You're fresh out of college and ready to start your first teaching job. You’re nervous, excited, a little bit of both, but hey, you’re ready, right?
We know you’ve got this, but here are a few things we think any new teacher should know before they dive into the start of their teaching career.
1. Play the long game
When starting out, it’s normal to have doubts. At least for the first year, you won’t have all the answers, but it’s important to appear confident even if you feel unsure.
If you get stuck, seek guidance. Find a fellow teacher who you can vent to and ask for advice. Seek out any formal mentoring programs and if there isn’t one, ask an experienced and willing teacher to mentor you.
2. Work backwards
You need to ask yourself, “What do I want my students to learn today?” When designing a lesson, establish your academic goal and work backwards from there. Consider using exit tickets - index cards on which students write what they learned. Review these at the end of the day to see if you’ve achieved your goal.
3. Remember to take breaks
Rule of thumb, children can generally sit still for a time equal to their age plus two minutes. Brain breaks are a must to get students focused while promoting learning. If you don’t give kids a chance to move, they’ll find a way to move on their own. Take control and get moving. Your brain will thank you too!
4. Find teachable moments
Teach to your students’ interests which creates a more engaging way to learn as well as mitigates behavioral issues. Teachable moments will happen when you least expect them but pay attention to your students’ questions and what makes them curious. Harness that curiosity and seek out ways to answer their questions through research, group discussions, hands-on activities and/or assigned projects.
5. Create a classroom community
Set classroom expectations, giving them ownership and accountability of proper rules and consequences. Note positive behavior from across the class and call it out. Students will want to emulate that behavior. If and when you need to discipline a student, do so privately. Ask clarifying questions to find the root of the problem and hold them accountable to the classroom’s expectations.
6. Connect with parents
Keep in touch with parents through daily, weekly, or monthly emails. Be transparent and reach every family with at least one positive note or shout out about their student. Start a weekly newsletter to keep them in the loop or use a classroom app like ClassDojo, as a virtual community with teachers and parents supporting students’ growth through goal-setting, feedback, and celebration.
7. Be kind to yourself
Teaching requires energy. The first few weeks of a new school year will leave you depleted quickly so eat well, get a good night’s sleep, breathe deeply, and dance freely. Make time for yourself either to re-center, re-energize, or simply to treat yourself. Read this blog on a couple of ways to de-stress from a long day.
8. Read, read, read
Education and teaching is constantly evolving with new methods and pedagogies. Equip yourself and seek professional development to grow as an educator through reading. The more you grow and learn, the better prepared you’ll be to cultivate a safe space for all different learners. Check out this blog with our top must reads for teachers.
9. Set healthy boundaries
There's a difference between helpful and overexerting yourself. Teaching is a laborious profession, but that doesn't mean you have to say yes to everything your administrator or principal asks of you. If you need help, ask for it. If you've got too much on your plate to take on that extra committee or project, say so. It's better to speak up and find collaborative solutions than to be a "yes" person at the expensive of your well-being.
10. Practice self-care
Practice that self-care! You can't pour from an empty cup. Each day your students need the best of you and you can only give that if you've taken care of you, first. Eat right, exercise, meditate, and have other hobbies and activities outside the classroom!
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is that you’re here. You’ve worked really hard. Now, go out and crush it!