Dear First Year Teacher,
Let me start by thanking you for joining the teaching profession. I am sure many have tried to scare you away. But you chose to become a teacher anyway. Although the statistics vary, roughly 20 to 30 percent of teachers quit in their first five years of teaching. It is a scary thought. I was petrified before I started teaching that I was going to fall into this statistic. You might be nervous too. There is not one thing that contributes to this statistic. Instead, a bunch of overwhelming things combines to make teachers leave their job. This is not what they taught you when you earned your degree to teach. No one warned you about what you were going to face before you became a teacher. Here is my advice to you as a teacher who has beaten the statistic. There is no sugarcoating it. It is just the honest truth.
We don't expect you to excel during your first year. Just survive. You have so many different things thrust at you when you first start. No one expects you to be an exceptional teacher, at least not right away. They throw so much at first-year teachers. Plus, you have to learn the curriculum, which takes time. We were once first-year teachers too, so we get it. We remember the tribulations and strain in surviving. The person who is holding the highest expectations is you, which is true of most teachers.
I will be honest. I do not think I would have been able to survive teaching my first year during a pandemic. This is not an average year by any means. Please do not judge the teaching profession based on this year. COVID-19 has taken over the educational system. We are all currently trying to learn and adapt to this current way of life. In a way, it is almost like even the veteran teachers are first years again. Currently, there are veteran teachers considering leaving their job because of the strain of this year. We all feel the difficulty. However, this too, shall pass. Then in a few years, something else will come up, and we will all struggle again.
There will be many moments you do not think you can withstand anymore. When you feel like giving up, remember the good. Focus on the positive. Remember the impact that you are leaving on children. Even if you helped one child today, your day is a success. These students may not remember everything they have learned from you, but they will remember how much you cared. You are helping future generations, and that is something to feel proud of. You are making a difference.
I wish I could help you. I wish I could take you under my wing. I wish I could let you vent and cry at me (which all teachers need at one point.) Just know that you are not alone. Sometimes it may feel that way. It is usually only you in a room with a bunch of students. But there are so many people who are cheering you on and want to help. Try to find another teacher that you can trust to be this confidant. Hopefully, you will find one that will not drag you down but inspire and motivate you to continue to excel after listening to your problems.
You may have an excellent support system at home. Your significant other, your family, and other people are great to talk to. Just be aware that they might not understand fully why you feel the way you do. At times it might become frustrating. Even your best support system may say things like, "Isn't it just like babysitting?" or "But at least you get summer's off." because they cannot walk a mile in your shoes. But other teachers will comprehend what you are saying. Find a teacher (or a few) that you can bounce ideas off of.
Please check in with yourself. Evaluating your health (physical and mental) is essential in this job. Take time for yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot be a good teacher when you are mentally burned out. I promise grading that assignment can wait until tomorrow. At a particular time every day, walk away from the desk and the emails. Do not work all the time, as tempting as it may be. It is not proper for you. Also, if things become too unmanageable, please seek professional help. Sadly, teaching is one of the professions where the strain of the job can cause mental health issues that sometimes need therapy or medication. Please do what is best for you.
It is simple to become overwhelmed and overloaded in this profession (especially in your first few years of teaching.) Learn to say no. Saying no does not mean you are not a good teacher. It means that you know your boundaries. You can say no without any reason, but if you feel you need one, you can say, "I have a lot going on at the moment. I do not feel that I would give this my fullest attention." That should help anyone understand. Putting too much on your plate does not make you seem like a superhero. It makes you forgetful and stressed. Burnout is a real thing. Your students need a teacher who is balanced. If that means you can only really focus on teaching for the first few years, that is great. After a while, you may feel more confident to take on more responsibilities and tasks.
Lastly, I want to say that I am sorry. I am sorry that this letter has to be this way. Most jobs do not have this statistic of failure. Many jobs are not as demanding on your mental health. But you've chosen this job because you want to help the future generations succeed. Hopefully, teaching is something you enjoy and are passionate about. Having that passion might be enough to make it through the statistic.
We are all rooting for you. You can do it.