Back to school season is upon us and I always take a little time to reflect back on my first year teaching during this time. I remember being a brand new teacher, fresh out of college, about to teach in my first classroom by myself. It was an exciting time, but also a nerve-wracking and stressful time. To help ease that stress for new or newer teachers I decided to write down a few words of advice….
Always Put Your Students First
There’s a lot coming at you your first year teaching and when teaching in general. One of the biggest things I can recommend (and this will stand for every year that you’re a teacher) is that your ultimate goal every year is to put your students first. You will have people telling you what to do and offering all kinds of advice about how to handle kids, ways to teach lessons, dealing with parents, etc. But, at the end of the day you are the teacher in YOUR classroom. YOU know your students best. Remember that and keep your students at the forefront of everything.
Now with that, I’m not saying don’t listen to administration, your school district, and your colleagues, but you know your students. You know them better than anyone else and that is what matters. Your goal teaching needs to be engaging your students and making school a fun place for them to learn and grow.
Your To Do List Will Never Be Done
As a new teacher, my first year, I was literally staying at school until 7 or 8 o’clock every night for the first few weeks. I left every night exhausted and I left every night with that to do list not done. It was driving me crazy! I thought to be a successful teacher that I had to cross everything off on my list. But in all reality that to do list is never going to be done. And I don’t mean to make that sound negative.
Teachers will always have a billion things to do and that to do list will always be growing. It’s ok to not stay until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. Don’t even stay until 6 o’clock at night. That to do list will still be there tomorrow. Prioritize and get done what needs to be done, but then go home and take care of yourself.
Learn from Your Colleagues
I’ve recently seen the Memes (like the one below) about the best PD being down the hall and that is so true. When I was a new teacher I was really lucky to be working at a school with veteran teachers who knew how to engage students and also how to mentor a new teacher. I’m so grateful for that amazing start to my teaching career.
One of the best things I can recommend for new teachers is to not be afraid to ask for help and to learn from those around you. Ask to go in and observe your colleague’s classrooms. Ask them for advice on how to teach a specific skill or a lesson. Ask them to help you out with managing paperwork and parent/teacher conferences. You will find a wealth of knowledge in your school building and it’s important for you to tap into that.
On that note as well, invite people in to your classroom and speak up with your ideas too. New teachers have valuable ideas to share and can bring a spark of energy to a school and a team. Don’t be shy!
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
One of the biggest things as a new teacher is to try not to compare yourself to other teachers. What we see on Pinterest and what we see on Instagram and on blogs is everyone’s highlight reel. As Rachel Hollis says, “Comparison is the death of all joy, and the only person you need to be better than is the one you were yesterday.”
Her quote stands true in life and with teaching. Teachers – new and older do not need to be comparing themselves to anything they see on social media or even the teacher down the hall. We all have different strengths to celebrate and bring to the table and it’s important that the only comparison you’re making is with yourself. Don’t feel like you need to buy all the decor or try all of the teacher hacks. You be you and just try to be a better teacher than you were the day before.
Take Care of Yourself
Now the last one is a big hot topic right now. This goes for teachers who are new to teaching and teachers who have been teaching 30+ years – self care is important.
I am someone who tends to put other people first as do most teachers, which then means I’m last. I’m not saying abandon your duties or not do what you’re supposed to be doing, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Do things for you outside of school that will provide you with the rest and relaxation that you need. Teaching is a tough job and requires a lot of time and effort. It’s important not to lose yourself in that.
So for you that might look like working out, painting, going out with your friends for lunch, reading a book, working out, or going to the pool. Whatever your self-care is make sure you continue doing it even when you’re super busy teaching. You will be a better teacher if you are rested, relaxed, and have taken care of yourself.
So those are a few pieces of advice I have for new/newer teachers. I have been teaching now 13 years and am still working on following some of this same advice! It’s easier said than done! If you are a new/er teacher and have any comments, questions, or just need to chat – feel free to email me. We’re all in this crazy world of education together!