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First-Year Teachers: 6 Tips to Survive and Thrive

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 -- Brittany Becker

To all of the new teachers - you’ve done it! You landed your first teaching job. With all of the excitement around this, those pesky unsettling thoughts will still find a way to creep in. Will you lose control over your classroom? Will your bomb your evaluations? Will you forget how to solve a math problem in front of all 20-some of your students!? The answer to these questions in short—yes, you will. But, it’s going to be ok, you’re going to learn from it, and you’ll have plenty of rock star moments too!

Throughout your educational experiences preparing you for the classroom, most instructors will not mention that your first year in the classroom is going to be a long one. In the process though, you’re going to succeed in ways you’ve never imagined. It’s going to be maddening, exhausting, and exhilarating all wrapped into one. You’re not going to just survive this year—you’re going to thrive.

To start the year off on the right foot, it’s important to know what to expect. As someone who isn’t too far removed from her first year of teaching, I’d like to point out six things to keep in mind during your first year in the classroom.

1. Before you even THINK about lesson planning, figure out how you want your classroom to run.

Classroom management is incredibly important, and the style you choose will set an example to your students for how each day in your classroom will look. How do you want students to enter and exit the room? Do you want a procedure for how students will volunteer to talk (believe me, you do!)? Seating charts? Will you have community or individual school supplies? All of these logistical questions need to be considered before you meet a single student. Procedures help your classroom to run smoothly so you can focus on what you’re really there for—to be a phenomenal teacher!

2. Find a mentor, and ask questions.

Teaching isn’t about reinventing the wheel and coming up with new, never-before-seen lesson plans. Some of the best lessons I ever taught were ones I learned from my mentor in that first year. Veteran teachers are your best resource during the first year, so don’t expect to jump right in alone. Ask to observe, plan lessons together, and just chat about what’s happening in education. Most important—don’t be afraid to ask questions!

3. Always have a clear focus for what your students are expected to learn in each lesson.

Setting a specific intention for each lesson keeps your teaching on track. It’s even better to have the day’s goal posted somewhere at the start of class. This not only gives your students an idea of what the purpose of their learning will be that day, but it will give anyone who walks in your classroom during the lesson an idea as well. And, did I mention this tends to score you points on evaluations?

4. School is not Fashion Week in the big city

The internet may be trying to fool us all with articles highlighting designer items that can go straight from runway to classroom, but let me be the first to say this is not the case. You are going to be sneezed on, spilled on, pulled on, etc. Your best bet is to go for comfortable, yet neat and appropriate. Your best teaching will come easier in flats and pants that have pockets to store the toy you just confiscated.

5. Build a tight knit community

Relationships within the classroom walls are what will allow you to power through challenging times. However, this doesn’t mean you’re there just to be your students’ friend. Creating a warm and welcoming environment, while also being the responsible and “in-charge” adult will allow your students to feel safe, and in turn exhibit better behavior. A true community environment will lead to a happy and successful classroom.

6. Don’t forget to take care of yourself

This is one many first year teachers neglect! Teachers have a tendency to be natural perfectionists and want to excel with flying colors during the first year. Lots of new teachers end up spending incredible amounts of time planning, creating, grading, and researching, on top of attending to regular teaching duties each day. Allowing yourself to get burnt out will come very quickly if this is the case. Take time each week to be aware of what you need to stay happy and healthy. Exercise, cook healthy meals, read, binge on Netflix, make plans with friends and coworkers, take long bubble baths—whatever you chose, do something for YOU.

While this is no all-inclusive list, it’s a start for anyone new to the classroom. Above all, don’t forget to take a step back and cherish these moments. You will never forget your first set of students that you had all on your own, and they will never forget you. Your first year, while a whirlwind of emotions, is a magical one. Go do what you were made to do – TEACH!

Looking for some creative strategies to try in your first classroom? Check out these 21 tips, tricks, and ideas for educators to put technology to use!