TpT’er Reagan Tunstall looks back on her beginning days of teaching 18 years ago and recounts how so much has remarkably changed (no Internet?? what??) while a few things have surprisingly remained the same. 

The Early Days

I vividly remember being handed the keys to my very first classroom. It was a portable building outlining the perimeter of the playground. I was secretly relieved to be so far away from the building my first year… I was terrified about measuring up straight out of college. After the first week, I felt rather secluded, though. I wanted desperately to know what was happening inside other teachers’ rooms!

Communication was one area that was vastly different then. There was no Internet or email; we didn’t even have a phone in the room my first year! The only way to obtain important information was to send a student with a note or to make the trek to the office a quarter mile away {possible exaggeration}.

Rather than emails, we received staff memos. At recess, you’d find the staff standing around “inboxes” reading a paper memo.

My first few years, it was normal to work late and on weekends. Anything I wanted to teach had to be created… by hand. If I had an idea, I kicked off my closed-toed shoes, knelt down on my dress-code-required nylons, and created it out of scissors and construction paper after school.
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Time Marches On

Each year I taught, I had more in my supply to go from. Rather than creating, I was fine-tuning. The straight vertical incline of learning during year one was starting to level off.

Thankfully, we soon began using email and discovered the Internet {insert Aladdin’s A Whole New World soundtrack}. Teacher blogs, Teachers Pay Teachers, Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram fuel our teacher fire. There’s no comparison to what I am able to do with the help of my million teacher buddies on TpT, blogs, and Pinterest. Scrolling through social media will now introduce me to methods and techniques I’ve yet to discover.

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I don’t think that working late and on weekends will ever change for me. It’s a passion and a desire for the profession. A full teacher bag on Sunday night makes for a joy-filled week of learning for my students.

Collaborate, Evaluate, Create

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Our profession can be demanding! Here are three tips that have really helped me:

Collaborate. Thankfully, teacher collaboration is IN! We are all in this together, and what a difference it makes. Summer is the best time to find yourself lost in blogs, social media, and Pinterest. It’s also a terrific way to connect with your teaching team outside of the work environment. Plan a fun day poolside together or a stress-free outing!

Evaluate your resources. Spend some time this summer taking stock of what you have in your files. Get organized in a way that works for you. First, think about what didn’t work. Daily frustration is an easy path to teacher burnout. Two things that helped me were changing my filing system from monthly to skill-based. That was a huge endeavor, but I reaped the rewards from it on a daily basis. As an added bonus, it also showed me which skill-based resources I had many of and which of those I was lacking.

Create the environment you want. Close your eyes, and picture your favorite place to get work done. Is it cozy? Organized? Stimulating? Full of your favorite resources or music? What draws you to that spot?

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That’s what we want to create in our classrooms! An inspiring, organized, stimulating environment that we can’t wait to be in every day. We spend more of our lives in that classroom than out of it for over nine months a year. Give it the attention it deserves! Think about functionality of your daily routine first, then sprinkle in the details that make you and your students excited to learn!

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Reagan TunstallReagan Tunstall is an 18-year primary grade teacher who is passionate about providing students with both engaging and effective standards-based lessons. This award-winning teacher also shares dynamic teaching techniques with her district as a teacher leader and presents for SDE (Staff Development for Educators) around the country. Reagan shares her passion for education through her Teachers Pay Teachers store and her teaching blog, Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits.

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