The start of a new school year is here. It is an exciting time. We begin thinking about how to decorate the classroom with all the ideas we did not get to use last year. With a new school year, we welcome new students. We also welcome a new crop of teachers embarking on their teacher journey for the first time.
As a school leader, when I think about the new teachers I will welcome this school year, I want to prepare them as much as possible. The first year of teaching can be challenging, frustrating, baffling, joyful, and rewarding all in one. So, for my first-year teachers, here is some advice.
Tip 1: Mistakes are good; they are how you learn: Teaching is an art which means it is an area you can always improve. You will make mistakes during your first year of teaching. The great part is that those mistakes will become your lessons. When you make mistakes, do not spend time being down on yourself, instead look at how you can improve. Some of the biggest mistakes I made ultimately made me a better teacher and got me to the place in my career that I am now.
Tip 2: Your to-do list will always be there: I want you to take a look at the to-do list you just made. Stare at it and get comfortable with that list because that list is not going anywhere. I need you to understand early on in your career that you will forever have a to-do list. You must also understand that it is alright for the to-do list not to be completed before you arrive home for the night.
Tip 3: I quit three times in my head my first year; teaching is hard, but hang in there: Teaching is hard for veteran and highly effective teachers. What do you think teaching will be like for a 22-year-old fresh college graduate that has never had a classroom? If you work at it, it gets a lot better. You will understand and handle the demands better. You will probably have those moments of wanting to quit and doing something different. The feeling of quitting is normal. The sense of quitting is expected, but don’t give up. It will be alright.
Tip 4: Being a teacher is seven days a week, not five days: Teaching is every day. There are no weekends. You will be working on Saturday and Sunday. In the beginning, you will probably be spending those weekends in the building, but eventually, that will fade. What won’t fade is your mind thinking about school and your classroom. Again, this is not a problem. Those of us who have lasted this far typically are working on Saturday and Sunday. It is important to have a work-life balance, but in the beginning, that balance is out the window. As long as the passion remains in your heart, it will be alright and something that can be sustainable.
Tip 5: Pace yourself; this is a marathon, not a sprint: Slow and steady wins the race. I am all about coming out guns blazing; however, what gets a lot of first teachers in trouble is not understanding that the school year is from August to June and not August to September. If you have ever seen the first-year teacher that has so much energy and great ideas early in the year, you smile and laugh. I mean they are on fire every time you walk in their room, and it is great for kids. Then, all of a sudden as the school year continues, the pep in their step is slower, the activities are less and less engaging, and they crash. They hit the wall, and they look at the calendar and realize that it is only September. I tell first-year teachers that energy is good, but I want that same energy you have in August also in February when Christmas break is over, and spring break is still six weeks out. You need to pace yourself because the school year is a marathon. Instead of sprinting to the finish line, pace yourself to ensure you have the energy until the final day of school.
Welcome to the greatest profession. You will not regret this decision. These are just some tips I have learned on my own personal journey, and I hope they help. Have a great school year!