Being a first year teacher comes with a plethora of emotions both good and bad. First year teachers are typically excited, overwhelmed, nervous, anxious, over zealous, and even a little scared. Being a teacher is a rewarding career, but there are times that it can be extremely challenging. Most teachers would agree that the first year is their most difficult, simply because they are not adequately prepared for all that will be thrown at them. There are several things that can make your first year go smoother. The following tips will help you as you begin this journey into this incredible career path.
Arrive Early……Stay Late
No amount of preparation will fully prepare you for the journey you are about to embark on, but it will help. Contrary to popular belief teaching is not an 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. job and this is especially true for a first year teacher. By default, it takes a first year teacher more time to prepare than it will a veteran teacher. If you are not arriving early and staying late on most days, it is likely that you will not be fully prepared for all that is required of you.
Being organized is another key component that can take a lot of time. Organization is essential to being a successful teacher. There are so many variables to account for that if you are not organized, you cannot possibly keep up with everything. Organization and preparation are linked. If you are not organized, it will be difficult to be adequately prepared.
Build Relationships Early and Often
Building healthy relationships will often take a lot of hard work and effort. However, as a teacher it is a vital component if you want to be successful. Relationships must be forged with administrators, faculty and staff members, parents, and students. You will have a different relationship with each of these groups, but each is equally beneficial for you to be an effective teacher.
- Administrators – The key to building a healthy relationship with an administrator is to gain their trust by being a professional in all aspects. Hard work, reliability, dedication, and effective teaching results will help maintain a healthy relationship with your administrators.
- Faculty and Staff Members – All first year teachers should rely upon a veteran teacher or several veteran teachers to assist and guide them through the first year. Having a support system of other teachers is invaluable. It is also essential to forge healthy relationships with all personnel in the school. Each staff member has a particular area of expertise that you will likely need at some point.
- Parents – Parents can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Building a healthy relationship with parents relies on two key factors. The first is that you allow your parents the opportunity to see that your number one goal is to prepare their child academically. The second factor is that you communicate often with each parent through various methods providing them with both positive and negative feedback about their child and what is going on in your classroom.
Don’t Let the Natives Intimidate You
Building healthy relationships with your students is essential. How your students feel about you will impact your overall effectiveness. There is a definite middle ground that a good teacher will find that lies between being too easy or too difficult. Most students love and respect teachers who are consistent, fair, humorous, compassionate, and knowledgeable.
It is critical that you do not worry about being liked or attempt to be their friends. If this is the case, you are only setting yourself up for failure. Students will take advantage of this, and you will never get them back. Instead, start exceptionally strict and then ease off as the year progresses. Things will go much smoother if you use this approach with classroom management.
Experience is the Best Education
Even the best teacher preparation program cannot truly prepare you for everything you will face as a first year teacher. No formal training can replace true on the job experience. Students will often be the true educators throughout the year for the first year teacher. This experience is invaluable, and the lessons learned can drive you to making solid teaching decisions over the course of your career.
Have a Backup Plan
Every first year teacher comes in with their own unique philosophy, plan, and approach to how they are going to teach. Sometimes it can only take a few hours or days for them to realize that they are going to have to make adjustments. Every teacher needs a back up plan when trying something new and for a first year teacher, that means having a back up plan every single day. Nothing is worse than having a significant activity planned and realizing a few minutes into it that it is not going like you expected. Even the most well planned, and organized activity has the possibility of failing. Being prepared to move on to another activity is always an excellent idea.
Immerse Yourself in the Curriculum
Most first year teachers do not have the luxury of being picky with their first job. They have to take what is available and run with it, no matter how comfortable they are with the curriculum. Each grade level will be different, and it is essential that you quickly become an expert in the curriculum that you will be teaching. Great teachers know their required objectives and curriculum inside and out. They also continuously look for methods that will improve how they teach and present that material. Teachers will quickly be discredited by their students if they are unable to explain, model, and demonstrate the material that they are teaching.
Keep a Journal for Reflection
A journal can be a valuable tool for a first year teacher. There is no way that you can remember every important thought or event that happens throughout the year. Writing it down makes it simple to access and review at any point. It is also gratifying to look back and reflect at how far you have come at various points throughout your career.
Keep Lesson Plans, Activities, & Materials
Part of the reason that your first year is so difficult is that you have never had to do lesson plans before. Once they are created it is important that you save a copy and build a portfolio. This portfolio should include your lesson plans, notes, activities, worksheets, quizzes, exams, etc. This will take a lot of extra time that first year, but afterwards you have a terrific teaching tool that will make your job much easier from that point on.
Prepare to be Overwhelmed
It is natural for a first year teacher to hit a wall and be frustrated. Your first year will likely be more demanding than any other year you will teach. There is so much that you have to do to be effective that it will likely at some point become overwhelming. It is necessary to understand that it will improve.
In sports, they talk about the speed of the game being so fast for young players that they are often swallowed up and fail more times than not. However, as time passes, they become comfortable with everything. The speed eventually slows down, and they begin to be consistently successful. The same is true for teachers. The speed will eventually slow down, and that feeling of being overwhelmed will disappear. When this happens you will begin to be more effective.
Year Two = Lessons Learned
Your first year is invaluable. There will be many failures sprinkled with several successes. It is critical that you look at this first year as a learning experience. Take what works and seek to make it better. Throw away what didn’t work and replace it with something new that you believe will. Don’t expect everything you try to work out exactly as you plan. Teaching isn’t easy. It will take hard work, dedication, and experience to be a master teacher. Moving forward the lessons you learned in year one can help propel you to success throughout your career.