I’ve spent this past week getting my classroom ready for a new group of 4th-grade friends. Fortunately for me, I was able to get a head start on my preparations in June while working summer school. I was still swamped with all the little details that a teacher must deal with to take a classroom from plain to perfection. However busy I’ve been, though, the new teachers at schools everywhere are all that times ten! I have two “rookies” in my grade-level this year, and as the team leader, I wanted to welcome them in style.
Welcoming New Teachers (The Right Way)
I’ll never forget my first day of a class I was required to take before starting my student teaching. It was a 1-week orientation course designed to help me with any last-minute details of teaching before I got into the classroom. The professor entered the classroom and immediately asked, “Who is a special education major in here?” I and one other person tentatively raised our hands. “You’ll be burned out in 6 years.” An awkward silence followed…Okay, so that’s one way not to welcome new teachers to the profession! Yikes!
While I was getting ready to welcome my 22 new students, I thought about all the supplies I’ve thoughtfully acquired over the years to help me be a better teacher. Some items are necessities (whistle) while others are more for my personal comfort (cough drops, etc.). Following is a list of the items I put together as a New Teacher Survival Kit for my two new colleagues:
- 1-inch black binder (the kind with clear plastic covers to insert your own labels)
- 1.5-inch binder filled with our grade-level common formative assessments (because what new teacher has time to print those?)
- clear clipboard (I attached a personalized label with clear packing tape; we use these with our PBIS program)
- 3-prong, 2-pocket folder (I filled it with some of my TpT lessons and other free resources I’d downloaded)
- playground sign with a red clothespin (we have 2 playgrounds so we leave a sign outside our door indicating where we’ve gone for recess)
- a picture book or two for read-aloud (I chose one with a pirate theme as that’s our school mascot)
- Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (same reason as above, plus it’s good for their professional development)
- cough drops/throat lozenges
- breath mints
- 409 cleaning spray
- whistle on a lanyard
- plastic keycaps in 2 colors (one for the building key and one for the room key – helps them keep those keys separate)
- an Ozark Trail tumbler (personalized with their initial thanks to Designs with Dazzle)
- protein bars (when there’s just NO time for lunch)
- chewing gum (when you’re hungry but you’ve already eaten all the above protein bars!)
- black fine-point Sharpie marks (what teacher doesn’t need these?)
- Uno card game (those inside recess games don’t just magically appear in your classroom, do they?)
I put all these items in a large plastic basket that can easily be re-purposed in their classrooms for another use. Since our school colors are green, white, and black, I threaded a green and white polka dot ribbon through the holes in the basket. Then I used black and white polka dot tissue paper to add a finishing touch. (I’ve always had a fondness for polka dots and pirates!) I hope my new teachers find these survival kits useful, although I know it takes more than a gift basket to have a successful school year. If only it were that easy, right? I never would have made it without the kindness of some wonderful ladies who supported me in my first few days as an educator. Props to Lisa, Julie, and Helen. Without them…head shake…
I got so carried away with gift-giving, that I created a cute little set of “have a great year” gifts for my returning colleagues. This year’s school’s theme is bees so I used these cute little bee cutouts my friend Patti gave me to make tags with an encouraging note. I wrapped some black markers and yellow highlighters together (yellow and black, get it?) and will offer these as presents to my teacher-buddies when our back-to-school workshops begin (gulp!) next week.
If the weather cooperates, I’m taking today off from working in my classroom for another day of floating on the lazy river at my local water park. I wish I had thought of these New Teacher Survival Kits sooner, though! We all know how tough this profession can be at times, and sadly only about half of all new teachers stay in education. Anything I can do to help a fellow teacher not just survive, but thrive, is something I want to do. What “essentials” do you have in your classroom that help you?