New Teachers: How to Survive the First Year
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.
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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.
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.