Congratulations on making it through college and your credential program! I know that you’re going to be a fabulous teacher and really change the lives of kids in a positive way.
Also, high five for landing your first teaching job! As your future self, I want to give you some friendly advice for the first year.
Everything you learned in your credential program won’t seem useful – at first.
Okay, not EVERYTHING. But most of us seasoned teachers agree that it’s a lot of theory, and your well-intentioned professors didn’t quite prepare you to apply it to the real world. Ironically, the REAL education begins with your first few years of teaching! Keep copious notes (someday soon you should probably start a blog!) of what did and didn’t work, and go with your gut instinct. After having a few years under your belt, you’ll be able to compare what you experienced in the classroom to what you learned in your credential program.
As a first year teacher, you’re not going to be very good, and that’s okay.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being an instant success. While school and education came easily to you, teaching is a whole different monster. It’s just like starting a new relationship – yes, you’ve dated before, but it took some time for you to get to the point where you could predict the other person’s thoughts and actions! The same applies to your students – it will take some time for you to see the patterns and predict (and plan) for what they can and aren’t ready to do. Give yourself a break.
You may see other first year teachers acting like they’ve got it down. Honestly, they’re either 1) putting up a facade, or 2) full of crap. NOBODY has it down right away. Don’t let their delusions of grandeur and success make you doubt your potential. At this point in your career, humility and grace will get your far.
Read my lips: ASK FOR HELP.
Why don’t new teachers ask for help? Often? It’s so silly to think that you know everything, and even sillier to act like it!
Seasoned teachers WANT to help you. They may not have the time to come to you and offer it, but rest assured that many of them will be there for you. Every teacher – whether they’re at the peak of their career and are on fire, or have already phoned it in – has some sage advice to offer. Listen to it and learn.
Have an AMAZING lesson for poetry? Awesome! Run it by a teacher and ask them what they think. They might find something you can add or should adjust based on your student population. They may bring light to a problem that you might encounter, which would save you time and headache. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Someday YOU’LL be able to offer help to someone who was just like you.
Eat lunch with teachers.
Teaching can be really lonely, especially when you’re new. Teachers form relationships and social groups within the school, and you might feel like you don’t want to intrude. Do it anyway. You will need to learn who to lean on, who the movers and shakers are, the complicated nuances in the system, etc. So don’t sit alone in your classroom, surfing the Internet, texting/calling your friends, etc. Find where the teachers eat and crash their party.
Also reach out to other first year teachers. It’s always a relief to have another person to tell first-year horror stories to, plus they may have been prudent enough to ask for help from other teachers. You can learn from them too!
You’ve got a lot to prove.
I know this statement may seem contradictory to the previous ones, but it actually goes hand-in-hand. You want to prove that you’re capable of being handed a group of impressionable kids, and more importantly you also have to prove that you’re willing to do put in the effort to actually be good at it. That means you’ll have to work harder than everybody else, which is tough because teachers work VERY HARD.
The teachers you admire and want to emulate had a long road to where they are now. Go and ask them what they had to do and volunteered to do outside of their work day. I’ll bet that almost all of them raised their hand for extra duties that nobody wanted: Saturday School, detention, tutoring, a million different councils and committees, etc. When “asked” to do something, they said yes and rarely said no. They paid their dues. Now it’s your turn.
Be one of the first people at school and one of the last ones to leave. How you conduct yourself as a professional educator these first few years will determine if you’re someone that people respect and go to bat for, or someone whose teaching abilities people feel less than confident about (and consequently may end up on the chopping block).
Now that I’ve made you paranoid, you’ve got to learn to relax.
In addition to working your butt off, you have to find time for yourself. There will be a time when you start a family when you’ll literally have NO TIME for yourself, so take advantage of it now. Just like in college, work hard and party hard. Take care of your body and mind. It needs to be fully functioning to be on top of your game at school!
Which leads me to my next point: don’t party too hard on a school night! It’s NOT okay to come to school totally hung over. The students deserve better, and you will hate yourself immensely. That doesn’t mean you should call in sick the next day either, that’s not very responsible. I know you’re not going to listen to me, but you’ve been warned…
Be yourself…your REAL self.
Too many times I’ve seen teachers with two completely different personas: their teaching self and their real self. I can honestly say that the teachers who connect the best with their students are the ones who are true to themselves in the classroom. They’re not ashamed when they make a mistake or “look stupid” in front of their students; if anything their students are glad to see they’re human!
That being said, also be very careful about the relationships you forge with your students. It’s pretty typical for young, hip teachers to be seen as “friends” by their students, however that’s definitely not a road you want to walk down. Don’t let yourself even walk that line between friend and educator – you must stay clearly on the teacher side When you cross that line, the students become too familiar with you and don’t listen, and now you’ve lost control. It’s okay to be interested in their lives and care about them as people, but you shouldn’t start conversing with them as friends, divulging too much about your life, etc. to the point where they feel that they can text you or call you a friend.
I know this seems like a lot, but it’s all very important. Take it from me: you’ll be glad you followed my advice!