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First Year Teacher

Compiled By: Editor

Tips for surviving your first year of teaching

First year
Posted by: A first year survivor

The reality is, your first year will be hard. With few exceptions, those who tell you they're having a good first year are lying. I know I lied during my first year when people would ask, "So, how's teaching?" I didn't want to seem negative, so I would just say, "Great." The thing is, everyone warns you before you start that the first year will be difficult, and that you just have to get through it. But somehow you don't really believe it until you see it for yourself. And you think it's going to be difficult because you put in a lot of hours or because you're unfamiliar with the school ... but the difficulty runs much deeper than that. It's learning to deal with the stark realities of classroom management, diversity of abilities, and school politiics. Also I think it's difficult to build up that "teacher stamina," which requires you to stand up in front of a (sometimes hyper) class and teach energetic lessons and then spend hours grading papers and planning more lessons ... five days a week and sometimes on the weekends.

Although this is only my second year of teaching, I will tell you that the rewards of teaching are not instant, but come with time. Before I started I expected to be gratified each day at work as I guided young minds toward enlightenment. Although there are those extremely rewarding moments, my first year I would say that there definitely weren't enough of those to keep me going. But this year I feel so much more rewarded as I see my former students. They yell hello to you during recess, or run up to you and give you a hug. They come in and volunteer to work for you during lunch. And there they are, those kids who suffered with you through the greatest emotional rollercoaster of your life, who you felt like you must be warping for life as you fumbled to convince them that you were a good teacher ... and they still regard you as that caring friend who made a difference in their lives (even the ones who were always in trouble).

So it turns out that people were right—you do just have to get through your first year before you can have a really good teaching experience. When I was going through my first year I thought that either I wasn't going to survive, or that, even if I did, things would never really get better. But thankfully I was wrong. I am now in a really great situation and I love coming to work—and maybe, just maybe I actually am having those gratifying moments I always dreamed of when I was getting my credential.

first year
Posted by: Mary

Man, the first year of teaching is really, really tough. I feel for you. I teach sixth grade language arts and in each of my classes, I have reading levels that range from second grade to ninth grade. I differentiate like crazy. It's like that all over. Also, the paperwork and meetings and just general crap are everywhere, too. I would like to encourage you to rethink your decision, though. The poster above was right, you sound like a wonderful teacher, and I promise, promise, promise you, IT GETS EASIER. The stuff that's giving you headaches this year won't go away, but everything is easier the second year and nothing will take you as long to complete next year as it's taking you this year. You will also learn to pick your battles, learn what in your mailbox can be thrown away, etc. The second year is truly like a whole different job. I'm in my third year now, and I love it. Yes, there are days I come home and I've had it up to HERE with eleven-year-old boys. There are days that I think my administrators should be slapped. But there are also wonderful moments, times that a parent tells you that your passion has turned their child around, and you see it, too. I love my job when I'm sitting in front of my plan book and I realize that I'm the one who gets to decide what I'm doing almost every day. I decide how I'm going to do it, too. I spent 23 years in business, and even with administrators and NCLB and district mandates, this job has far, far more autonomy. I don't think I could ever go back to working in a situation in which I was told what to do on a daily basis, where I didn't decide every aspect of my job, the sequence of events and their pacing, EVEN THE TEMPERATURE IN MY ROOM. Man, I never knew I was such a control freak until I became a teacher!

Please rethink this decision. Our profession needs wonderful teachers like you. You will feel much better in your second, and subsequent, years. Oh, and the best part of teaching? You already named it; it's the kids. In this job, I get to laugh out loud all day long!

1st year
Posted by: Alicia

Here's my advice as a teacher who has almost completed year one!

1)Make one of your desk drawers a "personal drawer" Make sure you have: snacks for any late nights or mid day snacks, IBUPROFEN for those headaches/cramps, tampons, hairbrush, hair spray, breath mints, change for the pop machine, mouth wash, chapstick, band aids, etc.
2)Be organized-have a place for everything. If students need to turn in assignments, notes from parents, etc, have a place for this (mine is a plastic bin). Don't tell them to "set it on my desk". If you do this everyday for every student, you won't be able to see your desk.
3)Plan as far ahead as you can but be flexible to change it.
4)Keep a calendar/daily planner-if I lost mine I'd be lost forever. Immediately write down important dates (meetings, workshops, conferences). I get a ton of e-mails everyday regarding dates for different things. I keep my planner open and immediately write it down.
5)Post-its will be your best friend. If I need to leave myself a reminder as I'm running out the door after school, I write it on a post-it and stick it to my computer screen. It's right there and there's no way I can forget when I get their in the morning.
6)Know that you will change your routine throughout the school year. I just made another change today, and the year is almost done!
7)Ask for help when you need it, borrow materials and ideas from other teachers if they're willing to share, show your appreciation to all who help you.
8)Keep copies of your lesson plans-I'm required to turn mine in at the end of the year. You may want to keep a copy for your files too. If you teach the same grade next year it might be helpful to look back.
9)I make a point of leaving ON TIME at least two times per week if not more. I usually pick one night to stay later. You don't live at school, it's your job. I like this quote "I work to live, not live to work". Remember that!
10)Delegate jobs if you can. If you have paras who are willing to help, parent volunteers, high school volunteers. Ask for help. They can do some correcting, photo copying, bulletin boards, etc. I'm the type of person who likes to do things myself, but I'm working on letting that go.
11)Get rid of what you don't need. It's amazing how quickly papers and things can pile up.
12)Stay up on correcting assignments. If you get behing it's tough to catch up. I teach 4th grade and have correcting to do everyday. If you get behind, it's okay to throw out a few papers here and there instead or correcting them and handing them back. I've done that before and no one as ever noticed.
13)Remember what matters...your students learning and your sanity! Don't worry about all the fru-fru fluffy stuff that looks cute but has no impact on student learning. Chances are it won't be noticed anyways. A classroom can still look nice and welcoming without the fluff.
14)Take time for yourself. Let the weekends be yours. Sometimes I bring work home on the weekends, but I save it for Sunday evening or a time when I don't have anything going on. I bring home only what I NEED to get done for Monday and couldn't do on Friday. Taking time for yourself and doing the things you enjoy will make you a better teacher. The balance is important even as a first year teacher.

Good luck!

Posted by: leah

I think that your jitters are normal. Going into a school is an experience you'll never forget. Believe me, those who are natural teachers get the same feelings as you're having. before going into the schools, I totally freaked out. It was then I decided I needed someone to talk to. I'll tell you what my professor told me, "How will you know what it's like if you don't give it a chance." To be successful you only have to do two things-- be on time & do what you say you're going to do. Of course students know when you know what you're talking about, even the best of us have to play it off sometimes. I think you'll be fine.

second year jitters
Posted by: Julianne

Most teachers have some first-day jitters every year, no matter how much experience they have. Teaching is a little like being on stage. You're "on" when you teach and so you are likely to experience the old adrenaline rush when you think about it. A few things you can do to help:

Make a list of the things you need to prepare for the first few days of class. Then check them off as you do them. A fully checked off list will give you visual proof that you are ready.

Aside from the times when you are preparing, try to keep your mind active with other matters. Read a good book (non-school!), go to a movie with friends, bake, whatever.

Every time you find yourself feeling anxious or terrified, practice relaxation techniques. Use Lamaze or anything else you know to relax yourself. Remind yourself that you did it before and you can do it again.

And remember that you are not alone in your feelings. That's why it's nice to share them here.