Being a first-year teacher can be difficult. You spent many hours, months, and years preparing for your first teaching job. There may have been times you thought that perhaps teaching wasn’t the right career for you on difficult days. Then there were days where you were sure it was your calling. Teaching is full of ups and downs—especially your first year. There will be days that are difficult and days that are euphoric.
Teaching is a rollercoaster of emotions. It is important to take care of yourself, and take the advice of others. It is also important that you do what works for you, and find your groove.
Here are 10 Tips on How to Survive Teaching in Your First Year as a Teacher
#1. Make Connections
Make connections with other adults in the building. They will be your
biggest support system. While many schools have a mentoring program, you should also find someone who can help you from day 1.
Don’t knock any connection you could have. While you won’t love everyone you work with, it is important to make connections with everyone. You never know who you will need to call on.
In addition, some coworkers will be great with helping you with classroom management. Others will be great at giving you science materials. Some will be able to help you with technology. Make sure you have those important connections with the people around you.
While you can go home and talk to your significant other about your day, unless they are a teacher themselves, they won’t get it. Not only do you need to make connections to share materials and teaching strategies, but you need to be surrounded by people who were once in your shoes.
#2. Know That Each Day is a New Challenge
No day will ever be the same. This is a good thing. It is difficult to find joy when everything is the same all the time. When you are teaching, you will find that every day is a new challenge. This is both a good thing and a curse.
Some days, you will find, are more challenging than others. Some days, you will not be able to wait until that final bell rings and the kids are gone. Other days, you won’t want the day to end.
If you go in with this kind of attitude, then you will be okay. It is those who go in with the attitude that every day will be perfect that fail because they are disappointed.
#3. Go with the Flow
Especially your first year, you should learn to go with the flow. While planning is important, there will also be days that your lesson plan will go out the window. Maybe the kids are curious about something that you mentioned, and it serves as a learning opportunity. Perhaps there is something that happens that causes you to have to change your plans.
Understand that if there are behaviors in your class that are preventing you from teaching your kids, they must be dealt with first. Sometimes those lessons in kindness, self-control, and responsibility go much further than the reading, writing or math lessons.
#4. Take Time for Yourself
Know when it is time to quit. If your significant other is constantly eating dinner without you, then you are probably working too hard. You can’t do it all, and no matter how much you plan, it is impossible to be prepared for absolutely everything.
Make sure you take some time for yourself to be social, get out of the house or classroom, and get your mind off of school. You will constantly think about the children —no matter what age you teach. They become your children, but just like parents need a night off from their kids, so do teachers.
If you neglect time to care for yourself, you will not be in a position to take care of the kids. Get enough sleep, eat properly, and take the time to exercise.
#5. Let Your Students Teach You, Too
You will make mistakes. You will not know everything, but it is the perfect opportunity to learn from your students. They will teach you more than you ever thought possible. Let it happen. It is true that we all teach each other. Their good and bad behavior will teach you valuable lessons about how to deal with all kinds of situations. Don’t hesitate to ask colleagues for help and advice.
Also, important, is to give yourself lots of time for reflection. Think about your lessons and learn from them if they don’t go well. Learn from them, even if they do go well. There is always something you can do better the next day.
#6. Plan Ahead
While before it was mentioned to go with the flow, you should also plan ahead. It does sound contradictory, but find a balance. Think about what the students will need to learn by the end of the year.
While it is impossible to plan every single day until summer vacation, you should think ahead a week or two, especially to make sure you are able to teach them everything they need to know before moving onto the next grade.
Have copies of extra stuff, just so that you are prepared in case an activity runs short or you find yourself having extra time. It is better to plan too much, than to not plan enough. While you can’t plan everything, you also can’t fly by the seat of your pants every single day.
#7. Write Things Down
Your brain becomes fried after a while. Not literally, but you will have so much jumping around inside your head that you will want to write things down. Many a running to do list for each week so that you remember what you need to do.
If you need to remind a student of something, leave a note on their desk when you’re thinking about it. If there are parents looking for English tutors to help their child outside of school, write down their request so you don’t forget. If something great happens, write it down so you can go back and remember it on bad days.
Post-it notes will be your best friend, and your desk, computer, and walls will be covered with them—kind of like wallpaper. If you don’t write things down, you will surely forget something.
It is also important that you write things down when at staff meetings or parent meetings. Even if you have had a great memory all your life, there is just too much to remember. Make it easy on yourself and write it down from the beginning.
#8. Find Your Groove
There are so many different strategies. You won’t be able to do them all, but you might want to try a bunch out. During your first year, you might have more leniency than you will later on in your career.
Administration, parents, and other colleagues are more forgiving because they understand you are trying to find your groove. Take advantage of trying out different strategies and techniques so that you can find what works for you.
If something doesn’t work in your classroom, don’t stress about it. Not everything works for every teacher. Also understand that not every strategy will work from year to year either. You must be flexible, but you also have to find your own groove.
#9. Do a Little at a Time
You will likely want your classroom to be perfect the first year, but understand it can take many years for you to have your classroom organized in an amazing way. Not only will it take a few years, but even then, you might find something that works better—even in year 5!
Don’t try to do it all at once, and don’t try to do it all your first year. If your classroom is unorganized or cluttered, go through one drawer or one small section every week or so.
You already have enough on your plate, so to try to make everything perfect is just out of the question. When you realize this, you will be less stressed.
#10. Remember, They Hired You!
At the end of the day, you worked hard to get your job. Not only did you work hard for all these years and through student teaching, but you clearly rocked your interview. One those days where you just want to break down and cry or run away screaming, remember that the interview committee believed in you.
Teachers do not just get hired easily. It can be very difficult to find a teaching job as there are many people who want to teach, but only a few jobs open at a time. At the end of the day, you were the one they choose. Don’t let those bad days make you feel terrible about yourself.
Remember, you’ve got this. Your first year as a teacher will be difficult, but it will also be very memorable.
Teaching is a great career to have. You’ll meet so many interesting children and parents. Sure, it can be tough, but it is very rewarding. Once you survive your first year, things will get easier. Every year will be different, but if you can get through your first-year teaching, then you can do anything!