By Jennifer Chiaramida, Guest Writer
While it can be overwhelming to be a new teacher, there are a lot of things rookies are doing exceptionally well. These 4 life-changing habits are great for all teachers’ own mental health, ideal for communication with parents, and beneficial for students’ learning.
Life-Changing Habit #1:
New teachers communicate office hours to parents and guardians ahead of time – and stick to them
New teachers are doing something that veteran teachers never really did before. They are communicating their office hours in the beginning of the year, placing a reminder containing their office hours in their email signatures, and pinning the hours to the tops of their communication apps.
And, teachers are sticking to them.
Forever, teachers have gotten to work early, worked the entire day, stayed late, and then taken work home. You probably know a teacher (or are a teacher) that has responded to a parent email at 6:30 am or 10:00 pm.
New teachers are setting clear boundaries and adhering to them. This protects their mental health and their time at home, however they choose to spend it. Additionally, it lets families know that teachers will be in touch and when to expect a reply. This is a critical life-changing habit everyone should adopt.
Life-Changing Habit #2:
They share their personal lives with their classes
Rookie teachers create personal, meaningful connections with their students. They bring in pictures of their pets, include their class in all of their updates about their wedding planning, tell anecdotes about their families, share their idiosyncrasies, and joke about their habits. Kids love having a connection with their teachers, and new educators are doing this well.
While everything that you share should pass the “red-face test” (if it’s read out loud at a faculty meeting, would your face turn red?) and stay within appropriate student/teacher boundaries, letting your class into your world, even a little bit, goes a long way.
My son was really excited that he shared a love of snowboarding with his teacher, and often talked about how much she loved her Starbucks coffee. He said the kids in his class shrieked with joy when they heard all the details of her wedding once she returned to school.
Another one of my former colleagues told her class stories about her cats and their antics, and then about her baby girl after she was born. Her class included both the cats and the baby in their writing!
Life-Changing Habit #3:
They limit homework assignments
Everyone’s time outside of school and work is precious. Newer educators excel at making space and time for families once the school day is done, and this includes limiting homework.
Homework can be valuable when assigned with intention and discretion, but limiting work to specific skills and giving it only when necessary cuts down on grading and planning for you. It also allows everyone involved to spend more time with family and on other activities at home.
Finally, it prevents burn-out in your students and protects against students learning a skill incorrectly from unsupervised repetition at home.
Life-Changing Habit #4:
They text with their students’ families
New educators send texts to families. (Yikes!) Until now, this was almost unheard of in the teaching profession.
New teachers are embracing technology and making it work to their advantage – with a twist. When teachers text, they use third-party apps to message, or they use something to camouflage their personal number.
Google Voice offers texting and provides a separate phone number through their app, so you can keep your personal line personal. Even better, other apps, such as ClassDojo, allow you to text message with parents but set office hours.
In doing so, you can silence messages that come in before or after office hours so they do not intrude on family time. You can also keep the app off your phone and check your messages from your work computer, while your outgoing messages still go to a parent’s cell phone like a text message.
Using text messaging is an effective way to communicate with families, as some do not return phone calls due to their own work hours and others never check their emails. Text messaging allows you to get in touch with parents or guardians quickly, since everyone has their phone.
Additionally, it fosters more casual and more frequent communication, taking some of the stress off of reaching out to families. Better yet, it allows you to keep written records of your communication, just as email does, without the formality of email.
However, if you find yourself prone to checking messages outside of work hours, make sure you can send messages with an app that offers office hours and text silencing, only message parents through the application website on your work computer, or stick to another means of communication that enforces your work/home boundaries. Protecting your time is of utmost importance.
If you are doing any of these things in your classroom, you’re prioritizing your mental health, your students’ well-being, and your families quality time.
If you haven’t tried any of these life-changing habits yet, try one that resonates with you this week and reap its benefits.
Former Reading Specialist K-3 (14 years), Former 3rd Grade teacher (4 years)