You'll find yourself wondering if you got into the right career. You'll wonder what to do next. You'll feel lost and alone in your journey. There's a lot of things that college doesn't prepare you for your first year as a teacher. But you can survive it with these following suggestions.
Establishing relationships will make you a strong teacher. It's one of the keys to getting through the tough times as well as the good. Focus on building relationships with your administrators, colleagues, students, and their parents. If you're an introvert, now is the time to brainstorm ice breakers and strategies for establishing a connection with others. Don't be afraid to ask for questions or suggestions, and allow other people into your classroom.
Find the Right Mentor
Since there are all kinds of teachers, finding the right one can be a challenge. Some are cranky and disagreeable, while others are happy and positive. It's important to find a mentor who's supportive and knowledgeable. They can provide you with their expertise in a given area or subject and who can remind you that things will get better. If you can't find a positive mentor at your current school, then look for one in another district. There are plenty who will be happy to help you out.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
It's important to ask for help and professional development. Since you have so much to learn in your first year, you shouldn't do it alone. You'll need to find an instructional coach, but if you can't get one, then you should get professional development. Get recommendations for conferences, online courses, and development workshops from other teachers. Your administrators can't expect perfection in your first year. They know that your career involves ongoing learning, so ask for help to eliminate those gaps.
Shadow Other Teachers
Observe or shadow other teachers you look up to. Choose one thing they do different from you, so you don't get overwhelmed. For example, notice their procedures and routines, or determine the different ways they engage with their students. Ask your administrators permission for a release day so you can shadow the teachers you have in mind.
If the administrator refuses your request, you can take a few minutes once a month to quietly observe another teacher's class during your break or prep time. You'll learn a lot just by shadowing your colleagues.
Make House Visits
Visiting your students can give you insight into their everyday lives. You should visit some of your students' homes to get a better understanding of them. It doesn't matter if this is the best student in your class or the roudiest. Visit the home of a student who's acting out, as well as the home of a student who's a high achiever.
This is something you should make time for in the first weeks of your job when you're building a relationship with your students and their parents. Take this time to listen to their parents to find out your student's background. Find out about their child's hobbies, interests, group of friends, etc. This shouldn't be a time where you address their concerns or complaints about their behavior. This is a time to get to know your student and for them to get to know you as well.
Keep Your Vision in Mind
What kind of vision do you have for yourself as a teacher? Write it down on a sticky note and place it in an area where you'll see it every day. Coming up with a mission statement or a personal vision for yourself can help you during those bad days and hard times in your life. It can become your anchor or guide when these challenges pop up.
A vision statement can be a one or two sentence paragraph about where you see yourself in the next five to 10 years. Not only should you write it down, but you should repeat it and understand it.
Research has shown that people who create a vision statement have higher and more meaningful levels of engagement than those who don't. A vision statement can make you more productive and more effective within your community.
You don't have to put much thought into your vision in the beginning. This is something you can tweak or change over time. Since this is your personal statement, you don't need to share it with anyone else. This is something that should motivate you to do your best every day.
Take Care of Your Body
This involves getting plenty of sleep and rest. Eat right and make time for exercise. Don't forget to drink plenty of water as well. Taking care of your health is important for your first year of teaching with all of the stress you'll feel with your profession.
There are going to be days when you'll doubt yourself. There are going to be times when you'll want to quit. Or, you could get hit with the flu. Don't wait until the next year to start taking care of yourself. Get started now by going to bed early tonight.
Make Time for Personal Hobbies
Do something that's not related to teaching. Once a week, make a date to do something nice for yourself. For example, you could try ballroom dancing or take an art class. Or, you can take yourself to a dinner and a movie. Or, join a book club. Do something that stimulates you and doesn't relate to your profession. It can be easy to find something related to your job, but you should take a mental break the moment you leave the classroom.
Evaluate Every Little Achievement
Write down each of those achievements in a separate notebook where you can refer to them. Don't write them in your grade book or course outline or agenda book or you'll never see them. Make a note of what's going on in the classrooom. Achievements can range from completing a lesson plan early to a student smiling at you when walking into class. If you practice this tip every day for your first year, you'll start each day on a positive note.
Don't Be Afraid to Take Time Off
If you get personal days, then you should take advantage of them. Plan ahead for that personal time and have a subsitute teacher fill in for you. Don't be afraid to take time off. That was earned to you. Take this time to catch up on cleaning or errands, go to the doctor dentist, sleep in, or go to the beach. Use your personal time as much as you need. You need mental health days to rest and recover. Your students will be there when you return.
Your first year as a teacher doesn't have to be difficult. These tips can help you succeed in your first year and create the resilience that will carry you through the hard days. You don't have to do each of these tips at once. Take them one at a time and see if they help you out.
Focus on what works and eliminate the rest. Every teacher is different. Only you know what works for you. Over time, you won't need these tips and will realize that you made it through your first year.