June 05, 2017

What Every New Teacher Needs to Know Before The First Day


Congratulations! You’ve landed a job in the most rewarding profession and you’re ready to start shaping young minds. But WAIT! Take a moment and set aside all of your Pinterest searches, classroom organizing, and first week activity ideas. There is something more important than any lesson plan or DIY project.

As a teacher who just went through their first year, there are a LOT of things I wish I would’ve known before I started my whirlwind of a year. This can all be summed up to one thing that many neglect as they go into their first year of teaching, and it is

A HEALTHY MINDSET.

Without this, you will be very susceptible to the frightening statistic: Nearly HALF of all teachers quit in their first five years of teaching. If this terrifies you like it does all new teachers, read on to find out how you can go into your first and most important year with a healthy mindset and a great foundation for a lifetime of teaching.

1.       Stop trying to design your classroom like those perfect Pinterest rooms.

I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent pinning my favorite classroom layouts. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the inspiration from these posts and recognize how hard those teachers have worked in their rooms. However, after spending a ridiculous amount of time and money trying to make my classroom identical to my favorite Pinterest rooms, I finally realized that I needed to learn the traffic patterns in my own classroom space to design it with my students’ needs in mind. What works for other teachers will not necessarily work for you. Once you understand that, you will feel a significant amount of pressure off your shoulders. Take your time and do not try to have everything perfect from the start. You will make changes a few weeks or months into the year anyway.


2.    Find one or two stress relievers.

A few examples: Yoga, the gym, drawing, meditating, hiking, even dancing around your house after school. There are so many stress relievers out there, but sitting on social media for 2 hours after school should not be your only option. You need an outlet! Something for you to take pride in and use as a break from thinking about problems from the day. If you do not have a couple stress relievers in your first year, you will burn out. I promise.


3.    Set an alarm on your phone every day to signal your time to leave.

I worked 12 hours every day in my first year and could not understand how every teacher would leave at 4:15 with nothing in hand! For the life of me, I could not find a way to get everything done and leave on time. I finally learned that these teachers set a time to leave and stuck to it. With an alarm set for 4:15, for example, you will kick it up a notch and prioritize in order to leave at this time. It’s important to understand that no matter how much you get done, there will always be more work. You’re a teacher. Get used to it. J Make a list of must-dos for the next day and leave when you’ve accomplished that list.   

4.    Seek help from any and all teachers.

I wanted so badly to be that independent teacher that didn’t need to ask others for lesson ideas or help with a problem student. I thought I could do it on my own and impress others by doing so. DO NOT go in with this mindset. Once I learned that I was surrounded by more experienced teachers who had all been through the same problems, I no longer felt alone. There is no reason to isolate yourself and miss out on an opportunity to learn from incredible teachers and if you’re lucky like I am, become friends with these experts.  


5.    Do not compare ANYTHING you do to veteran teachers.

In my first year, I went around to every classroom and my jaw would instantly drop with every new and creative resource these teachers had in their rooms. I was immediately deflated when a veteran teacher would have a better room, incredible ratings on her observations, or test scores that blew everyone out of the water. The truth is - veteran teachers simply have more experience and therefore will most likely have extremely successful strategies. Instead of losing all confidence in yourself over this, see my #4 (ASK FOR HELP!) If they are anything like my coworkers, they will be happy to lend a helping hand to someone who admires their hard work.  


6.    Avoid bad-mouthing any coworker, parent, or student with someone at school.

You will quickly be able to tell the teachers you mesh well with and the ones you clash with. There will also be incredibly irritating parents that you will never please. And of course, you will have that one student that makes you want to chug a whole bottle of wine when you get home. No matter how frustrating, avoid venting at school to another coworker. It is so easy to get pulled into the gossip and school drama, but this teacher, parent, or student could very easily be right around the corner walking by your room. If they aren’t, I guarantee there is another person in school who is eager to spread your words around to that person you are gossiping about. Save it for after school and call a friend, significant other, or your parents. Don’t risk it.


7.    Enjoy it!!


It is so easy to get caught up in all of the stress as a first-year teacher. Once you develop and learn how to keep a healthy mindset, you will see those moments that make teaching so amazing. When a student’s eyes light up learning something new, a coworker comes to you for advice, or a parent says the simple words “thank you,” pause and let that feeling soak in. You are an incredible teacher making a difference in so many lives. Cherishing these moments will propel you forward and keep you motivated when times get tough. Just remember, YOU ARE IMPORTANT! Thanks for making the selfless decision to join the teaching field and get ready for a lifetime of heartfelt letters, refreshing summer breaks, and the feeling of pride and joy of a job well done.


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