A Guide to Help First-Year Teachers Survive

First Year Teacher
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Being a first-year teacher comes with a plethora of emotions, both good and bad. First-year teachers are typically excited, overwhelmed, nervous, anxious, overzealous, and even a little scared. Being a teacher is a rewarding career, but there are times when it can be extremely stressful and challenging. Most teachers would agree that the first year is their most difficult, simply because they are not adequately prepared for all that will be thrown at them.  

It may sound clichéd, but experience really is the best teacher. No matter how much training a first-year teacher receives, nothing can truly prepare them for the real thing. Teaching is composed of many different uncontrollable variables, making each day its own unique challenge. It is important for first-year teachers to remember that they are running a marathon and not a race. No single day, good or bad, can dictate success or failure. Instead, it is the culmination of every moment added together, There are several strategies that can help make each day for a first-year teacher go smoother. The following survival guide will help teachers as they begin their journey into this incredible and rewarding career path.

Arrive Early and Stay Late

Contrary to popular belief, teaching is not an 8:00 a.m.– 3:00 p.m. job, and this is especially true for first-year teachers. By default, it takes first-year teachers more time to prepare than it will a veteran teacher. Always afford extra time. Arriving early and staying late allows you to properly prepare in the mornings and tie up loose ends at night.

Stay Organized 

Being organized is another key component that takes time and is essential to being a successful teacher. There are so many variables to account for that, if you are not organized, it can be very difficult to keep up with your responsibilities. Always keep in mind that organization and preparation are linked.

Build Relationships Early and Often

Building healthy relationships often takes a lot of hard work and effort. However, it is a vital component if you want to be successful. Relationships must be forged with administrators, faculty and staff members, parents, and students. You will have a different relationship with each of these groups, but each is equally beneficial for you to be an effective teacher.

  • Administrators – The key to building a healthy relationship with an administrator is to gain their trust by being a professional in all aspects. Hard work, reliability, dedication, and effective teaching results will help maintain a healthy relationship with your administrators.
  • Faculty and Staff Members – All first-year teachers should rely upon one or several veteran teachers to assist and guide them through the first year. Having a support system of other teachers is invaluable. It is also essential to forge healthy relationships with all personnel in the school. Each staff member has a particular area of expertise that you will likely be beneficial to you.
  • Parents – Parents can be your best friend or worst enemy. Building a healthy relationship with parents relies on two key factors. The first is that you make it clear that your number one goal is to prepare their child academically. The second factor is that you communicate with each parent often--using various methods--keeping them up to date and providing them with both positive and negative feedback about their child.

How your students feel about you will impact your overall effectiveness. There is a definite middle ground that lies between being too easy or too difficult. Most students love and respect teachers who are consistent, fair, humorous, compassionate, and knowledgeable.

Don't set yourself up for failure by worrying too much about being liked or attempting to be their friends. Doing so will likely cause students to take advantage of you. Instead, start exceptionally strict and then ease off as the year progresses. Things will go much smoother if you use this classroom management approach.

Experience is the Best Education

No formal training can replace true, on the job, experience. Students will often be the true educators every day for your first-year teacher. This experience is invaluable, and the lessons learned can drive you to make solid teaching decisions over the course of your career.

Have a Backup Plan

Every first-year teacher comes in with their own unique philosophy, plan, and approach to how they are going to teach. Sometimes it can only take a few hours or days for them to realize that they are going to have to make adjustments. Every teacher needs a backup plan when trying something new, and for a first-year teacher, that means having a backup plan every single day. Nothing is worse than having a significant activity planned and realizing a few minutes in that it's not going as expected. Even the most well planned, and organized activity has the possibility of failing. Being prepared to move on to another activity is always an excellent idea.

Immerse Yourself in the Curriculum

Most first-year teachers do not have the luxury of being picky with their first job. They have to take what is available and run with it, no matter how comfortable they are with the curriculum. Each grade level will be different, and it is essential that you quickly become an expert in the curriculum that you will be teaching. Great teachers know their required objectives and curriculum inside and out. They also continuously look for methods that will improve how they teach and present that material. Teachers will quickly be discredited by their students if they are unable to explain, model, and demonstrate the material that they are teaching.

Keep a Journal for Reflection

A journal can be a valuable tool for a first-year teacher. It's impossible to remember every important thought or event that happens throughout the year and writing them down makes it simple to access or review at any point. It is also gratifying to look back and reflect on how far you have come throughout your career.

Keep Lesson Plans, Activities, & Materials

Prior to your first year, you might never have had to make lesson plans. As you begin creating them, it is important to save a copy and build a portfolio. This should include your lesson plans, notes, activities, worksheets, quizzes, exams, etc. Though it may take a lot of time and effort, you have a terrific teaching tool that will make your job much easier from that point on.

Prepare to be Overwhelmed

It is natural to become frustrated and hit a wall as our first year will likely be the most demanding. Remind yourself that it will improve.

In sports, they talk about the game being so fast for young players that they fail more often than not. However, as time passes, they become comfortable with everything. Everything eventually slows down, and they begin to be consistently successful. The same is true for teachers; that overwhelming feeling will disappear and you will begin to be more effective.

Year Two = Lessons Learned

Your first year will be many sprinkled with both failures and successes. Look at it as a learning experience. Take what works and run with it. Throw away what didn’t and replace it with something new that you believe will. Don’t expect everything to work out exactly as you plan, teaching isn’t easy. It will take hard work, dedication, and experience to be a master teacher. Moving forward, the lessons you learned in year one can help propel you to success throughout your career.