How Back to School During Your Second Year of Teaching is So Much Different from Your First


Many teachers find their second year of teaching more challenging, and even more stressful, than their first. However, there are wonderful things waiting for you during your second year in the classroom.

Year 2: The Rose-Colored Glasses are Broken

Going into your first year of teaching, you often have rose-colored glasses. You went into teaching to change the world, and that positive energy is what you carry into the classroom and what tints your perception of everything, from your students to administration. There's a lot of excitement, but there's also an equal amount of nervousness. You don't have much for your classroom, and you may feel anxiety about your first solo-teaching performance in the classroom. That first year, you may even become obsessed with how your classroom looks and spend hours trying to make your room Pinterest-worthy. It can wreak havoc on your optimistic, rose-tinted view of the world.

The second year of school as a teacher is much different. Your experience may give you less adrenaline and more anxiety to face in the classroom. All of your experiences the first year, from testing to parent meetings, may shatter those rose-colored glasses, and so going into the second year of teaching, you have a far more realistic view of your school, classroom, and even teaching.

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You Lose Your Training Wheels

Second-year teachers often experience the issues that come with having the training wheels ripped off the bicycle a bit too soon. It's as if your school district is saying, 'You're a second-year teacher, you are good to go.' As a result, you often go into your second year lacking the support you still need to be successful in the classroom. Instead of having support thrust upon you, as a second-year teacher, you become the architect of your support system. If you are lucky, you can choose to continue your relationship with your mentor-teacher. However, you also need to build other relationships to help you succeed in your second year. Forming stronger bonds with your grade-level or content-area teachers is a must.

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Without your training wheels, you get realistic about what you can accomplish in a day in your classroom. In your first year of teaching, you may have gone about your day acting like Superman or Wonder Woman. But in your second year of teaching, you have to find ways to manage the stresses that are unique to the teaching profession. You start to realize that staying up until midnight day after day is probably impractical and that perhaps you don't need to look at every paper your students touch during a class period. You come up with systems, such as notebooks to help your students (and yourself) organize their work. To reduce the volume of papers on your desk, you probably get more selective about what work you give feedback on.

You Rethink Your Classroom Management Plan

During your first year of teaching, you probably struggled a bit with classroom management, a normal issue for first-year teachers. Going into your second year of teaching, you can probably still clearly describe your worst days in the classroom. There were days when you felt like the students didn't listen, or despite your amazing ideas, the students failed miserably on a test or assignment. It's quite possible the idea of controlling 25 or 30 students still raises your blood pressure a bit. Going into your second year of teaching, you have to confront your inadequacies and decide how you're going to fix your classroom management issues. While your first year everyone seemed to be beating down your door to help you, this is often not true during your second year of teaching.

It is during your second year of teaching that you begin to realize that writing student-referrals doesn't help your classroom management at all. As a result, you start to explore new ideas in classroom management, such as Harry Wong's classroom management theory, to learn how to develop routines in your classroom. A lot of second-year teachers, on the other hand, realize they need to work on a more positive style of classroom management and turn to the method of Fred Jones for help.

You Become an Inventor

The first year in your classroom, you are in many ways a mimic. When you set up your bulletin boards, you mimic designs you have seen on Pinterest or put up sets you found on sale at your local teacher store. When you create lesson plans, you use activities you were given by a fellow teacher or simply follow the ideas in your textbook. While in many ways there is more stress coming into your second year of teaching, a wonderful thing also happens: You stop being a mimic and become an inventor.

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During your second year of teaching, you have reached a new level of understanding your students and their needs. Planning becomes no longer a week-by-week task, and instead, you plan weeks at a time. You begin to design more creative, engaging lessons for your classroom. Instead of relying on notes and worksheets, you embrace more ambitious pedagogy, such as teaching from projects and using technology to differentiate instruction.

The Reinvention of the Second-Year Teacher

Your second year in the classroom is often about reinventing yourself. After a year of teaching and working with coworkers, students, and parents, you have a realistic view of what you're up against. In most districts, a lot of training wheels go away that second year, and you are left to truly fly on your own, become your own person, and invent systems so that you aren't bogged down with grading. However, it can also mean confronting your failures, such as issues with classroom management. The beauty is that, by the end of the second year, you will have become an inventor and perhaps even innovator in your classroom.

Check out's Teacher Edition for a variety of resources you can use in your classroom, including lesson plans, worksheets and activities.

By Rachel Tustin
July 2019
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