My Advice to New Teachers at the Beginning of the Year
It's about three weeks before school starts for me here in NJ and I wish I could tell you I was ready. It's so hard to want to go back to a regular schedule of lesson planning, homework grading, and resolving 1,000 problems a day.
Even though I'm not really ready to go back, it's my sixth year and things should run a lot more smoothly than they did my first year. I still get nervous for the first day but it's nothing like that first year. Everything felt so overwhelming!
What really helped me get through that first year was advice and support from my teacher mentors and the other first years in the trenches with me. In that spirit, I wanted to share six things that I always try to remember at the beginning of the year.
Rehearse your first day to help it go smoothly.
This will be my sixth first day of school as a teacher and I still get nervous. This day sets the tone for your year so you want it to be the best it can be. My foolproof way to make sure the first day is a good day is to script it all out- every single minute. It gives me a sense of peace to know what I want to happen and to plan for everything that needs to get done on day one. I'll go over it again and again, including creating a dialogue in my head. It makes me much calmer before the big day. Be aware that the day rarely goes as planned but it's better to know what you think will happen that day.
Remember to plan for your students.
At the heart of everything is your students. You will get pulled into a million directions this year but always come back to one thing: your students matter the most. Plan lessons to meet their needs, create a classroom environment that nourishes them, and advocate for them even when you're the only one.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Communication is key, no matter how long you've been teaching. Share your students' successes with parents and don't be afraid to reach out when a student is struggling. Don't forget to communicate with your students; a friendly and casual talk with a student can reveal more than the work they turn in.
Technology is your best friend and worst enemy.
We are supremely lucky to live in a world with technology. My teaching has improved year after year the more technology I incorporate. Also, why should we make school the only place where technology is forbidden? Kids are exposed to it 24/7 so it's time to embrace it.
On the other hand, be very aware of your place on the internet. Everyone knows we have a life outside of teaching but teachers are still held to a different standard. That doesn't mean that you can't have an online presence (which is a position many school districts advocate for). Be smart. Keep in mind what impression you'll make before you post anything.
Get involved with the community but don't get overwhelmed.
Your job as a teacher extends far beyond the classroom. You become a part of the community. Nick often likens me to a mini celebrity whenever we're out in public and a student spots me. Be sure to get involved in afterschool activities and family events at school. But don't be the person who commits to everything but doesn't really do anything. Don't show up to every event, stay only ten minutes, and then leave. Commit to events you really want to help with and make a great impression.
Don't forget to take time for self-care.
Probably the most important tip on here is to make sure to take care of yourself. The school year is a marathon that feels like a sprint. You will get exhausted. My first year I once fell asleep at my desk during lunch time. You will be overwhelmed. No matter how many times the admins promise deadlines will be spread out, they always fall within the same week. There will always be more you feel like you could be doing, whether it's writing lessons, prepping a new activity, or being on another committee. But you can't do anything if you're running on empty. So make time for you!