It is L day for the A to Z Blogging Challenge! And my L stands for Letter.
Dear First Year Teacher,
Congrats! You are finished jumping through all those hoops the school of education demands that you pass through and you have landed a job! Those are major accomplishments that should be celebrated!!
But you are nervous too!! And overwhelmed. And sometimes, down right afraid!!!
It’s time for me to be honest with you. I cried while driving home every day of my first two weeks of teaching. Yes. So you aren’t the only one! I thought I was going to screw up every kid in my class, and nobody would learn ANYTHING over the course of that school year.
Beginning a teaching job is MUCH different from starting a job in another industry. We work with children, not widgets! If you screw up a widget, it does not require 10 years of psychiatric counseling and does not tell horror stories about “that teacher in such & such grade!!” But children DO!!
Yes, it is a HUGE responsibility. But you can do it and here are a few suggestions so you can survive that first year!
1.Make friends with the custodian and the school secretary!! They KNOW everything!!! Plain and Simple.
2. Find a mentor teacher. I know most districts have a “first year teacher” program and some of them assign mentors, but others do not. If you don’t connect with your mentor or your district doesn’t assign them, find one at your school!!! This is HUGE! I have said it time and time again, I learned MORE from the teacher next door (Erin Bixler) and my mentor (Jan Abbey) teacher in my first year of teaching than I learned in all those years at the school of education!!!
To this day (11 years later), if I have a problem, I will STILL call my mentor teacher and yell “HELP!!!”
3. DO NOT look for your mentor teacher in the Teacher’s Lounge!!!!!!!!!!! As a matter of a fact, STAY OUT of the teachers’ lounge as much as possible for your first year!!!! Honestly, it is a hub of gossip and sharing stories about kids. It doesn’t seem like it at first, but it can be a very negative experience. You may get dragged into the gossip and be labeled as “one of those” teachers!! Or worse, you hear a negative story about a kid you will have next semester or next year, and all of the sudden, you have negative expectations and opinions about aforementioned student!!
Most teachers try VERY hard to keep this from happening, but if often does without you evening realizing. So find another teacher who eats lunch somewhere else, and eat with them!!!
4. STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE- When you start teaching, and are not experienced in classroom management it is IMPERATIVE to have the students’ day PLANNED out where they have NO DOWN TIME. Every minute, every transition is planned, routines are taught and practiced over and over!!
You see, children who are busy are less likely to act up, and cause chaos in your classroom. Also, when your students see that you mean business when it comes to routines, they will respect your structure and boundaries.
I AM NOT saying not to be nice to them, love them, or create relationships with them. You absolutely MUST! But keep your day structured and boundaries in place!! Children (especially smaller ones) thrive in structure! With some students, you will be the most reliable person in their lives, so take it seriously!!
5. Take Care of Yourself—Schools are known for germs!! Even if your custodians keeps your school spotless– trust me– there are GERMS EVERYWHERE!!
Your first year, your immune system won’t be used to all these new germs, so you WILL get sick!! Don’t stress about it. Take sick days, feel better. DON’T drag yourself to school deathly ill. It’s NOT a good look and it spreads more germs!!
6. EMERGENCY SUB PLANS— #5 brings me to this which I STILL struggle with!! I will blame my ADD, but I struggle with putting together a folder that has a full day’s plans in it just in case I am too sick to write sub plans!
When the school year begins, I am so busy planning for the days I WILL be there, I forget to plan for days I WON’T be there, and there is ALWAYS a day EVERY year when I need those emergency sub plans!!!
So do as I say, not as I do (hey I am trying!), and get those plans ready to go at the beginning of the year!!
7. Next Year May NOT be all that MUCH BETTER!—I have had A LOT of teachers tell me their 2nd year teaching was harder than the first. I know, it isn’t something you want to hear, but it is true for some!
You see, the first year, you are busy trying to keep up, maintain “The Look” that you know what you are doing, and you still have that “I am going to CHANGE THE WORLD” mindset— you know it. We all come out of teaching school with it!!!!
But the second year, you actually DO start to know what you are doing, AND you start to realize there are problems with education that you can’t solve. Please DON’T get me wrong, you CAN and WILL make a huge impact on your students, and maybe even change some lives, but you will also get majorly frustrated by some things that you can’t change.
Ok I think I have covered the basics. Teaching is a wild ride of ups and downs, but it IS an incredible journey!!
When I look back on my first year, I wonder how anybody did learn anything!!! 😉 However, they did (by the Grace of God) learn and no one required counseling– at least not that I have heard!!!
Try your best and ALWAYS pay attention!!!