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First Year Teacher Tips

CONGRATULATIONS!

You have decided to step into a realm that will rock your world – literally. Whether you went to school to become a teacher or you are testing the waters in a career change, your first year as an educator will be one of the most overwhelming experiences of a lifetime. It will humble you. It will shake you. It will cause you to have more appreciation for the teachers who helped mold you into the person you are today. Why? Because you can finally walk in their shoes. 

There are thousands of teachers worldwide that have a list of tips to share to overcoming that first year hump because they were you once and wish they knew then what they know now. There is going to be so much information thrown at you that you will feel like you are drowning. The beauty of heeding to all this advice is that it allows you to learn from their failures and successes. You have to sift through it all and find out what works for you so the best way to sum up what your first year experience will be like is TRIAL & ERROR! 

I want to point out that I never had intentions of becoming an educator but I always knew I wanted to work with youth. The journey I am still on is helping me fine tune the capacity in which I get to work with them. My Bachelor’s Degree is in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with concentrations in Criminology and Sociology so me even stepping foot into the education field was due to trial and error. I honestly thought I would be stepping into a courtroom. With that being said, here is yet another list of tips that I believe helped me in my journey as an educator and could be of great substance to you.

  1. Plan Your Planning Period

Every teacher gets a planning period where they are expected to plan out and outline what they are going to do each day. However, that may be the first break you had all day and before you know it, you got nothing done. Planning periods fly by when you do not use it wisely. 

My Advice: Chunk It

Teachers are expected to chunk their lessons because students need periodic breaks and transitions before they clock out completely from whatever is being taught. How come we are not taught to chunk our planning period? If you have a 90-minute planning period, break it up into 3 30-minute sessions or 6 15-minute sessions. In each session, assign yourself a task to do. For example, one session can be dedicated to grading a certain assignment. Another session can be dedicated to planning for the next week. Another session can be dedicated to calling parents and answering emails. You can even add a session where you just sit in silence with your door locked, lights off, and phone on do not disturb. When you chunk your planning period, you are able to get more done. 

(2) Have Teacher-Student Relationships

Sometimes teachers are stuck in the mindset that you are not your students’ friends and that is true – to an extent. When you decide that you are going to step into the role of teacher, you quickly learn that role is multifaceted. You are not only teacher but you become parent, nurse, counselor, coach, cheerleader, role model, and friend. Now when I say friend, I am not saying you exchange numbers and text each other every day about what is going on in your lives. I am talking about being a reliable, honest, and faithful shoulder to cry on because these students will go through it and they are going to need you to put on that friend hat. I am talking about sharing the fact that you like sports and discussing last night’s game so you can make a connection. I am talking about asking your students how their weekend was and actively listening to them, especially when they tell you that they practiced driving with their dad for the first time.

My Advice: Befriend, Not Be Friends

The better your relationships are with your students, the more they are willing to allow you to be the teacher you aspire to be. The teacher who has students ready and motivated to learn. The teacher who can actually teach today’s lesson because there were practically no behavioral issues. The teacher who gets asked to come to a basketball game or write a letter of recommendation. The teacher with random students who do not even have him/her stopping him/her in the hallways to say hi or asking if they will have them next year. To be that teacher, you have to be open to building relationships with your students. The beauty of this is, every relationship will be different so there is no cookie-cutter way to do it but it will be vital to your students’ success. 

(3) Decorate Your Classroom

You are going to spend anywhere between 40-50 hours in your classroom every week. That is one-third of your day in the same room five days a week. You are about to be married to your classroom for 180+ days. That is a long time. And there are tons of teachers out there bedazzling their classroom and making you think that you are doing something wrong if your classroom does not look like a mini Disney World. Some people get anxiety during teacher planning week [the week before school starts] because they see everyone decorating their lives away while they have no clue what to do. WOOSAH!

My Advice: Make It Your Second Home

I advise you decorate it in a way that makes its warm and homey for you and your students. I used to have bean bags and music playing in the background at all times. That helped with cutting the awkwardness and/or tension in the room and putting everyone at ease. I hung up my college cap & gown, motivational quotes and inspirational posters because both the students and myself needed constant encouragement. I have my high school yearbook in my classroom and pictures of my family to add that personal touch. I have colleagues who put a fresh bouquet of flowers in their classrooms every week because it brightens their mood. It does not take spending a month’s salary on Target supplies to get your classroom to look like those on Instagram and Pinterest. Do what you need to do to make your classroom an oasis to all but mainly for you. 

(4) Have Relationships w/ Colleagues

New teachers tend to isolate themselves because they feel overwhelmed and overworked. They feel like everyone around them knows what to do while they have been thrown to the wolves. They feel like no one understands them so they distance themselves in hopes that they can somehow figure it out on their own. BAD IDEA! Now, I am not saying to go to Happy Hour with them every Friday because you will be invited but I am saying to not be afraid to have lunch with them in the staff lounge every once in a while or having small talk in the hallways between classes.

My Advice: Find A Mentor / Make A Friend

During teacher planning week, observe how everyone operates – not just the people in your department or grade level but everyone. Watch how they speak, look at their mannerisms, and see how helpful they are. Make it your duty to introduce yourself to everyone and have a simple conversation with them. In those conversations, watch what they say, how they say it, and how they treat you. What you are doing is getting a feel for your colleagues as you try to discern who can be of great assistance to you as a friend and/or mentor. Some schools assign mentors to new teachers and that is great but there is something about seeking out your own relationships that make them more meaningful. 

(5) Its Okay To Say No

As a new teacher, there will be a ton of things to do at your school and in order for them to happen, staff must volunteer to do it. You may even be asked to take on tasks and I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with saying NO. You may be tempted to get the extra money that may come with taking on that task or you may want to show off your skills since you love doing things like that. However, it is your first year and you have yet to get a grip on things.

My Advice: Move With Caution

Only you know how much you can handle. If you want to get involved, I would suggest you get involved with planning an event with a committee. That way, each person is delegated a task and you do not have to bear the weight of its’ entirety. Another suggestion if you opt to sponsor a club or sport, choose something that does not start during the first quarter of the school year. That way, you can focus on completing the first quarter without distractions or other obligations. 

I hope these tips can help at least one person because I know exactly how you are feeling. If there is one thing I can leave you with is, everyone has a first day, first month, and first year at doing something. This is yours. Grab it by the horns and enjoy the ride.

Cheering You On With Love,

LOLA THE MANAGER

*** I will be doing a YouTube video elaborating more tips in the near future. Stay Tuned ***

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