Monthly Archives: August 2012

10 Tips for New Teachers {What I Wish I’d Known}

10 New/First Year Teacher Tips

It seems to me that there’s almost nothing more difficult in your career as a teacher than that first year! Everything is new and a bit overwhelming, and some days you feel like a fish that someone stuck out in the open ocean and just told to “swim…oh and good luck!” Of course not everyday is like this, but I wanted to share with you some tips that I’ve learned along the way.

1.  It’s OK to make mistakes (and trust me you’re going to). For some reason, coming right out of college, I felt like I had to do everything right 100% of the time. I wanted, of course, to prove myself to all of the other teachers, parents, and students (and myself). When I realized that I was indeed human 🙂 and allowed to make mistakes (granted that I would learn from them and apologize when needed… yes even to my students!) I could let out a huge sigh of relief and learn and grown with everyone else.

2.  Ask Questions…A LOT of them!  There are so many things that happen in a school that you don’t learn about in college, and with every school differing in curriculum, policies, and style, you’re bound to have some things you just don’t know about. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask when you don’t know about something or don’t know how something works. I found that often the staff didn’t even realize when something came up that I didn’t know (especially if the staff have been there a long time, it’s just a part of their routine now). I also experienced that I sometimes didn’t know what questions to ask (I didn’t even know what I needed to know…eh? Make sense?). It’s ok to feel a little lost, but it’s not ok to not voice that to someone. You are not alone!

3.  Learn from the Veteran’s.  Find those teacher’s who’ve been in the business for hundreds of years and then stalk them. 🙂 Ok, a little bit of an exaggeration, but there are great teacher’s who have been teaching for a long time and a lot of them actually want to help you. Every teacher was once a first year teacher. Pick their brains, take them out for a hot drink, get to know them…you’ll be glad you did.

4.  Visit other classrooms.  With the internet and amazing blogs that are out there, you have classrooms accessible to you with the click of your mouse. Look at them. Find out what you like and don’t like. Beg, borrow, steal. I’ve found that most teachers love when you like an idea they have created and want to use in your room (granted you give them the credit). There is also tremendous value in visiting classrooms in person on your grade level. My first year, I went to two different 1st grade classrooms outside of my school, one each quarter. Not only did I create great relationships with other teachers, but I gleaned so much inspiration from watching other teacher’s teach. It also helped that I did this after the school year started for a professional development day, as I was learning more of the areas I wanted to improve upon and watching these teachers was the perfect answer.

Read a Book!5.  Read, Read, and Read some more…about teaching. There are so many GREAT teacher-related books out there that can help you start your first year, most of which are written by teachers (YES!). Some of my favorites are “The First Days of School” by Harry Wong (an oldie but a goodie), ANYTHING by Debbie Diller (I especially love her “Spaces and Places” and “Math Workstations”), “The Daily Five” by the Two Sisters, and “The Essential 55″ by Ron Clark (Disney Teacher of the Year, 2000). I’m sure there are so many more books I could list here, as many other teachers could as well. So, ask your fellow teacher’s their suggestions, find recommended book lists on the internet, and begin your before bed reading routine!

6.  Find your own style. As you’re reading and visiting and gleaning I’m sure you’ll notice certain things about classrooms and teachers that you really like, and other things that just aren’t you. It’s ok to take a little from here and a little from there to create your own style, but do just that, create YOUR own style. Just because there are great teachers out there, doesn’t mean that you have to do things exactly like them to be great too. We are all unique and bring something special to a classroom. Develop your own style and celebrate being you!

7.  Wait a year to purge.  There are some classrooms you’ll enter that have a TON of supplies and misc. stuff, and others that seem to be bare to the bone. If you enter a classroom that has a lot of stuff 1. Yes, it’s ok to go through and throw things out (it’s your classroom after all) 2. Be cautious this first year as you might find yourself saying the next year “Oops, I could have used that (fill-in-the-blank).” Now, I’m not one to condone hoarding (after all we’re selling ,most of our possessions and moving into an airstream for a year to lead a minimalist lifestyle), with that being said, don’t throw everything away and don’t keep everything that you don’t use for years and years just because it’s always been there and you may use it…someday. My advice is to do a quick run through and take inventory of things you may need that are not present, throwing away obvious trash or broken/worn out items, and organize the best you can what’s left. As the year goes on, take note of what you used and what you didn’t. At the end of the year, get rid of what you didn’t use (giving away to other teachers, thrift stores, homeschool associations, etc.). If you didn’t use it in a year, you probably won’t.

8.  Have a life.  This is really tough as a teacher in general, not to mention your first year, but you need to take time for yourself. Do things that aren’t school related such as; signing up for a class at a gym, crafting/sewing, take music lessons, have a weekly meet-up with a friend that isn’t a teacher. Whatever you do, it’s important that you write it down and work it into your weekly routine/schedule (after all, a goal not written is only a wish!). For me I had to make sure that I was setting boundaries with the time I spent at school (ex. I wouldn’t stay past __o’clock) and that my outside activities were with other people so that I had accountability to do them. We all want to be well-rounded individuals, and the more you can find balance between your work life and all other aspects, surprisingly, the better teacher (and person) you will be!

9.  Keep a chocolate stash.   I just had to throw this one in for fun. I always like to have something in my classroom for a little “treat” or pick me up. That way if I’m having a stressful day or needing a smile (or I didn’t eat breakfast HA!) I could go to a special drawer and snag something real quick. Just be careful. You’ve heard of the Freshman 15?? Well, it’s probably double that for the first year of teacher. So be sure, in addition to your chocolate stash, that you always start the day with a full water bottle and a healthy snack. Almonds or fruit are great choices to give you the healthy energy you will need!

10.  Stay connected with God.  I realize that not everyone is religious, but staying connected with God really was the number one thing that helped me through my first year as a teacher. There are so many things that can get you down that first year, between making deadlines to teacher lounge gossip, that can be simply overwhelming on your own. I would suggest keeping a journal to jot down your day and prayers, being sure to include 3 things you are thankful for each day. Gratitude is healing and a thankful spirit can really turn things around when they’re heading south quick! I also made it a priority to get in The Word daily, as well as to connect with other believers on a continual. With God all things are possible!

All in all, that first year can be the best year of your life!

I’m sure there’s so much more that I’ve left out, so if anyone has any other tips that really helped them through that first year (or things you wish you’d known) feel free to link up to your blog post and share.  You can also leave a comment below if you’d prefer or if you don’t have a blog.  We’re all in this together!

Go get ’em First Year Teachers!

-Michaela 🙂



OWL-standing Behavior {An Owl Themed Behavior System}

Owl Behavior Clip Chart System

Click on the picture to purchase the Owl Clip Chart System

I know I know, I have an owl obsession!  There is just something about themes and those cute little owls that are so exciting to me.  I love when everything matches and flows together.  This OWL-standing Behavior System, came from my desire to give the students a visual of the choices they were making.  Then I figured if they could SEE that they were headed in a downward spiral, they would have more of a chance to change their behavior for the better.  After much research and years of card charts, stop lights, treasure chests and more, I landed on this clip chart idea.  I loved so much how it gave the students plenty of visuals and opportunity to be responsible for their own behavior and choices.

Owl Behavior System

OWL-standing Behavior Clip Chart (2 color options), Parent Letter, Student Behavior Log, Owl Themed Punch Cards, Reward Binder Cover and over 25 Reward Insert Pages!

Since I have an owl obsession, I adapted the clip chart to an owl theme and created an Owl Themed Rewards Binder.  The rewards binder is full of fun “experiences” rather than things.  From “Whooo’s Desk is it Anyway?(Trade desks with a friend for a day) to “Owl Just Pass”(Get a free pass for no homework) students will get a hoot (couldn’t resist) out of the fun wording and rewards they can earn.  Meanwhile, I just loved not having to buy any little trinkets for a treasure chest or handing out candy as rewards.  The students get punches on their owl themed punch cards and save them up to purchase the Owl Rewards that they want.

Owl Clip Chart

The Owl Clip Chart at work in Angie’s Classroom!

I hope you all have an OWL-standing year and that this Behavior System can help you manage your classroom smoothly this coming year!

Happy Teaching,

Michaela Peterson

10 Exciting Back-to-School Gifts!

I {heart} back to school time!  It’s such a hustle and bustle time of year for parents, students and teachers.  I’m always looking for cute, and fun ways to welcome students back to school.  Here are 10 exciting back to school gifts that you can give your students, or even make for your own child to ease the first day jitters!

You’re oFISHally a ______! Gift Tags

These oFISHally Gifts Tags are my personal favorite (maybe because I made them!).  You can attach this little gift tag to a baggie of swedish fish or even goldfish crackers.  My students couldn’t stop saying “I’m O-FISH-ally {insert cracking up with laughter} a first grader!” Click on the picture for a free download!

Sweet treat pencils

Aren’t these sweet little pencil treats just the cutest?  You could even attach little gift tags that say something like “What a “sharp” group of “sweeties” I have this year!”  or “You’re so ‘sharp’!”

S’more Treat Bags

Who can resist S’mores???  These sweet treats are sure to bring smiles on the first day or week back.  Click on the picture for her free printable labels (soooo cute!).

You’re so sharp!

These “You’re so sharp!” gifts would be a perfect “non-candy” way to welcome your kiddos back.  I love how colorful the gift tags are too.

LUCKY Gift Bags

What a colorful way to let the students know how lucky you are to have them in class!

Back to School Gift Bag

You could do a whole gift bag for each student.  This gift bag has a poem attached and inside the bag she put eraser’s, pencils, etc. that went with the welcome poem on the outside of the bag.

Glow Sticks “We’re going to have a ‘bright’ year!”

Here is another “non-food” gift that is affordable and fun.  Glow sticks with tags attached that say “We’re going to have a bright year!”

Calculator Gift

How fun is this giant calculator gift?!?  I thought it would be a perfect gift for students in the middle/upper grades.

Smarty Pants Gift

I die!  Look at those little smarty pants!! 🙂  You can put your smarties candies in there and attach a tag that says something like “Welcome to First Grade Smarty Pants!”  HA. Too cute!

You’re One Smart Cookie

I MUST have food on my mind with all of these treat gifts.  “You’re one Smart Cookie” can use a variety of different cookies to attach to (you could even make your own).

Teacher Survival Gift

Let’s not forget the teacher!  Here’s a super cute Teacher Survival Kit, that has most of the items found at the dollar store.

Hope you all have a wonderful first day/week back at school and that you find the perfect welcome back gift for your students!

Happy Teaching,

Michaela 🙂

Owl Theme Classroom {Top Seller!}

Owl Theme Classroom

All you need to start off your OWL-Standing year!

So I screamed today!  Yes out loud!  I think I scared my husband a little bit.  I was scrolling through the top 100 products on Teachers Pay Teachers for the week, and imagine my surprise and delight when I saw my Owl Themed Classroom in the top 100 list!!  AAAHHHHHHH!!  There I go again.

Top 100 Screen shot

The Top 100 Products!

My husband was quick to point out that it’s in the PreK-2 category which is one of the most competitive areas (LOVE that guy!).

So of course I had to take a few screen shots to document this amazing day!  God is GOOD!

Screen Shot

There I am, #88!

I looked at this screen for several minutes.  Top Sellers on all sides of MY Owl Unit!  (If you are a TpT Seller you will KNOW what I’m talkin’ about.)

So Ok. Enough about that.  I thought, under the circumstances, that today would be the perfect day to share about my Owl Unit.  It really has been one of my favorites to make so far, and the CA-UTE little Owl clip art is to die for.

My awesome friend Angie, from Teach and Re-Teach, is going back to teaching Pre-K and K this year at a fun little school by Seattle.  She has two little ones of her own, and is busy busy busy, but still wanted to have a fun, cute owl theme in her classroom this year.  She gave me a few of her ideas of clip arts she liked and a few things she wanted included in the packet.  After I saw the amazing clip art, I was inspired and took off with creating this Owl Theme Classroom.

Inside the Owl Theme Classroom

This set includes Name Tags, Behavior Chart, Word Wall Letters, Calendar Pieces, Newsletter Templates and so much more!  It even includes 15 Editable pages that you can type your own text right into.

Calendar Items

Table Numbers, Number Posters 1-20, Centers Posters

Whoo’s in Our Class?, Girl’s/Boy’s Pass, Behavior Chart, Job Chart

Click on any of the pictures if you’d like to purchase my Owl Theme Classroom {Back to School Essentials}!

Happy Teaching,

Michaela 🙂

I Love Education!

I love Education!  I really do.  Chances are that many of you do too…in one form or another.  I have taught 1st and 2nd Grades for the past 7 years, and have truly fallen in love with the kids, teachers, parents, and atmosphere of learning.  I felt a strong calling from God to become a teacher, starting way back when I would sit my brothers down and make them play school with me (I’m sure they can look back on that time with fondness as well…HA).

In all seriousness, I’m starting this blog in hopes to bring the heart back to general education.  In the midst of the schedules, testing, and paperwork, there is a beautiful opportunity in Education to help form young lives.  I hope to explore fun and creative ways to help build character, explore service options in helping less fortunate schools with supplies and teaching tools (stateside and overseas), design lessons in a way that appeals to the child’s intellect and heart, and share some humor and laughter along the way.

This seems like a HUGE endeavor, but I’m excited to see where God leads me through this blog in the coming months and years.  I hope that you’ll join with me in my quest for reviving HEART teaching.

After all, i{heart}edu, the true kind that is!