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New Teachers: How to Survive the First Year

Updated on September 30, 2012

Teaching Troubles

Teaching is a wonderful profession that can be full of purpose, passion and creativity. Once a highly respected, well-paid and stable career, the profession has taken hard hits in the years following No Child Left Behind. It is no wonder that many teachers do not make it past their first 3 years of teaching! One major reason for such low attrition is the challenges that face new teachers and the lack of support that often compounds their difficulties.


Help - Close By

Currently in my 7th year of teaching as a certified PK-6th grade teacher, I made it through my first few years and somehow still managed to hold on to the joy that attracted me to this fulfilling profession. I often have encountered and even mentored first year teachers who nearly seemed ready to quit by winter break! The most valuable way of helping new teachers has often come in wonderful informal and downright funny musings of my own first year mistakes. The truth is, that in teaching, as in all professions, you are learning as you go. The first year the learning curve is huge but by helping one another, teachers can build the supportive community they need right in their school or circle of friends.

My Experience

So here I am, baring my first year struggles for all to see in the hopes that it may reach a teacher needing to know he or she is not alone! These tips might also gently guide you to becoming a more self-reflective practitioner, a quality that is priceless in a profession that often breeds cynicism.

Ms. Krystal’s First Year Mistakes

1. Perfectionism! My first year I had very high expectations of myself and my class and was disappointed every time something fell short of those expectations. Through my experience I have learned to go easy on myself and on children as long as we all strive to do the best we can.

2. Not asking for help! My first year I worked in a public school that availed me many opportunities to get help for myself and my class room. I had such pride that I felt I should be able to do and handle it all. Today I realize that my students and I benefit from the help and support of all that are available to us including the school counselor, other teachers, parents, technical support and school administrators.

3. Trying to reinvent the wheel! My first year was spent making and creating many things from scratch! I am now open to “beginning, borrowing and stealing” anything that may benefit my students. Thankfully we are in the information age which affords us any resource we need right at our finger tips!

4. Getting lost in my classroom! A school is a lonely place when you don’t reach out! I stayed in my room obsessed with getting it all right and expecting others to come to me. A little stop in another teacher’s room goes a long way in respect to building relationships professionally and personally.

5. Focusing on the negative! Difficult students and parents, resource issues and ineffective lessons are a reality of teaching that I obsessed over my first year. I would focus on how I could fix things rather that enjoying and embracing the things that were working. Today I stay flexible and try to take the good with the bad.

Mentoring and Supporting New Teachers

Questions and Comments

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    • msshandriaball profile image

      Shandria yanay Ball 5 years ago from Anniston

      great hub!

    • hi friend profile image

      hi friend 5 years ago from India

      Very useful hub. Vote up and awesome.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      justateacher-We have a lot in common because that little tale sounded very familiar to my first year! Only the strong survive :)

      Chaplin-This is a very tough time to be a teacher but I have to admit, it has not stopped being rewarding or necessary. I hope that many more good potential teachers will make it through their first 3 years and go on to love this career as much as I do :)

      Kimberly-Asking for help calls for a deflating of the ego that many of us are taught the complete OPPOSITE of! We are taught that we are supposed to know but it obviously takes time to develop that kind of knowledge base!

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      Great Hub! I am sure your advice will help many people. Many have a hard time reaching out for help in any profession for many different reasons. A major one may be that they don't think of it in the first place. Thanks for sharing your experience. I really enjoyed your Hub.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      A great hub to encourage teachers! I think there are a lot of teachers out there, old and new, who feel isolated and trapped in the madness of high stakes standardized testing. My hope is that public schools will also offer opportunities for teachers to collaborate and learn from each other instead of compete against each other for rewards/bonuses. Sorry for the minor rant - I have also been reading about what is going on in Florida's public school system and it is very scary! Thanks for sharing an upbeat Hub on this issue! Voted up.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Great info for new teachers. My first year was the most horrible year ever! I was thrown into a special education room with no special ed experience. My room was surrounded by four other classrooms. I had 27 students and 5 of them were runners. One of them was schizophrenic and one was borderline psychotic. I had a biter, a hitter, and a screamer. And all of this with absolutely no support from other teachers (Those are YOUR kids - I don't want them in MY class!!) or from the principal (Those are YOUR kids - YOU deal with it...if you can't find another job!)

      It was fun!

      Thanks for SHARING!

    • Double Down profile image

      Double Down 5 years ago

      Great article, I can see your point regarding trying to do too much. A relaxed teacher makes for a much easier learning environment.

    • Lightlee profile image

      Lightlee 5 years ago from United States

      Excellent Hub Krystal. I am sure this information will help many teachers make the decision to not quit in that first year. So here's a big thank you from all of them. :)

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      nifwlseirff, I started off teaching the same way! Just know that it does get easier. It takes time to trust that students really will learn whether you are perfect or not! I find that at any age, students benefit from seeing that their teacher is not perfect. It takes the pressure off their own performance anxieties. Keep up the great work! The very fact that you are thinking and questioning yourself and others shows how dedicated you are!

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      I'm still in the 'making things from scratch' phase, and suffer from perfectionism. I don't teach full time, which is probably why I haven't moved on from that stage yet! A great resource for new teachers.

    • nayaz1625 profile image

      nayaz1625 5 years ago

      Hello KrystalD,

      Thanks for this wonderful hub and for sharing your 1st year's mistakes. If you allow me, may I share a few pedagogical articles that may be useful to all of us as teachers:

      Thanks. Wish you all the very best

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      This is a sad but true fact Lauren's Wright. There is a major problem when politicians write educational policy. No Child Left Behind has been a contradiction and has only accomplished making an already large gap, larger. It is a tough time to be a teacher but an even tougher time to be a child. I believe that every teacher has an opportunity to touch the lives of their students no matter what "standards" they "must meet." A classroom is a small world and the teacher’s responsibility is to guide, nurture and expose that class in the ways they feel best. I recommend Bill Ayers "To Teach." He even made a graphic novel out of the book that brings to life that education and intelligence is beyond "standards" and especially beyond measurement by the current means of assessment.

    • LAURENS WRIGHT profile image

      LAURENS WRIGHT 5 years ago

      Thanks for a great Hub. I have subbed for 10 in past years and now after this, I went back to college and finished with certification as a teacher. Politics came into the picture with teaching and now, it is really not teaching students any more, but babysitting. Not all states are like this but I now know that the teaching systems are so very warped in some states.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks sweetzara! I am passionate about education I am convinced that a world without good teachers is a dying, lack luster one.

    • sweetzara profile image

      Zara Rasul 5 years ago from Mumbai, India

      Thanks for sharing your experience. This hub is a great resource for new teachers and those wanting to making teaching their profession. I did not know that most teachers quit in their first year! Teacher are so important in our lives and everyone remembers their fav teachers. Great Hub.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Esmeoewl12, I agree on Harry Wong. That was given to me as gift after completing my teaching degree and I thought it prepared me for that first experience even more than the degree!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Great hub! I taught for many years (also in a previous life). Two of my favorite points that you brought out are to ask for help. Often other teachers are glad to help if you only ask. The other is your recommendation for Harry Wong's "The First Days of School." Possibly the best book ever for a first year teacher (and beyond).

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      @ Charlotte: Thanks for the warm welcome.

      @Tunu: I understand and I sad to hear we lost in you in field. Hope you are abundantly happy in your new life.

    • Tonu1973 profile image

      Tonu1973 5 years ago from the outer reaches of reality

      Thank you for sharing. I can agree with everything that you stated. I was a 7th grade teacher in a previous life and only made it through three years. Unfortunately even with the passion, I did not have the support and was let go.

    • Charlotte B Plum profile image

      Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago

      This is a really useful hub! Thank you for sharing all this great advice with us.

      Welcome to hubpages! It's a great community here, and I think you'll like it! =)

      Merry Christmas too!