I remember it like it was yesterday. I will always remember my first day of teaching. I can still see the looks on the faces of the students in the first class that I ever taught. They looked scared. I know I was terrified.
Oh, yeah. Did I tell you that was the worst school year of my life?
Sorry, I left that part out.
Eight years of teaching down, and I can look back on that fateful first day of teaching and laugh. I was fresh out of university and I thought I had all the answers.
Sit down. Be humble.
I graduated in December of that year, so I didn’t get to start with a brand new class and a brand new school year. I received a group of students who already had six teachers before me. They proudly told me how they ran the other teacher off because they were “bad.”
That school year kicked my butt big time! I cried many nights. I probably told my parents every other week that I wanted to quit. I felt like I was a terrible teacher.
Reflecting on that fateful first year, I now realize that I put too much pressure on myself.
Why did I need to be the greatest teacher ever during my first year?
Maybe I thought that because I had just graduated from college and did a half-year of student teaching that I should be killing it.
In my opinion, teaching is something you never truly master. Yeah, you’ll get to that point where you’ve hit your stride, but you learn more and more with each passing year that you teach. What’s more, the field of education is constantly changing. I defy anyone who says they have mastered teaching. I don’t care what your credentials say. I have a masters degree in education, and I haven’t mastered anything yet. I think I’m really, really good at it…but master?? Nah.
Anyway, I should have never put so much pressure on myself as a new teacher. Sure, I didn’t get most things right during my first year of teaching, but I made an impact on my students whether I knew it or not.
And guess what!
I learned so much that first year. I came back the next year on a mission, and I crushed it. I did a lot of self-reflection and fixed some of the things that challenged me from that first year.
Let me give some encouraging words to those who are thinking about becoming an educator, those who are finishing up college to enter the workforce, or those who are getting ready to begin their first year in the classroom.
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#1: You will not be a pro-teacher your first year, but you will learn a lot.
Your first year will be full of ups and downs as you learn how to become a great educator. With each passing year, I felt like I was that much better of a teacher. I don’t even feel like I hit my stride until my 5th year. Why? Because teaching is such a complex task and you improve though your experiences.
#2: Mistakes are okay.
This bit of advice is easier said than done. It is so easy to try to be perfect during your first year. You’re going to trip and fall many times. As long as you get back up, you’ll be okay. As I previously stated, with each mistake you will become that much better of a teacher as you learn from your mistakes.
#3: Find a mentor teacher and pick their brain (if they let you).
Find a teacher perhaps in your grade level or just in your school that has many years of teaching experience under their belt. Build a rapport with them and then ask them everything! They will be a useful resource when you need advice on how to handle a student with behavior issues. They can give you suggestions when you’re having a hard time teaching a difficult concept. They might even save you from making some of the mistakes they made when they started teaching.
#4: Find other first-year teachers and connect with them.
When I began my teaching career, my district had a special program for new teachers. I met with fellow new teachers once a month and we had comfortable, informal discussions about how things were going in our teaching careers. Even if your district does not provide this opportunity, try to find other new teachers in your school who you can cry with and drink wine with on Friday evenings after a long week talk with on a regular basis. Iron sharpens iron. As you move through the school year, you can build each other up and improve your teaching.
#5: Enjoy your students.
I know this might sound weird, but it is so easy to be focused on doing your job that you forget to get to know your students and have fun with them. Sometimes you need to pause the work and do a brain break where you dance with your students. During my first year of teaching, I don’t think I ever smiled (sorry kids). I was so worried about following this rule and that rule and doing things correctly. I never really had fun with them like I should have. Your students will always remember you. Teach them all they need to know while showing them that you truly care.
So first-year teacher, you’ve got this! Keep these tips near and dear to your heart. Don’t try to be perfect. Let the mistakes happen because you’ll learn from them. Diamonds are made under pressure. Remember that!
- CALLING ALL FIRST AND SECOND GRADE TEACHERS! Join me and a great group of other fabulous 1st and 2nd grade teachers in my Facebook group, Taming First & Second Grade. We have great discussions and you can gain some much needed inspiration.
- I’ll also be posting this blog topic on my Instagram and Facebook page.
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