Lessons I learned my first year teaching

This is a culmination of the best advice or the best lessons I learned last year. Hopefully, it can help someone out there.

1: Get your mentor’s files! Do not reinvent the wheel. Get their entire computer drive on a flash drive. This way you have worksheets, PowerPoints, and centers for small lessons like commas or teaching colors. I spent so much time Googling when really my mentor already had great files that I could have used. This would have saved me so much time.

2: Google Drive. Put those files on Google Drive so you can easily flip through them, or organize them. I organized our files for the curriculum and shared  it with my other teachers. It made my life SO much easier and made it easier for us to share resources.

3: When your school building closes, you close. As a new teacher, you want to work all the time. It leads to burnout and to you being so much more stressed than you need to be. Please, try to leave work at work when possible. I know it’s hard and I was guilty of taking work home, but try to respect that it will still be there tomorrow. Not everything has to get done all at once. You and your kids will have a better day because you will be happier and well-rested for them.

4: Don’t compare your unedited footage to someone else’s highlight reel. You see that teacher in the hall whose class looks perfect. It’s okay if that’s not you. They have had years of footage that you haven’t seen. They have closed doors in their classroom that you don’t see. Don’t think every teacher has it together but you. We all have our days and we all had our first-year.

5: Make an I Am Special folder. This is for the days when that parent emails you or when you just can’t get through to a child. Fill this folder with good notes from kids, drawings, positive evaluations, or funny stories the kids wrote. I covered the wall behind my desk with kids’ drawings and loved looking up to see “Miss Romm is the best!”

6: Self-care. It can be so easy to forget yourself when you teach and you could honestly live at the job. Take time to run, do yoga, cook, or whatever makes you happy. Don’t neglect yourself and your personal journey.


And above all, be sure to enjoy it. On those days when you just can’t function anymore and a kid does something completely hilarious, laugh. On those days when your personal life isn’t what you want it to be and a kid hugs you, embrace it. On the days when the stressed out from all the state mandates or testing, breathe and remember—these 21 little people will never forget you and you will never forget them. Enjoy your year!

Summer 2016 and Sylvan Learning

What a summer. From finishing up teaching, to moving to Raleigh for Duke TiP, and then to starting work with Sylvan Learning in Nags Head. Raleigh held so many adventures for me. I visited a dam, went to Chick Fillet’s Cow Appreciation Day, attended a political rally, and went to an arcade. I loved running around Raleigh on all the different trails.

Sylvan Learning in Nags Head was another great part of the summer. I worked at their satellite office and got to teach elementary school reading and SAT Math and Reading. What I loved about Sylvan was how individualized it was for the students and how it really worked to hit their strengths. I liked the one-on-one approach and the different lessons and games. As a teacher, it allowed me to use some of what I taught in my classroom while learning new ideas for what I would teach. The SAT Math and Reading allowed me to keep those skills active and to learn new skills. I also loved being able to go to the beach or pool after work though, I won’t lie!

Up next on this crazy adventure: Sylvan in Williamsburg has hired me! I’ll be teaching STEM in the local schools and SAT Reading for them in October. For now, I’ll be tutoring students in reading at the center and working on my masters at William & Mary. Life is a crazy ride, but I am so thankful for all the opportunities I’m given and for how hard I work. I already miss teaching with my whole heart but I am so thankful for the experience I had.

Year Three of Duke TiP

I’ve always been one to live their life in fast-forward. This summer has been no different. The day after I finished teaching third grade in Suffolk, Virginia I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to begin work with Duke TiP Crisis at Meredith College for a month. This is a weeklong program where kids take a class and do project-based learning around the topic.

My summer job was to be a teacher’s assistant (TA) for Broadcast and Print Media. What I loved about working with Duke TiP Crisis was the emphasis on project-based learning. The kids learned about the principles of journalism, the ethics, and branding, all while learning about hurricanes. All the news articles and projects revolved around hurricanes—our crisis of the summer. As a TA, I was able to watch kids work in groups, get involved in their learning process and see where their minds took them. There were no standards to worry about or tests, just simple group-based learning. Kids were able to create their own newscasts about the hurricane and use a green screen. They went on a beat report where they interviewed other classes and asked them questions about what they would do in a hurricane. At the end, they all went home with a flash drive full of their completed videos from the week and were able to show their parents all of their projects.

I enjoyed this simpler version of teaching and watching kids in-depth study a topic and create so many amazing pieces of work. I also enjoyed the different people I met, the different experiences I had, and the many different perspectives that I came across. I’ve been blessed with so many different jobs and opportunities to work with kids. Now that camp is over, I have started work with Sylvan, so I’m still teaching. My résumé is getting a little lengthy with all the different jobs and internships I’ve had these past few years, so I can’t wait to see what grad school holds.

First-Year Teaching

Time flies they say. Time did fly, but I remember almost every moment. I started the year scared out of my mind. My degree was Child Development and Family Studies, which taught me birth-kindergarten teaching approaches. So of course, this girl accepts a third grade teaching position. Head smack. Oh and my license was for NC, so I had to fulfill all the requirements for a teaching license in VA—the hardest state to get licensure in.

I’m pretty sure I was shaking every step of the way. I’ve always chased what would challenge me the most and this was my Mount Everest. Also, for those of you who think teaching isn’t very hard, you tell me how to teach a child to make mixed fractions to improper or to understand that drawing a conclusion does not mean LITERALLY drawing a conclusion. Trust me, it’s not easy.

I remember being scared to meet the parents and making a huge script for the first day of school. Making calendar cards, nametags, and a Super Improver wall. Up until December, I worked constantly from 7:30 A.M. until 5:30 P.M. at the school. Then I would take work home with me to grade or to research new centers, videos, PowerPoints, and fun activities. This continued all the way until mid-May when our end-of-the-year tests were finally over. I was terrified I would make a mistake and be that teacher, and that fear pushed me further than I thought possible.

But I also remember the moments where I would laugh with my team about a kid doing something absolutely crazy or when I would tell my friends a story about my classroom and they would look at me like I was nuts. I remember the way it feels when a kid tells you that you make them happy or when they cheer to see you after you had a substitute, even if it was only for a half-day. The way the students sneakily make you a banner to say goodbye.

There’s so much to teaching, and so much I didn’t even see after just one year. I’m heartbroken to be leaving what I thought two years ago would be my forever. I urge our state, our lawmakers, and our voters to turn teaching around and to make it a career that teachers can stay in. Where they can make a living wage, and don’t have so much stress and paperwork that they can’t teach and get it all done. My test scores were phenomenal (89% pass rate for reading, 84% for math at a rural Title I School), and especially for a first-year teacher. But I’m not staying in. I’m following a dream I’ve had a lot longer than teaching and one I realized I should follow while I have the time. I’m working towards becoming a therapist and working with children on their problems. It’s my true passion and one I hope will work out for me. Thanks Suffolk for the year and all those that supported my dream. This was a crazy ride.


Weird things that occurred in my classroom


1: Somehow we made an acronym out of Scale, Ticks, and Number for thermometers and it became Stan the Thermometer Man. One day I poked the ceiling with my yardstick and the students all started screaming at me about how Stan the Thermometer Man was sleeping up there. Oh, and they all want to take a picture of Stan home with them at the end of the year.

2: Occasionally I told my students stories about the little girl I babysat and she became a celebrity to the students. They finally got to meet her at the end of the year and you would think they were meeting Taylor Swift. They were screaming and jumping up and down all day in excitement.

3: The amount of throw up that happened in my room. I never predicted that as a teacher.

4: Recently my students figured out my car and now whenever we walk back from recess they start screaming “THAT’S MISS ROMM’S CAR. HI MISS ROMM’S CAR!” Terrified my car is going to be egged now.

5: Finding a student’s love diary. That ended with “he cheated on me. He is a cheater, cheater, cheater.” Weirdness.

6: “Miss Romm she was putting vertices up my butt!” Kid talking about the library books corners (vertices are corners and our math lesson) and how a student accidentally pushed him in line and the corners hit him. Glad he learned the math term though!

7: “Well you are just a crackhead!” Something a kid yelled across my room during Morning Meeting. Good times and what a vocabulary for a third grader.

8: “Miss Romm is like an amazing rainbow spectacular butterfly.” How a kid described me that I will never forget.

9: Not in my classroom but there is actually a TV in an outdoor gazebo in Suffolk and the TV works and I am still so confused. Why is the TV outdoors? How does it work?

10: Since I am so young, I told all my students was my age was 106. When I had a birthday it became 107. They have spent the entire school year guessing my age and it drives them nuts. Pretty sure they have never guessed right either.

11: One day I was in the hall monitoring and my student just stopped near me for a few minutes. I asked her what she was up to and she said “you smell like flowers, Flower Woman. I love smelling you.” She calls me Flower Woman all the time now, and I just laugh.

De-stressing for the end of the year!

Everyone has a crazy life and everyone has stress at times. I’m currently working on managing that stress and still being a happy person. Right now I am preparing for the end-of-the-year tests with my students and it’s been a little stressful…Or a lot as the nightmare I had the other day showed me!

So here are a few ways I handle my crazy life, and maybe one or two of these can help others. The funny thing about all these tips is that most of them are things that I never thought I would do and now I can’t see myself without them. So don’t close your mindset before you try them or after just one time. You never know what will happen, and in this world you can be anyone you want.

  1. Yoga. I never thought yoga would be my thing. I’ve always been fast-paced with running and kickboxing or just needing to move. I decided to try yoga for a week and actually found myself turning to it when I’m stressed. I like to do it before school or before bedtime, and even just a quick 20-minute yoga flow really helps me.
  2. Running. If you asked me three years ago if I would ever be a runner, I would have laughed in your face. Then I decided to try a beginner’s 5K program and I’ve been hooked ever since. For anyone that doubts themselves, get on the Nike program and try it for a few weeks. You never know what will happen.
  3. Gardening. A student gave me a miniature rose plant for Valentine’s Day. Somehow since then my collection has expanded to a Gerber Daisy plant, exotic Angel plant, and impatiens. My students love seeing them every morning and they calm us all down at times.
  4. Cooking. I love to find a great recipe for weekends and there are tons of easy recipes online. There is something awesome about learning a new recipe and cooking it for my family and friends.
  5. Reading a great book. Find a local library and go browse. Or see about an online app if you are busy. Some nights it is nice to escape into a different world.
  6. Putting my phone in do-not-disturb. I am usually so heavily plugged into my phone that lately slipping it into do-not disturb is SO NICE. I was having issues at first, but now, I’m beyond comfortable just focusing on the moment. You won’t miss anything.
  7. Being outdoors. If you haven’t noticed, I love to be outside whether it is kayaking/gardening/running. Just being outdoors, seeing the world, or exploring a new place is seriously one of the best feelings in the world.

So there’s my list of things I do to de-stress as I attempt this crazy life! There are more because I swear I’m always taking up a new hobby, but these are some of the most important.

How to Not Re-invent the Wheel

This would be the NUMBER ONE thing I wish someone had told me as a teacher. So if you are starting out, here is the one thing that could make your life SO much easier and give you so many more hours in the day.

As a teacher, and especially to be an incredible teacher, you are busy. You don’t have time to re-invent the wheel, nor should you have to. So here is the best advice you will ever be given as a teacher. First, obtain a flash drive. Second, walk down the hall and find another teacher who teaches on your grad level and has been teaching for many years. Copy all her files on your flash drive. You are probably wondering why you would do this. I can find my own resources you say. No, please don’t spend that much time doing all that.

That teacher will have so many resources on every standard you will be teaching. When you teach, you accumulate PowerPoints, worksheets, and activities from other teachers.  This will save you from spending countless hours looking for the perfect PowerPoint or activity, when she already has it and it already hits the standard you want to teach. After, you can still add your own activities, but you don’t have to spend as much time searching for each little piece or crafting your own. Chances are someone has already made it and done it better than my less computer experience mind can create. Save your time.

Right now, I’m working on organizing all of it onto Google Drive, which you should do too. “Why,” you ask, “would I do this?” Google Drive allows you to have those files anywhere. Home or work. No more being attached to a flash drive or spending tons of time searching your files and opening up 20 files to find the one you need. You’ll be able to organize them by subject and standard. Then all you do is go to that standard and find every file you have on it, and click through worksheets in seconds. You can share with other teachers on your grade level and they can add their resources. Luckily for me, my school uses GMail, so if someone sends me a file, I press a button and can save it to the right file on my Google Drive in the right folder. Takes 3 seconds and I have it anywhere. Then if you get a new team member, you just press share, and all the files are sent to them. Easy. No mess or frustration of opening tons of computer documents to not find the one you want or trying to keep up with a flash drive. This is the technology future, let’s gracefully move into it and embrace all that it has to offer.

Interdisciplinary Context

I’ve been meaning to make a post about the interdisciplinary context in which I would love to teach. Other, slightly unrelated news though, I just found out that this summer I am going to be a Teacher’s Assistant for Duke TiP’s CRISIS Camp. The class will be Broadcasting and Journalism and it will take place at Meredith College in Raleigh. I’ve always enjoyed working with Duke TiP on the residential side, so I’m excited to try it on the teacher assistant side and to watch the project-based learning that my students will be doing. It’ll be nice for me to learn the new material and may give me some new ideas for my teaching style in the fall.

Now back to the reason for this post. My undergraduate program was very big in interdisciplinary learning and incorporating experiences across a variety of curriculum. In January, I was able to tie science and math into reading, with a few passages. We were learning about patterns in math, and our story that week was about patterns. Patterns was a vocabulary word and it talked about the different ways you could see patterns. In addition, I found a cross-curricular passage on patterns with comprehension questions . I loved incorporating the mathematics vocabulary and lesson with the literacy aspect. Third grade is where students start honing their skills with reading comprehension questions so I want to incorporate that as much as possible. In the future, I would love to do that with more mathematics, science, and social studies lessons. I had a student stop on one of our benchmarks because they didn’t know a mathematics vocabulary word that was important to answering the questions. Math requires vocabulary just like any other subject, so it’s important to teach both. Luckily, I’ve now amassed quite a few cross-curricular passages for the rest of the year!

I still have a lot of planning to do to make my classroom completely interconnected, but I’m always ready to try new ways or ideas.

Come to the Edge

The Google Summit for Education taught me that as a teacher, I can’t be afraid to try new things or change the routine. So in my latest way of coming to the edge, I started a Positive News bulletin board. The students find something positive to say about another classmate and then stick the note to the bulletin board. I have a word wall, important information wall, and a wall with our objectives. I figured I could spare a little space in my classroom for this wall.

At first, I was hesitant, but now I’m surprised at how well all of my students responded to the wall. During bus call where they wait in my classroom, they grab a note and write. Students who are very quiet have been recognized on the board, as well as students who have had problems with their behavior at times. The kids love to check the board to see if anyone wrote to them.

I have a great classroom community thanks to Class Dojo where I recognize them for being kind to classmates or working together. We also do a morning meeting every day where the students pick a question to ask all the other students. An example question would be: “Which do you like better, pancakes or waffles?” Something simple where every student has an opinion and feels like they can voice them. My students can then tell me whatever they want to about their lives, and they can call on someone if they do a special signal which means they have a connection. This takes maybe 5-7 minutes of my classroom time, but allows students to have a voice and to connect with each other. Right now, guinea pigs are a big talking point in our classroom, but the week before it was video games. All in all, it works out well.


There’s A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom

In the quiet of Christmas break, I finally have a slight moment to make a blog post. Right before school let out for Christmas break, we finished the book There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, by Louis Sachar. This book has taken us all year and at points I asked the kids if they wanted to stop and do a picture book for a day. Nope, they always wanted to read this book. I believe it was one of the best lessons I could give my kids and I’m really happy I chose this book. Bullying is a major issue in schools and this book hits that topic. The main character Bradley is a bully. He has no friends and sits in the back of the room ignoring the teacher most of the day. One day a new kid comes in and befriends him and over time Bradley changes.

On the last day of us reading the book, we watched a book trailer I found that summed up the book. Then the children and I had a book circle where we talked about our favorite characters, favorite parts, and what they would change about the book. I was surprised at how many children noticed that Bradley made a conscious change to be good. They realized he was not included in many activities and that’s what made him mean. Many of the children identified with him and his quest to change from being a bully to being a great student and friend.

My next steps with the book will be to incorporate it into our friendly letter writing, which is a standard for the second nine weeks in third grade. The children are all going to write letters to Bradley. First we will brainstorm as a class, then make graphic organizers and write sentences. Finally we will be writing him a letter using the stoplight technique.
Next year what I would love to do is for the children to read a series of picture books by their favorite author. Then have them write a letter to their favorite author. I love friendly letter writing so I’m excited to see where we will journey next in the wide expanse of learning that is third grade.