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Dear Amber,

I'm writing you this letter as a fourth-year teacher going into my fifth year! This past year has been a great one. My students accomplished a lot and I would definitely put it down as one of my most successful years. I'm really proud of my students for all of the hard work and must admit I'm also proud of myself for creating an atmosphere that made my students strive for the best. Well, enough about me. I actually wrote this letter to give you some advice. I hope you don't get defensive and realize that I'm just simply trying to help.

1. You don't know everything about teaching. I know you're passionate, creative, and have taken courses on teaching. However, it's important to remember that NOTHING can prepare you for teaching like teaching can prepare you for teaching. Be open-minded to advice and help from experienced teachers. They've been there, done that. I'm not saying they'll know everything or they are "better" than you; but, they've dealt with more students and situations than you, so there's a high chance they'll have way more valuable information that can help.

2. Old-School isn't all that bad. You have a million of ideas, right? Most of them don't involve textbooks, worksheets, or anything "boring". Of course all of your students have no choice but to learn. Why? Because you're making all of your lessons engaging. Ummm, no! Don't get me wrong...keep the creativity, think of engaging ways for you students to learn, and avoid worksheets and textbooks as a means just to give busy work. However, the old way we did things in school isn't necessarily wrong or bad. I mean... I would like to think our generation came out okay. Times have changed, so yes the way teaching occurs needs to change. But never underestimate the power of a good ol' worksheet every now and then to practice mastery or a textbook to use as students' reference for information. Creativity is great! However, we can't avoid the fact that everything in the world isn't going to be of interest to each child, so they must get the practice and used to completing important tasks that doesn't seem "interesting" to them. Also, don't forget they’re required to take a standardized test, that the probably won't be interested in.

3. Chill-Out! Excessive buying, printing, and laminating is not that necessary! You're not rich. They say your school isn't rich either. Save your money. Most of the products that you're going to buy, guess what? You’re not going to use them. You're going to end up throwing away stuff, giving stuff away, and storing away stuff in boxes in storage (that will soon get destroyed). Everything that's eye catching, isn't going to be what's best for your classroom and students. Students need choices, but what'll you discover is that most of the best products you're going to use will be made by you. You will discover a new love for notecards, craft sticks, old containers, clothespins, etc. As far as laminating and printing goes, its necessary and yes teachers need it! But be conscious of the fact that no matter how much money people think schools systems have or what money should be allocated for, you share laminating and printing privileges with other teachers. Some schools might give you a limit, some schools won't. Nonetheless, be mindful that if too much printing occurs, most likely a restriction will come mid-year and that's harmful to other teachers. Also, if the laminating film runs's just out. That 1 set of vocabulary cards that the teacher up the hall wanted to laminate won't happen. Why? Because you've laminated a stack higher than a filing cabinet and now it's all gone. (Not to mention, you probably won't be using 1/4 of the stuff that is laminated). Be conscious with copies and laminating. Ask yourself if what you're printing can be printed front/back, two to a sheet, etc. Better yet, ask yourself if it even have to be printed. Could it be simply displayed so students can copy? In regards to laminating, ask yourself if it MUST be laminated. Is there a way to use it without being laminated? Can it be put in a sheet protector for the moment? Can it be put in a photo album?

4. Slow down and enjoy the ride! Yes, you love children and you are so excited to be working with them daily. But you're also excited about your plans outside of the classroom. You're thinking maybe a year or two in and surely you'll get a position that helps you reach students on a broader scale by getting into education consulting or research. Your passion is so big, you feel that it it's just not meant for you to be in the classroom for many years, but helping other teachers with their classrooms as well. I'm not saying it isn't going to happen. I'm confident that it will happen. However, take your focus off on trying to get in and then get out of the classroom. Instead, view each year of teaching as the hands-on experience that is needed for any other educational position you want to pursue. Be open-minded that its possible you actually WANT to stay in the classroom longer and don't know how your life would be if you weren't a teacher in the classroom. Enjoy the ride of teaching. It's definitely one of the best!

5. Get ready to learn: About life, love, and caring. You're a very caring person. You really do have a big heart! However, you're nonchalant, dislike "mushiness", and love your space. You're not even close to being an affectionate person. You want to do important things to really help change the world, but you still have some priorities that won't contribute to that dream. Over the next couple of years, your priorities will change. You're going to care even more about making a difference in the world, especially in the lives of children. Your preferred topic of discussion will change from the latest fashion to the latest educational-related ideas. Your favorite pieces of jewelry will be the student-made rubber band bracelets and the plastic rings out of the jewelry machine. Your Louboutin heels will get replaced for TOMS, Croc Flats, and whatever other shoes that will support your daily dancing, brain breaks, walking, standing, and racing at recess. You're going to cry…yes, YOU, Amber Denise Williams, will cry. You're going to give approximately a million hugs over the course of four years. It's going to be the simple things in life that brings you the most joy, such as sincere letters, comments, and actions from the children you will teach everyday. You're going to look forward to going to work to see your students, miss them over long breaks (although you'll need and enjoy your breaks), and think and talk about them all the time. You're going to say "I love you" and be told "I love you" more than ever. You're about to receive an abundance of love and give an abundance of love in return. Honey, you're about to be in for a surprise.

Teaching is going to forreal change your life...for the better!

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