Monthly Mentor

Debi West (March)West
Hi! I’m Debi West and I’ve been teaching children through the visual arts for 24 years in Gwinnett County Georgia. Art Education is my passion, it’s my hobby and it’s my favorite thing to do. I adore kids, ALL kids, in fact I taught at the elementary level for 14 years opening 3 new schools in the county and starting up new visual art programs that were theme-based in nature. 10 years ago I moved to the secondary level where I am now the Department Chair at North Gwinnett High School and I have the honor of teaching 185 amazing kiddos this year! Click "Go" to read full bio.

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Month

Monday 12.13.10

Tackling the 1st Quarter As a 1st Year Teacher

I’d love to speak to experiences of the entire first year, however it is only December and am still uncertain as to what to expect tomorrow. So during my first quarter as a first year teacher I have learned a few things about being teacher and success.

#1: Define who you will strive to be as a teacher

#2: Class Rules (note that the word “room” was left off because possessing your own room may not always be available)

#3: Classroom Management (Procedures, Behavior & Reinforcement protocols) What does your class look like? Of course this is ever changing and different per grade level and class.

#4: Organization (Class rosters, Gradebook, Lesson Plans, Materials; On my cart I have been collecting Xerox copy paper box lids for organizing materials. Keep posted notes about deadlines regarding progress reports, quarter grades...Do you have a system for filing individual class’ work? Do you display student work?)

#5: Life Lines (Do you have a mentor? Are there a group of people you turn to for questions, advice, etc.?)

2nd-Winter Art 
2nd grade Special Education winter artwork. One of my student artwork bulletin boards. All other artwork is either on bulletin strips or attached to the wall.

2nd-KandinskyArtwork 
Student artwork outside their classroom. 2nd grade Special Education classroom, project based on Kandinsky.

I wouldn’t be truthful if I said I was confident from day 1. You never know what to expect until you step foot into the classroom and try to follow your plans. OVERPLAN!! What will students do when their done? I still struggle with being satisfied with early finisher activities. At first, I turned to coloring sheets, and still do with certain classes. However, I’ve started to turn to some easy tasks like peeling broken crayons for my recycled crayons, or maybe have them do an extra project or start the next. I really struggle with this since I don’t have a room and a steady place to keep early finisher activities on my cart. LIMITED SPACE is the issue especially when some classes require a lot of supplies for some projects lately.

          I believe the biggest hurdle I faced may seem so simple, but as a special area teacher I faced the challenge of answering this common question….What will you do on the 1st day? I went back and forth on this one, about going over rules and procedures (which to be honest, I wasn’t yet sure what I would do with being on the cart for procedures and is still getting the kinks worked out). But I really wanted the students to get a taste of art, so I decided that to help me, we would make table tent nametags. They got the chance to be creative and make it colorful and in the end it helped me learn their names.

          Now as I’ve experienced more of the year I have found many outlets for inspiration and advice. I work in a large K-8 school district where there is approximately 20 art teachers in the district, so with various institute days, monthly district art meetings, and just working with various teachers every week has allowed me to share ideas and gain inspiration and advice. 

- Melissa Schaefer