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Ozarks Teacher Corps alum Kelly Wardle and her first grade students celebrate democracy in Willow Springs, Missouri.

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A Prologue for a New School Year

Willow Springs, Missouri

August 19, 2015

Editor’s note: Kelly Wardle is a first grade teacher in Willow Springs, Missouri. She was raised in a rural area and attended a small rural school. There were 22 students in her senior class (17 went from K-12 together!). Kelly is the third of 6 children that still have a very strong family relationship. This year she and her husband will be celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary.

Kelly’s first college degree was in business, but her love for teaching children always tugged at her heart. After working in Human Resources and Leadership Roles for more than 20 years, Kelly enrolled at Drury University to earn her teaching certification, where she was selected as a member of the Ozarks Teacher Corp in 2010. She is also a member of Delta Kappa Pi, Daughters of the American Revolution and a self- published children’s author. Kelly is beginning her 4th year of teaching and will be starting her Master of Literacy degree program this fall.

In addition to all of this, Kelly is one of the Rural Schools Collaborative’s inaugural Grants in Place recipients, and we will be following her students’ progress throughout the year. We sincerely thank Kelly for submitting these thoughtful suggestions for beginning teachers as part of our Educators Voice series. We hope you will pass them on!

By Kelly Wardle

I recall my first year of teaching how I searched the Internet for tips and suggestions on having a successful year. As another new school year draws near (many have already started) I thought I would offer a few suggestions from what I have learned along the way.

  • Classroom Management! Be prepared (but flexible). Demonstrate how you want things done. On the first day after the students are seated, I take one of their backpacks and step right outside the door and then enter the room as I would like them to. I walk to their cubby, open the backpack, take out the planner and any notes, hang up the backpack, and place them on my desk. I then go to the morning work box, get my activity sheet, then go sit down and start working. I do this with everything to ensure they understand what is expected.
  • Get to know your students, not by taking surveys or having them write their likes and dislikes, but by having conversations with them. The first few days of school I have an interview processes throughout the day. The students visit with each other as they do puzzles while I converse with them one by one.
  • A book that I love and read to my students within the first few weeks and throughout the year is Arnie and His School Tools by Jennifer Veenendall. This book has opened my eyes on how I can assist those struggling with sensory issues therefore providing them with the best education I can while placing them in a comfortable setting.
  • Establish a good relationship with the parents/care giver of your student. Let them know that their child’s education and safety is your top priority. Call or send home positive notes on their child. Ask them for suggestions when needed on how they feel you could best instruct their child. Develop a plan together and discuss it regularly. Also make sure the parents feel you’re approachable with their questions or concerns. Listen to them patiently and give them the time they need.
  • Be flexible and know its’ okay when lessons don’t go 100% as planned. I plan my lessons to include all individual learning styles yet sometimes there may still be a student that is struggling. I reteach the lesson in small group. If struggling is still continuing then I review my lesson plan or converse with another teacher.
  • Build a good support team – whether it’s at your school or another. Find another teacher that you can learn from or share ideas with. I have co-teachers at my school that I meet with daily and also a support team from other schools.
  • Find enjoyment! This is a job that you must enjoy. If you don’t, you will not be able to hide it. I loved my first year of teaching! Sure there were things that were a little difficult while I was settling in but the reward of the students was well worth the journey!
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