Year one of teaching is always the hardest. How do you make it through? We’ve got simple ways to make your first year of teaching smooth.
Challenges in the First Year of Teaching
The learning curve of teaching can be steep. You must learn the curriculum and the online grading or digital classroom portal. You must figure out how to present your lessons effectively, manage time, and deal with difficult parents and students. And you have way too much work to fit in the hours of any regular workday. It’s exhausting!
Be proactive. Yes, the first year of teaching will be challenging, but it will also be rewarding. You can survive (and even thrive) if you keep the following tips and tricks in mind.
Time Management Tips for the First Year of Teaching
Your teaching job will take over as many hours as you allow (and you still won’t finish everything). You must place boundaries on your time. Sure, you can burn the candle at both ends, but you will only last a short while before you are emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. You must put boundaries in place.
Arrive Early But Leave on Time
Look at your contracted hours. Arrive 30-40 minutes before your hours start but leave on time. Do what you can in the morning and let the day begin. When you reach your contracted ending hour, leave the building. This will require discipline, but it will help tremendously with your work/life balance.
Don’t Take Work Home
You need to adopt this as a hard and fast rule. No matter the temptation, don’t take work home! Remember, the work will expand to fill whatever space you give it. The teaching year is a marathon and not a sprint! You must preserve your time off and keep regular hours.
If it kills you to leave work unfinished, remind yourself that you’ll have some time in the morning to finish what absolutely needs to be done.
If Possible, Schedule an Early Planning Period
Not everyone can choose their planning period, but if you are one of the lucky ones, try for a planning period first thing in the morning. You are likely at your most productive, and it will help tremendously to have that hour to wrap your brain around the demands of the day.
Practical Tips for Your First Year of Teaching
These practical tips are nuggets of gold!
Use Sticky Notes
Sticky notes are a teacher’s best friend. They can help you communicate with parents, mark up your planner, keep track of your progress in your curricula, and (wait for it) be an external hard drive for your brain.
Making lesson plans is creative work, and sometimes your creativity does not flow when you need it. Keep a stack of sticky notes at hand to jot down ideas for next week’s lessons. These ideas can strike you when grading papers, collecting homework, or even taking attendance. You don’t need to stop what you are doing. Just jot down a quick note. Then you’ll have a stack of ideas to choose from when you have time to plan.
Make Reusable Items
An activity or a game can enliven a lesson. Make generic game boards, activity mats, or file folder games and laminate them so they last. This way, you can adapt them for multiple topics and games. This saves you valuable time! You just need to come up with different questions or instructions.
Have a Small Bag of Tricks
You may love Ms. Frizzle, but you don’t need to be her to be a great teacher. Have a small set of go-to hands-on activities and adapt them for every subject. Picking from this small group of activities will take the pressure off you and save you time.
Be Proactive About Classroom Management
Classroom management is the foundation of effective teaching. If you have a dynamic teaching style and creative lessons but your class is out of control, you will have difficulty impacting your students. Check out these classroom management ideas to help your classroom run smoothly in your first year of teaching.
Invest in Comfy Shoes
Never underestimate the power of a pair of good shoes. For teachers, this means shoes that are both attractive and comfortable. You stand on your feet all day; supportive shoes are a must! Check out this list of the Best Shoes for Teachers.
Personal Tips for Your First Year of Teaching
Surviving the first year of teaching has much more to do with what is happening inside you than what is happening around you.
Make Your Desk a Haven
You have a small corner of the school all your own: your desk. Make it a pleasant place to be. Place pictures of your loved ones on a corner (or perhaps your favorite vacation spot!). Have a couple of potted plants or even an essential oil diffuser. Make your desk a place that nourishes your soul.
Give Yourself a Break
No doubt you have high expectations for yourself. Don’t eliminate them, but moderate them. This is your first year; it’s the first layer of the cake. For this year, concentrate on getting through it without burning out. Give yourself time to evolve into the type of teacher you want to be.
Practice Self Care
You spend the day taking care of others. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you need ideas that are simple and yield big results, check out this article on Self-Care for Teachers.
Find the Joy
Teaching is a challenging but rewarding job. Your first year will be bearable if you find pockets of joy. Have you seen progress with some of your students: academically, socially, or emotionally? Did you perform a teaching task that makes you swell with pride (like a terrific bulletin board, creative centers, or a perfected morning routine)? Have you connected with parents? Celebrate these moments!
Fake It Until You Make It
With all there is to learn, you may feel shaky and unsure of yourself. That is entirely normal. Remember this advice: fake it till you make it. It won’t be long before your confidence and know-how are full to the brim!
Surviving the First Year of Teaching
The first of teaching is challenging, but you can soar through it with these practical tips. Remember to give yourself heaps of grace, manage your expectations, and set firm boundaries. Thanks for all you do! You are making a difference (even on the days when you don’t feel like you are).