5 Tips for Surviving the First Year Teaching
Create a healthy balance between work & home. Everyone needs time away from work. Most people do not understand that teachers continue to work after leaving the school building. The first year was difficult for me to maintain this balance. I felt like I was always studying, planning, or grading at home. I heard a speaker at a conference discussing the importance of focusing on family. He discussed coming home in a bad mood and taking issues out on his family. He decided to write a note that had 4 letters on it and post it by the door he always walked in. The note read P.I.L.Y. (People Inside Love You). I still do work at home, but it is important to take time for myself and my family.
Put students first. Students should be the main reason you teach. Take time to get to know your students. I often spend time eating with students in the lunchroom to get to know them better. When you are designing a project or planning a lesson, make sure it is student-focused. I found myself during the first year focusing on myself as I felt like I was constantly behind or buried underneath a mountain of ungraded papers. When you are planning or making a decision based on what is best in the classroom, ask yourself, is this what will benefit my students the most?
Seek out and find teacher mentors. Finding someone who you can “bounce” ideas off of is crucial to a first year teacher. Seek out a teacher you know and look up to and ask them to mentor you. That may sound strange, but finding someone that understands the issues you face will prove to be invaluable to you. It doesn’t have to be a teacher in your building. My mentor works in a different district and we meet every couple of months to discuss things. Many emails are exchanged between us during the time of our face-to-face talks. College Education programs do not teach you everything, so it is nice to have a person to go to that has been in the classroom.
Be dedicated to lifelong learning. Albert Einstein once said, “Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Always be willing to learn more. Seek meaningful professional development to sharpen your skills as a teacher. Our students’ learning styles change, so our methods of teaching should also change. Keeping up with technology changes and new methods of reaching our students is vitally important to their success. Be searching for meaningful and worthwhile professional development opportunities in your field.
Set realistic goals and one “dream” goal. It is very important to set realistic goals that you want to accomplish. The goals need to be professional and personal goals. As you reach a goal, create another goal to go in its place. To keep me striving for more, I set a dream goal. The dream goal is something that is achievable, but it will also take hard work and dedication to reach. In the words of Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
* Check out 5 More Tips to First Year Teaching here.
What was the hardest thing about your first year teaching? Remember waaaay back then?
Jeremy Rinkel is a published author and researcher in the fields of globalization, technology, and education. He believes that education is the key to solving world challenges. In addition to teaching High School English and Speech, Mr. Rinkel is an adjunct instructor at Kaskaskia College. With a Masters Degree in Educational Policy, he was chosen by Scholastic to be an Online Teacher Advisor for grades 9-12 during the 2011-2012 school year.