Dear Beginning of the Year Me:

Lately, I’ve been finally feeling like I’ve caught my breath with teaching. It’s taken about three months to get there. Three months full of showing up extremely early, and leaving late so that I can accomplish everything. In those three months, I’ve come a long way. I can now load grades for report cards, print testing tickets, run guided reading groups, have math centers, and manage classroom behavior like a pro. To brag a little (sorry! I’ve worked hard!), I’ve spread Class Dojo to ten teachers at my school, have recently been told my classroom management is “awesome” (a feat for a new teacher) and scored way above a district percent on a benchmark. This is all due to my awesome coworkers and teammates who always support me, but I’m still excited. So here’s a letter to me at the beginning of the school year.

Dear New Teacher,

You are scared. I see you trying to hide it, wondering if you can pull out of your contract. Thinking that this isn’t right for you, as you had a birth-kindergarten degree. Not third grade! What you don’t know, is how strong your team is and how much your school is like a family. How much your mentor believes in you and will support you. There’s so much to worry about and do, and I understand that. But you also have to believe in yourself. A very important person told you once “teaching is not about perfection. It’s about being the best you can be and teaching above the standard.”

You’ve worked hard your whole life. You aced 17 semester hours once, and could have graduated high school at 16. You’ve beaten the odds more times than you can count. And yes, things will be hard these next few months, but you’ve got this. You just have to believe, and be willing to try anything. The Google conference will teach you to come to the edge and fly, and now you hopefully are. All you have to do is be willing to embrace new ideas and always be willing to change.

All my best,

MW

Class Dojo!

In a hazy world of grading and blue pens, but wanted to make a post about something I learned about at the Google Summit conference recently. As a first-year teacher, I’m willing to try anything that could improve my class and my teaching.

About two weeks ago I implemented Class Dojo in my classroom and have been able to watch the sparks fly. For those of you who don’t know about Class Dojo, here’s a brief overview. Class Dojo gives each student a monster and they gain or lose points for various behaviors. I have personalized the different behaviors for my students, from hallway behavior to sitting quietly at their desk. When I teach in small groups or have the students working independently on a worksheet, it allows them to monitor their progress. The bell ding has almost a Pavlov response as it makes students sit up straighter and work harder to earn their points. This allows me to reinforce ALL my students, from those who continually do the right thing to catching those who may not always do the right thing.

For the first week, I didn’t involve parents to see how it would stick. I already utilize Whole Brain Teaching so I wanted to see how an extra system would play into our approach. I was hooked by the end of day one! I love being able to reward my students and looking for the positive! When I chose to involve parents, I truly realized the awesome power that Class Dojo wields. Involving parents allows parents to see what areas their child needs to work on to be successful in our classroom. Class Story allows parents to see what we are doing all day. I can easily post pictures of the work we are doing and how hard we are working. On these stories, I can see which parents have seen the story. I can also see when parents last logged in. Messages allows parents to easily message me and stay in contact. Some parents that I haven’t had enough contact with this year are able to keep in touch with me.

Also, as I write this post, one more parent just joined our Class Dojo! I’m definitely a Class Dojo believer now, and can’t wait for another great week utilizing this tool.