Educators are natural cheerleaders, fierce protectors, and they rally when needed. That’s why we turned to the Teaching Tolerance community of educators for advice to offer first-year teachers.
More than 100 of you responded, rallying around all the newbies. The advice ranged from practical (get rest, get a flu shot, get organized) to pensive (trust your instincts, remember each student has dignity).
The advice is necessary.
Teachers make hundreds of decisions each day that affect their students. They work hard, arrive early and stay late. They partner with parents. They work with students who enter their classrooms with varying levels of ability and preparation. They help develop skills and boost confidence. They listen and problem-solve.
The first year of teaching is full of challenges. Sometimes the transition from coursework and student teaching to having a full-time classroom can be daunting. There are unexpected highs and lows. The learning curve is high.
Teaching is important work.
“All kids have something that makes them special. You have to find what it is and work to strengthen it,” respondent Claudia Coleman wrote.
And it’s important for teachers to have mentors, be flexible with lesson plans, collect ideas from colleagues and get to know each student, our readers told us.
We also heard from Katrina Kat Goscha, who will be a first-year teacher this year.
“Thank you for your advice. It's reassuring to know there's still support within the profession,” she wrote. “… Teaching isn't a job, it's a career, a profession, a way of life.”
With all the focus on lesson plans, grading papers and tests, it’s important to “have fun teaching,” Mary Beirne-Smith wrote. “It shows when you love your job. And the best discipline is a good lesson plan. Make learning interesting and you will reduce behavior problems in your classroom.”
Don’t underestimate the power of fun and respect for students. And if you get overwhelmed, here are some other bits of advice from the TT community:
- Don't judge a fish for its ability to climb a tree. All kids have something that makes them special. You have to find what it is and work to strengthen it.
- Remember the partnership with parents.
- Respect all your students and their kin, and hope that it's returned.
- Join teacher retirement and put something away every paycheck in the teacher annuity program.
- Be consistent.
- Learn the technology of today’s world.
- Know your subject matter. Be flexible with lesson plans.
- Forgive yourself. They will learn stuff even though you aren't at the top of your game yet.
- Seek mentorship immediately. Teachers can feel so isolated, and a good mentor will help you build on the growth started in teacher prep programs. Collect ideas from colleagues.
- Above all, remember in the hard days and nights that you became a teacher because you love kids. Let that love of kids guide you. Have fun.
- Create situations where every child feels valued and you won't have any behavior problems.
- Keep the passion. Make friends with experienced teachers who are still smiling. Ignore the negative folks in the building.
- Always remember a teacher who influenced you.
- Be amazed at the learning that takes place.