Love first, teach second: A teacher’s message

I am pleased to welcome my friend, Kristen Hunter, with a guest post today. I loved hearing about her career as a teacher and how she brings energy and originality (and love) to the classroom. She also shares about a few of the items she uses to create a positive learning environment, some of which she still needs before school starts in August.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message

My name is Kristen Hunter, and I have aspired to be a teacher since I was a little girl. In August, I will be starting my third year of teaching next month, at a Title I school in Tallahassee, Fla. I love teaching because of the “lightbulb” moments students have when you see it in their eyes that they understand the material.

I have bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education, as well as certifications in reading and English as a second language. In the spring of 2021, I will graduate with a master’s degree in educational leadership.

Another reason I love teaching is that no two days are the same. When students come into our classroom, they unpack their materials and start their morning work while watching our school’s morning news. I teach reading and math in the morning before lunch. After lunch we have an intervention block, special area, and our science/social studies time. While we stick to a daily routine, the activities change depending on the lesson.

I created an Amazon Wishlist of items that would be beneficial for my students. Some of the items on my list might sound odd, but they have a unique purpose. Some of these items include battery-operated light switches, a baby car mirror, whisper phones, game show buzzers, and a wireless doorbell.

Why a baby car mirror for first-graders in a classroom?

The baby car mirror will be hung above the whiteboard so I can still see what the students are doing even with my back to them.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

What is a whisper phone and how does it help students learn to read?

I like to use whisper phones in my classroom because first graders are still practicing reading fluency. With these whisper phones, the student puts one end on their ear and the other end by their mouth. Students can whisper read to themselves. Some students need to read out loud to better comprehend and become more fluent while reading.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

What’s the buzz?

I like to create engaging review games for my students before assessments or if they are struggling to grasp a concept. One of the games I use often is classroom jeopardy, so having the buzzers will allow me to more accurately tell which ring in first.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

Ring that bell

I have a wireless doorbell in my classroom that I use to gain the attention of my students. When I ring the bell, my students know to stop what they are doing and give me their attention. This is much more effective than raising my voice to get their attention.

Why a battery-operated light switch?

Our only bathrooms are in the hallway — one for boys and one for girls. Therefore, the children have to go out of the classroom to use the restroom. I only allow one boy and one girl to go to the bathroom at a time, so when a student needs to use the restroom they will either turn on the boy or girl switch so I know if there is someone already in the restroom.

Here are a few pictures Kristen shared of her classroom:

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message

Love first, teach second

As an educator, I believe that we are all lifelong learners. I feel that it’s important for my students to understand that I don’t have the answer to every question and that it is okay. When my students ask me a question and I do not know the answer, I am honest and let them know I will find the answer and let them know.

Another lesson that my students continue to teach me is compassion for others. Young children forgive their peers at a much quicker rate than most adults, and they are truly concerned when a friend is sad or hurt. My students love to help, or ask for help, when a friend is hurt. These students do such a wonderful job of consoling their peers and being there for them when they are sad. It is a reminder to slow down and be there for my family, friends, and students.

I am a firm believer in love first, teach second. Students are more likely to learn from a teacher that they have built a relationship with first. At the beginning of the school year, I spend a lot of time getting to know my students and sharing facts about myself with my class. It is important that my students understand that in the classroom we are a family that supports and loves each other. We have morning meetings where we talk about different topics as a class so we can learn about similarities and differences and why that is okay! During some of these morning meetings, we choose to share things we did over the weekend or holiday breaks.

I would like to say thank you to the countless people who have shown their support by donating to my classroom.

A note from Paula

I took the above graphic from Kristen’s Facebook page, because it seems a fitting way to end this post. I appreciate her commitment to first graders. I’ll never be able to repay my children’s teachers, or the teachers who taught me to love language as well as learning in general. The best teachers do more than teach subjects; they help teach “life.” Thank you, Kristen, for being one of those teachers. If you can help Kristen out by purchasing something on her wish list, here’s the link again.