Stepping into a classroom you can call your own on your first day in a new job comes with a wave of emotions! There’s excitement, fear, optimism, and uncertainty, to name a few.
As an educator, you are always evolving and learning, but the amount you will learn in your first year is mountainous, and your colleagues know that. As you start the school year, remember that your team is so excited to have you on board, and each of them remembers their first year and wants to ensure that you share the best experience possible. There will be good days and bad, but if you set yourself up for success, we hope you will be one step ahead.
This post provides advice from current teachers, admins, and lifelong educators to help motivate and inspire first-year teachers( This post is also a great reminder for “veterans” as a resource to help guide and mentor those entering our schools.)
Words of Advice for New Teachers
Get to Know Your Colleagues
Find ways to take advantage of social gatherings for teachers. These connections and the time spent getting to know colleagues outside staff meetings are precious.
While you should listen more than you share, you should never be afraid to speak up during meetings, collaborate openly, and work with all staff as equals regardless of how many years they or you have been teaching.
Find a Mentor(s)
When settling into a new role - having a mentor is key. Many schools provide mentors, so if your school does, take advantage of this relationship. But also be sure to seek additional mentors or find one of your own if your school doesn’t assign one. The relationship doesn’t have to be an official one. Even if the person you choose doesn’t know you see them as a mentor, that doesn’t mean there isn't anything to learn from them and their craft. It is great to seek advice from administrators and also someone from another team or department to further broaden your learning.
Dump the Comparison Trap
It's so easy for a new teacher to compare their classroom to that of their colleagues, for example: “my classroom isn't a Pinterest showcase,” or “my students aren't behaving and aren’t as academically advancing as other colleagues' students are.” So what if your room looks like a hot mess, where you are barely hanging on while theirs runs like a well-oiled machine. Remember, you are still learning and it took years for your colleagues to figure it out.
So, be patient with yourself, focus on your strengths, embrace mistakes with your students as learning experiences, be vulnerable and ask for help. Cultivate a learning environment where all students are empowered as you hear their voices and give them choice and CELEBRATE the small wins throughout your day with your students.
Concentrate on Your Students More Than the Curriculum
Being flexible enough to adapt your teaching to fit the needs of your students is sticking to the overall curriculum goal of enriching student learning! So don’t be afraid to focus on your students' needs when adhering to the curriculum. Remember, each of them has a beautiful, unique brain and is capable of learning and growth. So set those expectations high, communicate your expectations with your students, and see how they thrive and make progress.
Set Firm Goals but Allow for Flexible Means
We all have a curriculum to follow and standards to meet. We all have some sort of a schedule to follow, but that should not prevent us from giving our students a voice in what we are doing or a choice in how to do it. Many goals can be accomplished in more than one way. Providing choice will not only make the learning process more enjoyable for your students, it will also make it more interesting and rewarding. Just ensure that the choices you offer still allow students to meet the goal.
Allow Your Students to be Partners in the Creation of Each Day
No one likes to be told what to do day in and day out! Asking your students about how they would like to learn is not an abdication of authority in your room but a show of confidence in your students' abilities.
Seek to create a work-life balance
There is no doubt that there will be a lot to do and a lot to plan. However, nobody wins if you are burnt out by the end of your second week. So, be reasonable with yourself, plan creatively, use your colleagues and mentors and give yourself time to relax and refresh. Having grace with yourself will allow you to push through for the long haul. You will be a better teacher for it.
Remember Why You’re Here
There’s a lot to learn, and that will come. Focus on what brought you to this field, your love of kids, and you’ll go far!
Thanks to Lisa Bosio, Chris Bronke, Jeff Horwitz, Tom Thibodeau, and Mike Woodlock for sharing your experience and advice for new teachers.
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