Many teachers enter their first year with the goal of changing the world. They’re going to be the cool teacher and the friend and the confidant and the soccer coach and everyone is going to love them. However, this often leads to overcommitment. I know, I was once that new teacher too.
I joined committees, helped out with the PTO, volunteered to run an afterschool program and more. I spread myself too thin, and felt like I couldn’t accomplish anything I set out to do. At times I felt underappreciated for all the work I was doing, exhausted by my never-ending lists of goals and defeated by my lack of progress.
As the years went on, I learned how to manage my own expectations and avoid teacher burnout. Once I realized that committing to too many things was hurting rather than helping me, I started accomplishing more than I thought possible. If you take what I’ve learned, you can too!
To make the biggest difference in your students’ lives, try to stick just to teaching during your first year.
You may want to join multiple committees and improve your school overall, but this can divert your attention. You will not be serving your students well if you’re exhausted every day—they don’t know that you’ve been putting in so much work behind the scenes. They expect you to focus on them and their learning, so focus all of your energy on the classroom itself. While staying involved in your school, community and state is important, make sure you take on those responsibilities one at a time and not all at once.
Don’t stress about making your classroom perfect, your students can help you.
So many new teachers envision the perfect classroom with intricate decorations. Make the room colorful and fun for students, but don’t over-concern yourself with having the cutest classroom in the building. I liken this to getting married—while a wedding is fun and you want everything to be perfect, it’s the relationship that truly matters.
There’s also research now to back this up. Some studies say that you shouldn’t have too many things on the wall when kids walk through the door. Let the kids create that classroom with you because they’ll have more choice in it. Allowing them to build the classroom with you makes connections early and creates a positive environment. And not to mention, it will provide you more time to thoughtfully lesson plan rather than decorate.
When you’re not focusing on your students, make sure to focus on yourself.
Take care of your body and mind in order to perform your best. That means sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water and taking vitamins. If you feel sick, there is no shame in taking a day off. Prolonging illness will only leave you underperforming for a longer amount of time.
By prioritizing your students and yourself, you will be on track to have a successful first year. Know what your core objectives are and don’t be afraid to say “no” to things that won’t help you reach your goals. To make the biggest difference, you need to focus on doing just a few things well.