A Guide to Your First Classroom

So, you’re a first-time Texas teacher with a brand-new batch of students staring you in the face. It can be dizzying to think about getting through this first semester in the classroom. For starters, take a breath and feel proud that you’ve chosen one of the most important professions in the world! Texas is lucky to have you and so are your students.

As one way to help you tackle those nervous butterflies, ATPE has put together a few tips to help you manage the school year. This list is adapted from our “Your First Classroom” guide, available for download here.

Before Your First Day
From reading up on professional ethical standards to decorating your classroom, here are a few things you can do ahead of your first day.

• Familiarize yourself with policies.
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) has two complementary bodies of rules, the Educators’ Code of Ethics and its own disciplinary rules. Additionally, you should read your district’s employee handbook and know various district and campus policies, such as arrival and dismissal times, emergency drills, and student attendance. Finally, because many TEKS and student assessments are now integrated into overall campus goals and lesson plans, you want to ensure your teaching goals align with the campus’s performance goals. Check in with a curriculum director or a coordinator for guidance.

• Introduce yourself to colleagues and parents.
The first year of anything is always going to be bumpy, but building relationships with fellow educators can provide some of the support you need. Whether it’s a mentor, grade-level coordinator, the principal, or another teacher on campus, forming a bond with your colleagues gives you a chance to discuss strategies, achievements, and challenges with people who’ve been there. When it comes to introducing yourself to parents, consider writing an introductory letter for your students to take home that includes contact information, conference hours, and a list of required materials for class.

• Keep the classroom fresh.
This is the fun part! Put up some snazzy bulletin boards to convey information, inspirational quotes, or student success stories. Use a theme to add some artistic flair. Stock up on any extra classroom materials you may need during the year, like tissues, cleaning supplies, and extra writing implements—don’t forget to check out our Services and Discounts page at atpe.org to see how members can save! Check to see if your school already has some supplies available as well. Other ways to keep the classroom interesting include experimenting with how you want the seating arranged, creating a reading or activity area, and setting up storage.

 • Double check your procedures.
Post general rules in your room, but understand that routines take time to settle into. The rules should guide students in how you want each class to start and end; how materials will be doled out and handed in; and general guidelines about how equipment, technology, and supplies will be used.

• Basic need-to-knows.
There are a lot of unknowns during those first few days, so do your part to quiet those unknowns by explaining such things like where lunches, backpacks, etc., can be stored; pointing out special areas; and going over course requirements, grading procedures, and classroom rules. Before class ends, go over any homework that needs to be completed and discuss campus dismissal procedures. Most of all, end the day on a positive note!

• General classroom management ideas.
One way to make classroom rules resonate with students is to get them involved in the rule-making process. Ask students to come up with rules as a group and display them in the classroom. Each day, write general instructions and objectives on the board. Teach students how to pay attention, follow directions, and ask for help.

Your first year of teaching only happens once, and it may be far from perfect. But you can feel confident and prepared if you take the right steps! How you handle your first few weeks will be reflected in how your students handle it, too. To view the “Your First Classroom” guide in its entirety and get more tips on such things like communicating with parents, preparing for a substitute, and professional responsibilities, visit our Resources page on atpe.org.

Best of luck during this new school year! ATPE is here for you.

Not a member? Join ATPE today to become part of the largest and most trusted educators’ group in Texas. ATPE offers liability insurance and employment rights defense coverage for educators as well as professional development opportunities.

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