Things People Don't Tell You About Your First Year of Teaching


There are lot of things people don't tell you about teaching for the first time. It is stressful and overwhelming, but there are some strategies you can use to make it a lot more fun.

You Won't (Always) Have Fun

Let's get right to the point: your first year in the classroom isn't going to be fun. Sure, you may experience some fun moments in class with your students and at professional development sessions with your peers. However, when you look back on your first year of teaching, you'll probably never say 'Man - I want to do that again!'

First-Year Juggling Acts

During your first year as a teacher, you may experience stress for a lot of reasons. First, you'll develop a new appreciation for jugglers because you'll spend a lot of time doing this. For example, you'll find yourself juggling parent meetings with trying to actually plan during your daily planning period.

Juggling acts will also include trying to answer emails and phone calls in a timely fashion, while trying to find time to give students meaningful feedback on their work. Finally, you'll be trying to juggle being a good teacher with having a personal life. Playing the juggler won't leave you with a lot of downtime, especially the first year. The teacher juggling act leads to stress, and well, just not fun days.

stressed teacher

First-Year Stress Management

The reality is that given all the courses you took to earn your teaching certificate, there should have been an entire semester devoted to stress management strategies. During my senior year and first year of teaching, it would have been a life saver. When you teach, you have to find techniques that help you manage the stress that go along with managing the classroom. Some strategies that can get you through the instructional day, which can include things such as calming breathing techniques or yoga moves you can do on the fly or during your planning period.

However, a great way to deal with stress is to not lose site of your life outside of being a teacher. Keep up with your hobbies, or even start new ones; this will help nurture your psyche and keep you sane inside and outside of the classroom.

You Have To Make Teaching Fun

To survive your first year in the classroom, you have to find ways to make teaching fun for both you and your students. What you need to do is tap into your passions and using them to teach. Dave Burgess calls this 'finding your drum and beating it.' What Burgess means is that you have to learn to let go of all the things you can't control in your classroom - the emails, the meetings, the disgruntled parents - and teach from your passions.

What Burgess also means is that you don't have to teach like the teachers you had growing up. You don't need to follow a prescribed model. Rather, create a fun model of teaching that fits with your strengths and your passions.

For example, if you love theater, then dress up as your favorite characters and teach as if you were them in your classroom, even if you're just conducting a grammar or math lesson. Love nature? Get your kids outside to write, or even give a history lecture.

teacher in costume

This approach will help you a lot during your first stressful year in the classroom. First, it will make learning fun for you and your students. If your students are having fun, they're more likely to be engaged in the work you are asking them to do in the classroom. If your students are more engaged, they're more likely to complete and submit quality work.

As a teacher, it is much less stressful to grade quality work than the papers your students spent five minutes on. This, in turn, lowers your overall stress because reading and providing feedback on the work becomes more pleasurable and interesting, a win-win for you and your students.

You Can't Be a Superman or Superwoman

The expectation in a lot of schools is that you are a superman or superwoman - another thing you won't hear about your first year in the classroom. This situation is especially true if the mindset of your school or district is one of micromanagement, and administrators want you to document every detail of your school day. For example, you may have a principal who uses the teacher in-service week to explain his or her expectations in detail, instead of raising teacher's spirits to start the school year. I once knew a principal who, after spending two days laying out her expectations for teachers, proceeded to tell us we would be failures in her eyes if all we did were meet those expectations.

Sometimes, you may find yourself working under an administration that will specify how long you can hold onto a homework assignment before you're expected to return it to students with appropriate feedback. How's that for micromanagement!

happy teacher 1

Making 'Okay' Choices

After I'd been teaching for several years, someone told me that teachers aren't supermen, or superwomen. We are human, just like everyone else, and that's okay. No one may tell you this during your first year of teaching, but it is okay to leave work at a reasonable time every day and spend time on yourself and with your family. It's okay if students have to wait a few extra days to get feedback on an assignment, especially if it's good feedback you are giving them. Be kind to yourself, or teaching will become a burden you can't bear - rather than an amazing opportunity to empower our students for the future.

By Rachel Tustin
December 2016
opinion new teacher

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