UNI Advisor’s Advice to New Teachers:  Be Confident

(Radio Iowa) Iowa law says schools cannot start before August 23rd and next Wednesday will be the first day of school for more than half a million Iowa students. It will be the first day for new teachers, too. Jenny Connolly, an advisor in the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Education, says this is her first piece of advice to new teachers:

“You know more than the students, right?” Connolly says. “Be confident on that first day and that first week.” New teachers started developing classroom management skills during their student teaching experience when they were teaching alongside a veteran educator, but on that first day of school, they’ll be going solo.

“Sometimes I think students get a little nervous about classroom management and knowing everything and having everything be perfect, but everybody learns, so lean on the network of grads you graduated with, but also lean on the teachers in your building,” Connolly says. “They’re there to help guide you and answer questions, too.” Many new teachers have already been paired with a veteran teacher in the district who’ll be a mentor. Connolly says every teacher in a school building will be learning dozens if not hundreds of students’ names during the first few days of school.

“Learning names is important. That is why most teachers, new or not, are tired those first few days, those first few weeks because you’re learning new names, new families move in — all of those pieces, but give yourself some time. You pick up tricks to help you learn students’ names, but building that relationship and starting out strong on day one, two and three will help you throughout that whole school year.” Connolly says part of a teacher’s role in the first two or three days of the school year is helping students get used to the structure of the school day and, for older kids, spelling out the year’s academic expectations and how extracurricular activities will be handled.

“That’s why the beginning of the school year is a lot of work for educators and kiddos,” Connolly says. “…We are a highly programmed population. We go from sun up to sun down and kids, adults, teachers — everyone just needs to give each other some grace as we adjust to a new flow, a new schedule.” U-N-I officials estimate at least 10-thousand teachers in Iowa K-through-12 schools are U-N-I graduates. Last spring’s graduating class of educators was among the largest ever at U-N-I.