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Tips for New Teachers: How to Get Over the First-Year Hump

Monday, October 9, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

For first-year teachers, this time around mid-October tends to be when the excitement and novelty of the classroom starts to wear off, being replaced by the realization that there’s still more than six months left of the school year. And that six months can seem like years, especially for rookie teachers whose school year got off to a difficult start. If you find yourself in this position, take a breath—the first year really is the hardest. Then, try these four simple strategies to survive and thrive in the classroom!

Observe an inspiring colleague at work

It can be tempting to hole yourself up in your classroom during your planning period, decompressing and enjoying a few rare moments of quiet. But the more you do that, the more detached you become as an educator.

Instead, try to spend at least one planning period a week observing a colleague's class. If you have a mentor, they’re a great person to start with; just be sure to observe a class that will inspire you rather than further overwhelm or confuse you. And of course, get permission from the teacher beforehand.

Buy into holiday celebrations

For lots of veteran teachers, the school year speeds up right around October, because the holidays are always on the horizon. Just when it’s time to take down the Halloween decor, the Thanksgiving turkeys can go up, and after that, the winter holiday break is just around the corner.

As a newbie teacher, you can cultivate this holiday excitement by going overboard on your plans to celebrate in the classroom. For example, come up with a great Halloween costume that will get a laugh out of your students, or plan a group activity on gratitude to celebrate Thanksgiving. Small distractions like this can get your mind off your pile of papers to grade and break up the typical classroom routine.

Reconnect with your fellow first-year teachers

At least in my experience, after the school year started, I barely saw my other first-year colleagues. Instead, my time was spent on my own lesson planning and grading, or working with veteran teachers for various reasons. Make it a priority to get together with the other rookies for lunch or a happy hour on a regular basis. You can compare notes on how the year is going, and share favorite teaching strategies you’ve discovered. Plus, you’ll get to see that there are other people in your same position—and make some new friends in the process.

Experiment with the curriculum

Oftentimes, first-year teachers are afraid to deviate from the standard curriculum and pacing guide. If that’s the case for you, this is the time when you may be finding that the content has become stale. Don’t be afraid to study and then attempt new classroom strategies. Maybe flip your classroom for a week to see how it works, or implement a station-rotation approach. Try out a new online program, or find new ways to leverage the technology you already have. There are too many cool things going on in education for anything to get stale.

Looking for more inspiration to expand your teaching practice, and figure out a style that works for you? Check out these 21 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas Every 21st Century Teacher Should Try!