Being a teacher is an incredibly fulfilling profession. However, it can also be difficult at times. As a veteran educator of 17 years, I can think of a lot I have learned over the years that I wish I knew when I first started out.
My advice to new educators:
- Step outside your comfort zone. As a first-year teacher it’s easy to feel isolated as putting yourself out there can be intimidating. It’s important to remember that everyone had to start somewhere and that everyone was the “new teacher” at one point. Try your best to reach out to your fellow educators and administrators and start to build relationships with them. There is also great benefit to finding a mentor when you are in your first few years of teaching, someone you can ask advice, help, or general support. I’d also tell myself to try to understand the inner workings of the administrative office and to find an administrator whose door is open to help. Ask them questions and ask for help if you need it.
- Take time to reflect. I keep a blue 79 cent spiral on my desk to jot down notes for the day – when something went well and when it didn’t, just a couple of sentences. As a new teacher, taking time to reflect would have been extremely helpful. One of the most important aspects of teaching is knowing that not everything will work as planned, so taking the time to reflect on what worked with your students and what didn’t is helpful for making adjustments for future lessons.
- Set boundaries to ensure work-life balance. When I first started teaching I had a tough time finding a balance between work and my life outside of school. I wish I would have set boundaries for myself with work much sooner because I know I would have been much happier. For me, self-discipline was key to ensuring that I had a work-life balance. No matter the situation, it’s up to you to find that work life balance, set boundaries, and stick to them. I also became much more efficient in my work when I started to be more strict with myself about working at night and on the weekends.
- Be innovative. Take chances on your lesson plans and be brave with sharing your ideas. When you do this, you create an environment of innovation and creativity that your students will appreciate. Strive to bring aspects of creativity into all your subjects and encourage students to also think creatively. Give your students encouragement to explore different ideas and think innovatively in and out of the classroom.
- Visit the cafeteria. Students are in their element in the cafeteria and that is their time to relax and be with their friends- to talk about things like the movie they saw last week, their summer trip to the beach, or the puppy they are adopting this weekend. In the informal lunch setting teachers are more approachable, allowing students to view them in a less intimidating way. It’s important to recognize students outside the four walls of the classroom and being in the cafeteria from time to time is beneficial for both teachers and students.
Don’t let your first year of teaching be your hardest year. Follow my five simple tips to make your first year one you won’t want to forget!