Most “Veteran” teachers think back on their first year and cringe. There is just so much learning that happens your first year of teaching, and most of it is just plain overwhelming. That doesn’t mean it isn’t also wonderful, joyful, and fun! Looking back on my first year, there are some things I wish someone had made me do. Sure, I had plenty of things on my to-do list, but there are some holes in my memory that I wish I could fill now. For those of you entering your first year, CONGRATULATIONS! Check out these First-year Teacher Must-dos to help you make the most of your first year as a teacher.
Take pictures with you in them.
The number one thing I wish I had more of is pictures of me with my students my first year. I took plenty of pictures of my classroom, and I have plenty of files of lesson plans, but I struggle to remember the faces of the students after more than a decade. With all the access to cameras on phones, there is simply no excuse to not take pictures with your students! Make sure you have parental consent on file before sharing on Instagram, of course. Trust me, you will look back on these pictures and smile!
Keep a journal.
Keeping a notebook or journal handy and nearby will pay off in the long run. When that kindergartener cracks the best joke ever without even realizing it, or when that 6th grader delivers the perfect dad-joke, you are going to want to remember it! Think of how amazing it will be at the end of the year to be able to look back and have a year’s worth of funny, kind and silly moments to reflect on!
Leave on time at least once a week.
We’ve all heard teachers talking about the extra time they are spending on school stuff. Some are looking for camaraderie, others are looking for praise. Neither are really helpful. You need down-time too, and living at school does nothing to help you or your students. Leaving on time at least once a week will allow you to walk away and do something else. Even if that just means a Netflix binge. Your mental health is just as important as your lesson plans. An exhausted and overworked teacher is more likely to make mistakes. Those mistakes turn into doubt in yourself. That doubt makes you stay later to “really get ready for the next day.” This leads to more exhaustion, more mistakes, and more self-doubt. It’s a hard cycle to break. Give yourself grace, and a break! I go into a lot more detail in my course, Easy Organization Tools for Teachers.
This seems simple, but it’s effective. When everything around you feels like it is moving way too fast or way too slow and you are feeling overwhelmed, it is ok to take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed. Let the information you are getting flow through the “Is this useful right now?” filter. If it’s not, let it keep on flowing. If it is useful information and you have the means to process it, start applying it! In short, stop, breathe, assess and act. Even if that action is simply letting go of whatever it is that is overwhelming you!
Utilize online resources.
Finding pre-made plans and digital designed activities will help take the stress out of year one. Easy Teaching Tools has resources for K-2 and content area to help you!
Find your people and ask for help!
If you take nothing else away from these suggestions, take this: ASK FOR HELP! I wish I had more the first year. If I did, I bet someone would have shown me how to use the collate feature on the copy machine so I wasn't spending an hour every Friday afternoon making homework packets one-by-one!
Ask your teammates, ask your room neighbors, ask anyone! Find the people you trust, and lean on them. Surround yourself with great role models as much as possible, and learn from them! I can’t tell you the number of amazing people I have worked with that have helped me through each and every year! Being a first year teacher is exciting and terrifying all at once. Use the tools above in the First-year Teacher Must-dos to help you highlight the learning and let go of everything else! Happy first year, and welcome to the best career out there!