Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of firsts- first year of teaching, first (and second) babies, first wedding (kidding!)… and throughout all of it, I’ve come out of each situation thinking, “Gosh- that was TOUGH!” Being a mom-hard. Being a mom of two- hard. Working full time- hard. All of it is hard in one way or another!
So, I thought it would be fun (and maybe beneficial to some) to create a new series called How To Survive for my blog. The aforementioned “tough” situations are just a few of the topics you’ll see covered- so stay tuned!
First up is a big one. Any teachers reading? If so, welcome! If you’re new to teaching or soon to be in the classroom, today’s all about you. This is my third year teaching, and let me tell you, some days I still feel like I’m just surviving, and sometimes barely. But I know that as tough as it is now, the first year is the hardest. Think about it- it’s your first time in a room where you are solely responsible for 20 – 30 little (or big) kids! YOU! JUST YOU! You’ll be in that room with those kiddos for the better part of 8 hours (give or take a lunch break or Specials if you don’t have a meeting) and by the end of the day, you’ll just want to collapse in your rolling chair and fade into oblivion, or eat all the treats out of your candy jar.
BUT, if you keep the following 11 tips in mind, you just might have a chance of making it to Year 2 pretty painlessly!
How to survive your first year of teaching
- Find your people: Whether it’s a work BFF, your teaching partner, your team, or the front desk clerk, find your person or people and stick close together. Through politics, staff meetings, and highs and lows, make sure you have each others’ backs and can be confidants- you’ll need each other.
- Don’t feed in to gossip: Just like with any job, when you mix that many people together, there’s going to be gossip. Add into it parents and students, and you’re bound to get caught up in he said- she said at some point. My advice? Don’t. If you hear someone gossiping, just listen (or don’t) and let that be the end. You never want to be the one to get caught in trouble, so stay far away from the get go.
- Let yourself learn from others: It can be hard to be the new “kid” at work, and most of us want to look good from the get go, which means we want to pretend we know it all. If you’re a new teacher, YOU DON’T. I promise. And that’s ok! Why would you know as much as someone who has been teaching for 20 years?
- Share what you know with others: By the same token, though, don’t just automatically assume that because you are new, you don’t know anything. Believe it or not, you’ll come in with plenty of things to share with your new team, just from the mere fact that you’ve been in school more recently and studying the craft more recently. Most new teachers are also pretty plugged in to technology, which helps bring a new spin to the classroom.
- Don’t get down if you don’t earn the highest ratings your first year: Seriously, don’t. Most first year teachers won’t, and it usually takes more than just being a rockstar teacher to earn those high marks. Once you get a hold of what you are doing, you’ll get there.
- Put in the time to do things right: You’re first year will be hard. You’ll get to understand that there’s a lot more to teaching than just behavior charts and lesson plans. All the paper work, all the forms, all the conferences, your head will be spinning by September. But if you actually put in the time to do them right, it will significantly cut back on the time it takes to re-do them.
- Don’t volunteer for everything: If you’re like me, you want to get your name out there, let everyone know how great you are, and show what a team player you are. But don’t get so overwhelmed in trying to look awesome that you don’t have time to actually BE awesome. Let yourself shine in the classroom, where it really matters. Spend your time planning killer lessons for your kids, developing your classroom management, and building relationships with teachers. Once you’ve got those things down, then you can worry about volunteering
- Get a classroom management plan that works: Honestly, this is something I still struggle with almost three years later. I really like ClassDojo (and all first year teachers should check it out!) but there are so many ideas out there, from a class economy, to color charts with clips, and more, so be sure to find something that fits, share it with parents so you have their support, and then STICK to it! Make the kids know you are serious!
- Be flexible: Teaching, in general, is ALL about flexibility. Even throughout the day I find myself having to be flexible, if a lesson was too long or too short, if my kids weren’t engaged, or for whatever other reason. As a new teacher, it’s easy to want to stick to the plan, but just learning to roll with the punches will make everything so much easier for yourself!
- Keep snacks in your room: This may sound silly, but as a teacher, snacks are LIFE. You never know when they will call an emergency meeting after school, you’ll have a kid miss the bus and you’ll have to stay late, you’re planning is consumed with whatever paperwork is due today, you can’t eat lunch because there’s girl drama that you have to mediate, a kid forgot his lunch AND money- seriously, the reasons you might need snacks are endless, so just get you a couple boxes of granola bars already!
- Be coachable: Sure, you’re fresh out of the classroom, but that doesn’t mean you know it all. I promise. In order to help yourself be successful, you need to be coachable and teachable. It will make you a better teacher, and more likeable if coaches and administrators aren’t having trouble getting you to grow.
Hopefully these tips are helpful to you first year teachers, and I’d love to hear what other advice teachers would give! Leave a comment with your best advice for surviving your first year of teaching below and I’ll be happy to update the list!