Being a first-year teacher is exciting and overwhelming. After many years of preparation, you are ready to finally have a classroom of your own and to all that you have learned.
The first year of teaching can be challenging, but there are some things you can do to ensure you (and your students) have a great year!
- Classroom Management
Have a clear classroom management system in place BEFORE your students arrive. Give students clear expectations and consequences if they do not meet those expectations. Remember to keep your expectations and rewards/consequences appropriate for the grade level you are teaching. Ensure that parents also understand your expectations and partner with them.
Parents can be your greatest partner or a difficult obstacle. That is up to you! Even when parents are difficult, remember that you both want the same thing, which is their child to be happy and successful. Partner WITH parents to make this goal happen and communicate with them often.
- Plan. Plan.
The number one enemy of a teacher is unfilled time. Not only is it a waste of valuable instructional time, but it also can easily breed misbehavior in bored students. Always plan too much to do. You can move the excess to the next day and you won’t risk a classroom of kids bouncing off the walls.
- Ask for help.
Your school should assign you a mentor teacher. This is someone with three or more years of successful teaching experience. Use them! Ask them questions, invite them to observe you and observe them. They will be a great resource for you. If your school doesn’t assign you a mentor, then ask for one. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to other teachers for help. All teachers were first year teachers at one time and they should be willing to help! One day, be sure to repay the favor to a first year teacher.
- Get organized.
Spend some time in your room before the school starts organizing and decorating. Make sure your room is clean and inviting. An organized classroom will help you feel more prepared, will make students feel comfortable and will ensure parents that you are competent and in charge. Ask your principal how much time you will have in your room before workdays begin. Workdays are often filled with meetings and workshops, so you may not have as much time as you expect!
- Be nice….but not too nice.
It goes without saying that you should be nice to your students. Get to know them. Be fair. Support them in their struggles. Do not be their friend. It can be difficult not to become overly friendly with your students, especially if you aren’t much younger than them (i.e. an 18 year old senior and a 21 year old recent college graduate). Students need a teacher that is in charge and that it isn’t possible when they view you as a friend. Keep the boundaries clear, while still being a great support system for them.
- Learn your standards.
Spend a lot of time learning the standards that you will be responsible for teaching. Every lesson and activity you teach should be anchored in the standards. Remember to be flexible. Standards often change and you need to be prepared to change with them!
- Beware of social media.
It can be tempting to write about a difficult student, parent, co-worker or day on your Facebook or Twitter. Don’t do it! Just like we teach our students, once you post something online it is out there forever. Whether it is fair or not, teachers are sometimes held to a different standard than other professionals in regards to their social decisions. Find a trusted friend or family member to vent to and keep it off the internet!
- Befriend your school helpers.
It should go without saying that you should be polite and courteous to all of your co-workers, but spend extra time and attention in the way you treat the office staff and the janitor. The office staff are the heartbeat of the school. They are busy, overwhelmed and underpaid (yes, even more underpaid than you!). Treat them extra well because you will need them often. Same goes with the janitor. That is probably the most underappreciated (and gross) job at any school. Be sure to thank them for their hard work and bring them a treat for their birthday! A little kindness goes a long way.
- Take care of yourself.
Teaching is a difficult job and the first year will be one of your most trying. Wash your hands regularly and get plenty of rest. You might get sick often during the first few years while your body builds up an immunity to all of the germs the students bring. Take a mental health day when you need it. Write in a journal. Get some exercise. Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You won’t succeed in all you do and some days you will wonder why you even chose this career. Keep trying every day and remember the impact you are having on those kids! You don’t have to be a perfect teacher to be a great one!
Oggiono, Ilmicrofono. (Jan 29, 2014). Students in Class with Teacher Reading [photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/115089924@N02/12212474014.