Dear New Teacher,
As a new teacher, you have heard stories about the first years. Yes, it can be tough at times, but most importantly, it's worthwhile! You must live it to learn it. It won't be easy. You will have difficult times. You will need to go through the process in order to learn best practices that fit your learners, environment, and style. But remember these eight truths:
1. Expectations may not always hold true, but that isn’t all bad.
The reality is that those expectations don't always hold true, and guess what? That's OK! You will look back and realize those expectations that didn't pan out were great learning experiences.
· It's ok to have fun with the kids
· Be yourself
· Kids need YOU to be YOU!
· It's OK to change what you are doing if it is right for your students
2. Disappointments happen but stay positive and reflective.
No matter if you feel you have let your students down, or if something happens outside of your control, stay positive and receptive. Own your mistakes. We ALL make the, it is part of life. Don't let your failure and disappointment define who you are as a teacher and person. Focus on the positive.
If you cannot admit you are flawed, then how are you supposed to grow as a teacher of impact? Reflection is your most effective resource to bounce back from a disappointing experience and to remember those #edumagic moments! You are going to do great things, too, and they need to be remembered as well. Use a planner, lesson plans, journal, etc., and write down improvements for next time.
3. You are unstoppable.
It is inevitable that the "emotional roller-coaster" is a ride that everyone experiences when entering the profession of teaching. Teachers feel responsible for students' baggage, which is something college could not prepare you for. These are the situations that will catch you off guard and will be a struggle to deal with. Know you are doing your best in these situations. No matter how hard we try, we cannot solve all the world’s problems alone. However, you can still give hope and support to the child. Giving a child a glimpse of hope might help them get through their challenges. the tunnel. Just listen, do your best, and remember that you are trying and that’s all that matters. You may be that child’s only resource or trusted adult.
You have a degree or diploma, but you haven't stopped learning. Personal and professional growth is essential for you to become an educator of excellence. There are so many ways for you to engage in professional development. For example events at your school or school district, listening to podcasts, attending webinars from simple k12 or edweb, reading articles from Edutopia, EdWeek, or Chronicle of Higher Ed.
Finding ways for you to hone in on your craft and become better and better each day is what our kids deserve. For example, I went back to school while I was teaching and that was tough. Before going back to school, I had a clear understanding of why I'm going back. I'm going to be a better teacher and invest in myself. I was able to reach my students in new ways by learning more techniques and honing in on a specific area that I'm passionate about. It was neat going back to school for my Master of Education because I was able to incorporate what I learned directly into the classroom right away. Bonus tip: sometimes depending on the school district that you're in may help pay your way a little bit.
Remember just because you get a diploma or degree doesn't mean you're learning stops. It shouldn't stop you should always be continuing to learn.
4. You will make it all work.
There's a lot to figure out and pull together during the first years of teaching. Have faith, my friend. It'll all come together. Decide on how to tackle the to-do lists: room set-up, lesson preparation in the first few weeks of school, and weekly preparations. Stay on track with your plan and manage your time wisely. Time management is essential to creating a healthy balance between work and personal life.
Either stay late or go or go in early and don't do both. Whenever I was a first-year teacher I would be in at 7:00 am I think school started at 7:45 am and I would leave at like 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM. Friends, please don't do that - pick one or the other. You don't want to burn out. By choosing one or the other then you're making time for relationships and you're making time for yourself as well. Bonus tip: When you go into school choose what you're going to work on for that time and prioritize your list of things you need to do and get them done
5. We’re all in this together.
Do not take on the mentality of “I must do everything on my OWN!” Instead, think “Teamwork makes the dream work.” It is better to collaborate with others than to take on everything yourself. You will have many questions to ask...so ask them! Find your teacher group. Find the group that stays positive, that support you any way they can, and they are approachable. This teacher group you create will help you get through your first year. They will lift you up, guide you to help your students succeed, and give you advice. We would be lost without our teacher groups!
I am a huge advocate of having a professional learning network. Having a PLN has truly helped me become the professor I am today. I can connect with educators from around the world to find specific strategies and tools that they're using with their students in real classrooms. You can find other episodes related to this topic here
With the support of a network, I can have my future teachers connect with educators from around the world that are currently in the classroom. They're able to see what actual teachers are doing in their classrooms at any time. It has been a game-changer in my class just for them to connect and learn from other people and they're able to bring their experiences into that classroom.
6. Have a plan for getting ready.
Surely you've been pining classroom décor and all the "cute" trends, and can't wait to start. A classroom is more than just decor. Make a list of things to get done (bulletin boards, student desks, back-to-school letters, etc.) Cross things off as they are completed. Stay organized: both for yourself and for your students. How will you keep your things organized? What will the classroom routine look like? How will you keep students organized? Keep your classroom student-centered. Change your thinking from “How can I make my classroom cute?” to “How can I make my classroom functional?”
7. Don’t forget your WHY.
Some days are harder than others and, on those days, you may question why you chose to work in education. These are the days when it is important to stay true to your mission as a teacher, to your purpose for teaching. These are the days that you must hold tight to your people, your words, and your inspiration. Who do you admire? Who comforts you when the going gets tough? What words motivate you? How do you uplift yourself?
8. Check yourself, are you being a bucket filler or dipper?
Words matter. Just like toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube once squeezed out, our words cannot be put back into our mouths after they have been spoken. Try to be aware of what you say and how you say it. Also, stay positive even when others aren’t. Stay positive. Don’t get drawn into negative talk or moods. Stay positive and find your happy place.
New teachers, you are also probably feeling a wide range of emotions as you start this new journey as an educator: overwhelmed, excited, nervous, competent, anxious, ecstatic, etc. All those feelings are normal...part of the new teacher journey. If you enjoyed this post then you are going to love reading more about these tips in-depth in EduMagic Shine On A Guide for New Teachers.
About the Author
Hi! I’m Sam Fecich a professor of education, author, and a huge fan of pumpkin spice lattes (PSL) and listening to Christmas music all year round! I am blessed to be able to do what I love, every single day. Working with pre-service teachers is an honor and it's so exciting to prepare the future generation for an even better future.