As a first-year teacher, you finally get to put your passion and practice into place. You’ll experience the incredible joys of teaching, but undoubtedly you’ll put a lot of pressure on yourself to make that first year great. Teaching is a hard job. In addition to teaching your classes, there are new policies to learn, meetings to attend, and professional development to consider. The first year as a certified teacher can be intimidating, but there are some steps you can take to make it less overwhelming. Here are a few tips to make life manageable in that amazing first year.
Remember: You Are Not Alone
Every one of your colleagues has been where you are as a first-year teacher. Talk to them! Ask how they managed and what has made it easier for them as the years go by. It’s okay to admit that you’re overwhelmed, and your colleagues will help. Whether you need a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board for a lesson plan, or someone to share your successes with, knowing that you are not alone in this endeavor is one of the most important things you can remember.
Use Your Resources!
This comes back to colleagues, too. While you will have curriculum you are expected to teach and tests you are expected to prepare, you may run into subject matter you’ve never taught before. Chat with your colleagues and ask what’s worked for them and if they have any samples they’d be willing to share. Reinventing the wheel can unnecessarily burn you out. Instead, find the wheels that already exist and adapt them to fit your needs.
Other resources may include technology or supplies your school has for your use. Try using new technology, or find a stack of novels in the book closet that no one’s taught, and see what you can do with them. A great tip for new teachers is to look online and see if there are lesson plans or sample assignments that you can adapt.
You’ll also need to be prepared to teach in remote environments. Check out these tips from our Field Placement Faculty to help you facilitate strong virtual learning experiences while maintaining work-life balance. Be sure to ask your colleagues what virtual learning strategies have worked best for them, too.
It’s Okay to Admit Something Didn’t Work
Every student is different; every year will be different. Sometimes our grand plans just don’t work out the way we’d envisioned. This is perfectly normal! If something worked out, great! If not, don’t beat yourself up or consider it a failure. Look at the experience analytically, rather than emotionally. Analyze why it didn’t work, and what you can apply going forward with similar types of lessons or activities.
Take Time for Yourself
As a first-year teacher it may feel like things are piling up faster than you can check them off your never-ending to-do list. You might think that it’s easier to wolf down lunch in your classroom so you can grade a few more tests. Or maybe you’re taking home piles of work home every night to have them turned back to your students the next day. It’s important to remember the value of having a boundary between your school life and your home life. Teachers are superhuman, but there’s still that “human” in there. Lack of boundaries can lead to burnout, and a career you had looked forward to can become something you dread.
Be Optimistic, But Realistic
One of the most important tips for new teachers to know is that there will be hard days, but there will be amazing days when you leave school (probably with a bag full of work to correct) knowing why you chose and love this career. Remember you are human and to be kind to yourself, and always know that you aren’t in this alone. You are just one person, but you are one of many who have dedicated themselves to teaching, inspiring, and caring about the next generation.
This blog was originally published in January 2018 and was updated to reflect emerging trends and best practices.