I can’t believe that this picture was taken 5 years ago in during my student teaching practicum. In those 5 years, there is so much that I have learned about teaching. Thinking back, there’s some advice I wish I would have had as a new teacher (or rather, had listened to, because I probably got this advice when I was starting out too).
1. You Can’t Do It All
Sorry to burst your bubble… But you can’t. You just can’t. You have so many amazing, wonderful ideas for your students, your curriculum, your classroom, and there just isn’t enough time. AND IT IS OK!!! I am in my 4th year teaching, and I am still working on projects I wanted to do that first year. You have to realize that it takes time to build the classroom of your dreams and it does not have to be completed before the first day – or even the first year! My first year, I had one week to set up my classroom and I was a GIANT BALL OF STRESS! And the best advice I got (and finally listened to the day before school started) is that it doesn’t all have to be done for the first day. You can keep working on it as the year progresses!
That first year, I inherited a lot of stuff from a retired teacher. A wonderful, but time-consuming, gift! I just couldn’t do it all and I ended up still going through stuff at the end of the year! And it was ok! I still had an amazing year and my students knew no different! So prioritize your projects. Pick a few that you absolutely have to do before school starts. And then do the other projects if you can, and if not, know that you will have time during the school year and for years to come! The picture below is of my first classroom when I spent days sorting through all the materials and making a tornado out of my room.
2. Self-Care Should Be On Your To-Do List
Yes, you will have to stay late a lot in the fall and into the year, but there will always be work for tomorrow. Sometimes you just need to go home. That was hard for me to accept that first year – that there will always be work for tomorrow. I am someone who likes to leave only when everything is finished and put away. Now, I am a lot better at balancing my time at school and my time at home. Now I leave, as soon as everything is ready for tomorrow, and even then sometimes I leave when things aren’t ready for tomorrow. Taking care of yourself is the hardest, but the most important thing on your to-do list. You will be no good for your students if you are tired and stressed and miserable.
3. It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even experienced teachers don’t have perfect lessons or the perfect bulletin board display. The important thing is to reflect on how you did and think of how you will do it differently next time. Don’t beat yourself up over lessons that go wrong! Use it to do better next time!
4. Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
You SHOULD ask questions! Lots of them! Everyone has been where you are…. they understand! Asking for help with difficult students can be hard – it may seem like you don’t know how to handle them or that you aren’t a good teacher, but that is wrong! Asking for help shows you are willing to learn and try new ideas! Each child is different, and even experienced teachers ask for help! Don’t feel like you have to do it all on your own. Don’t feel the need to cry in your car alone (although we’ve all done it!)
5. Do What Works For You!
Do what works for you! For planning, organizing, data tracking, note keeping…. for everything! Try a bunch of different methods. If one isn’t working exactly the way you want it to be, try another one! I’m still figuring out the best systems for me to keep track of conferencing notes with students! For planning, I planned unit to unit – that’s what worked for me. My teammates planned week to week. It’s ok! You have to do what works for you! Especially as a new teacher just getting started with the curriculum!
6. Prepare Substitute Plans
Have sub plans ready to go… at least just an emergency set. You can edit them as needed. Keep a copy at home and at school (or better yet on google drive). You will need them at some point! And probably when you’re least expecting to! My first year I ended up getting the flu unexpectedly over the weekend and couldn’t get in to get my computer or get materials ready. I had to make sub plans on the fly and they were pretty terrible! Thankfully, I had really good teammates to help me out!
7. Get to Know the Teachers at Your School
Make a point to eat lunch with them, talk to them, do activities with them! You will need them as support, but also it is nice to feel a part of the school community! They may not go out of their way to get to know you right away, so you should go out of your way to get to know them!
8. Go the Extra Mile
Yes, you will be exhausted. But as a new teacher, it is important that you show your commitment. Volunteer for different jobs around school, attend events. It shows parents and administrators that you take this job seriously. Plus, it’s nice to see children outside the classroom setting at different school events!
9. Stay Positive
Enjoy learning. There are lots of negative teachers out there… try to find people who are positive about what they do. Yes, you can (AND SHOULD) vent every now and then, but don’t start seeing everything as the glass half empty, or you will burn out very quickly. I read a quote that really stands out to me: “The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with. Teaching is a profession where misery does more than just love company – it recruits, seduces, and romances it. Avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntles about the possibilities for transforming education. They are the enemy of the spirit of the teacher.”
10. Enjoy the Children
Enjoy the children. When things get tough, life gets stressful, curriculum and assessments are piling up, focus on the children and all the progress they have made. They are why you are doing this! Enjoy them! Try to remember the funny, cute things they say. Share them with your friends and family. Save the notes they make for you. Take a moment to have a fun, silly game or activity and make everyone smile and laugh! It’s those moments that matter the most.
I hope that these 10 pieces of advice help you navigate through your first year of teaching! Please feel free to reach out if you want more advice or if you just want to talk! Teaching is such a wonderful profession, but we need to support each other through it!