Welcome to this edition of #firstyearteacherme! We are collecting words of wisdom from NCCE friends, trainers, and staff to share with early career teachers and other educational professionals through our blog! Experience brings understanding, and we know that if we could do it all over again, we would all approach things in a bit of a different way! Today, we pulled in Jason Neiffer, educational technology advocate and speaker, Montana state virtual school administrator, and OUR Tech-Savvy Administrator-in-Residence!

Jason Then and Now

Jason Then: First-year teacher at Capital High School in Helena, MT. Jason taught World Cultures and US History, along with coaching debate, advising Model United Nations, and coaching the quiz bowl team.

Jason Now: Assistant Director/Curriculum Director of Montana Digital Academy, Montana’s state virtual school. He is also a doctoral candidate in Teaching & Learning, with a focus on educational technology, at the University of Montana.  He co-hosts the EdTech Situation Room podcast.  He also loves working with teachers on all things technology through NCCE!

What I Really Wish I Had Known Early On

Jason: “Although I think most successful teachers figure this out quickly, I wish I had known day one that being successful in the ever-changing classroom environment requires adopting a ‘fake it until you make it’ posture.  I read a lot of productivity and ‘life hack’ blogs and have always been a fan of Gina Trapani, the founding editor of Lifehacker, the blog that invented the technology lifestyle movement.  She and her disciples preach that many successful professionals have to approach tasks as novices and you need to put your best foot forward despite the lack of specific training or knowledge. You need to go with the flow until you develop the skill and expertise to push and ultimately lead.

When I started teaching in 1997, I had just 15 weeks of student teaching experience. It didn’t feel like enough when the first bell rang and I was staring at 30 fickle high school freshman looking to be engaged and inspired. I used skills like storytelling (from eight years of competing in speech and debate), and a little bit of tech-savvy to make it through that first day, and then worked hard to develop the rest. Jump in with both feet!”

“The Neif’s” Top 3 Pieces of Advice For First Year Teachers

Get involved right away. “While your first year of teaching will be a delightful mix of exhausting, elating, frustrating, and encouraging, spend time getting involved in school and district initiatives. Attend curriculum meetings. Join your local teacher association committees on issues like benefits or professionalism. Join the technology or grounds committee. Decisions are made by people in the room!”

Become a scholar of pedagogy. “Beyond the rise of access to technology and the Internet in classrooms, one of the best trends in education has been the focus on teachers and administrators as ‘lifelong learners.’ You should embrace this on day one! Read about teaching. Observe other teachers. Attend conferences and trainings.  Join teams from your school visiting other schools.  Find the best professional development available and challenge yourself to grow each day in the classroom.”

Be yourself and have fun! “Teaching is a hard job. If you don’t have fun every day, then make changes to your approach to add in as much fun and whimsey into your classroom as you can! For me, this meant being myself in the classroom. Yup… I’m pretty geeky and obsessed by silly stuff (I love 1950s advertising images, for example), but, letting yourself be you in your classroom gives students something to connect with every day. Let your you flag fly… proudly!  Embrace yourself!”

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