You interviewed for your dream job and jumped for joy when you heard you were hired. Now, for the anxiety-filled first year. Third-grade teacher, Jenny Becker, from the Paradise Valley School District shares her tips for a successful year, be it your first or last! You’ve heard the frightening storAug 10, 2018
You interviewed for your dream job and jumped for joy when you heard you were hired. Now, for the anxiety-filled first year. Third-grade teacher, Jenny Becker, from the Paradise Valley School District shares her tips for a successful year, be it your first or last!
You’ve heard the frightening stories and maybe even had a few nightmares yourself (Insert scenes of your alarm not going off on the first day, your shirt being inside out, getting locked out of your classroom… Anyone?). While, yes, this year will be challenging, it might also be one of the most rewarding and memorable phases of your life.
With about five years of teaching under my belt, here are a few reminders to make your first (or any) year your best:
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day. You may have heard this phrase growing up, and that’s because it applies to many situations, including teaching. Remember that your classroom doesn’t have to be perfect on the first day. Spoiler alert: You don’t have to have a month of lesson plans etched out in advance.
Pro Tip: Pick a specific time to leave each day. Complete all that needs to be done for the next day (and anything else you can during your allotted time). Everything else can wait. Making time for yourself to wind down is just as important as what you’re doing at school for the kids.
Ask Questions! If you just finished your student teaching, you might think you have a pretty good idea of what’s expected in the classroom, but this might not be the reality. Maybe you were hired by the school or district you interned for, which will make the transition easier, but perhaps you weren’t. Things run differently at every school, and especially in different districts. I remember being close to tears my first year wondering what all the acronyms meant. Often, I had a question, but I didn’t even know who to ask for the answer! Don’t worry; it’s all a part of starting any new job.
Pro Tip: Embrace ignorance (kind of). It’s OK not to know everything! No one will think you are unprepared because you ask questions. Your principal hired you knowing you are a first-year teacher. Find someone to whom you feel comfortable directing all your questions toward (hopefully a colleague on your team or a school mentor). You’ll be happy you did.
Quit Taking it Personal (Q-TIP). I learned this priceless piece of advice from one of the mentor teachers in my district. Anytime you are having a rough day, just focus on “Q-TIP.” Remember that each child in your classroom has come from a different place—emotionally, physically, culturally, socioeconomically, etc. They have faced a different set of rules and experiences that are unique to them. If a student in your room has an outburst, refuses to listen, says something mean to you, or degrades you or your teaching in any manner, quit taking it personally. The student is not attacking you, but likely attempting to deal with their own experiences.
Pro Tip: Separate yourself from the act and deal with it professionally and calmly. Your students will respect a composed, stern response over one that is emotionally charged and angry. Even better, use the opportunity to build a relationship with more challenging students and their parents. These kiddos need someone stable they can trust.
Don’t Bite off More Than You Can Chew. You’ll be eager to get involved your first year of teaching. It’s a great way to build your resume and get to know other teachers, but also you might be afraid to tell anyone “no.” First, get familiarized with the curriculum, school, and staff members. Don’t burn the candle at both ends if you’re not ready for it.
Pro Tip: Get involved where you feel comfortable and where your passion percolates. Maybe that means being on a creative committee for a family reading night or taking the lead on school shirts for your staff. Whatever you choose, don’t take on too much! You’ll feel less stressed (and earn more respect) if you’re able to follow through on all of your commitments.
Take Care of Yourself, Too. This may seem obvious, but it’s imperative, and something most teachers forget. We care so much about our students that often it’s easy to forget about ourselves. Make sure to take the time to focus on yourself. This could be a meditation class, some other form of exercise, eating nutritious foods, or making sure not to lose your favorite hobby. Bonus points if you start a new one!
Pro Tip: When you think about skipping the gym or opting out of a moment of self-care, remember you are one of the most important adult role models for your students. Believe it or not, a lot of them may want to be just like you. Modeling a positive attitude by staying refreshed, happy, and healthy is one of the best things you can do. Think of it is as a teachable moment for your students.
When you finish your first year, you’ll have your own set of tips to share. This year, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry (both happy and sad tears), and you’ll absolutely remember this group of students forever. Even on the hardest days, take comfort knowing you are making a difference in the lives of your kiddos. It’s a feeling that money can’t buy.