!
Kerry Tracy of Feel-Good Teaching says, "Take the time to reconnect with your calling to get you through the rough patches!"

Tammy of Tarheelstate Teacher says, "At the end of the school year, reflect on your favorite lessons and experiences. Consciously plan to take what worked into the upcoming school year."

Tanya Yero Teaching says “Parent conferences are an excellent way to bridge the gap between school and home, but they can sometimes be a hard discussion to have. Here are six tips that will help you conduct successful, yet truthful parent conferences.”

Brittany Hege of Mix and Math says, “Incorporate call and response chants as part of your classroom management...It will work for you and is fun for students!”

Jeanine Schneider of Think Grow Giggle says, “The time spent building student relationships is the best time you will spend all year!”

Laura Hurley of Reading by Heart says, "Build decoding independence by giving your readers white boards and teaching them to 'operate on' words they want to decode. This tip shows you how."

Kathie Yonemura of Tried & True Teaching Tools says, “Find your teacher tribe!”

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