10 Truths New Teachers Need to Know
So you've finished your degree, passed the Praxis or its equivalent (yay!), and landed your first teaching job. Sure, you're going to change lives and impart your love of learning into your curious students, but there are some things about being a new teacher that your college professors and professional organizations might not tell you.
To help you prepare for the classroom issues you didn't know you'd face, here's some real talk from veteran teachers who've been there.
#1 You Are Not an Island
It will be tempting to close your classroom door during planning periods and work on lessons or grading without the distraction of students to interrupt. However, it can be incredibly isolating. As a new teacher, you may not yet feel like "one of the gang" in your department or grade level, but it is vital that you interact with fellow educators. It is the best way to become a part of your institution's community.
Even if you feel like you don't have time for socializing, talking and commiserating with other teachers can be a lifeline on days when you feel overwhelmed. According to Education Consultant Dr. Lorea Martinez, PhD, "Teaching is an emotional practice, and teachers need support in strengthening their social and emotional skills to manage the stress that comes with teaching and stay in the profession for the long term."
If nothing else, at least join others in the teacher's lounge during lunch. Don't be afraid to ask veteran instructors for help or ideas; most will be happy to give advice to new colleagues.
#2 Overplan, Don't Underplan
You might have a beautiful 90-minute lesson planned, but as a new teacher, it won't hurt to add a few extra steps. Kids can be surprising—what you think might take them an hour to do could just take a few minutes, and the last thing you want is a classroom full of bored kids on your hands. It might mean messing up your lesson plans, so make sure your administrators approve and understand why you've changed your pacing.
#3 Using Internet Lesson Plans is Not Cheating
There is great satisfaction in planning units and lessons from scratch, especially if they're successful. However, new teachers have a lot of other stuff to do that may not leave much time for planning every single lesson. That's what the internet is for!
There are some great sites available where teachers post their plans for everyone to use. Some content providers such as CK-12 and other OER providers are free. Others such as Teachers Pay Teachers charge money.
But if you have access to online communities of educators via your learning management system (LMS) or social media, simply asking for available content can result in getting access to lessons, units, and even courses you can use within a few hours. Educators in collaborative communities can be very supportive.
#4 You Need to Be Active—But Not Too Active
It's important to be active in your educational community, and new educators especially should be sure to attend some athletic activities or dances. Sponsoring a club or extracurricular activity is also a great way to build relationships with students and other faculty members outside the building or classroom. However, don't wear yourself too thin. Be sure to leave time for you and your own family, or you'll resent your job.
#5 You Will Be Tired
Remember in college when you could stay out until the bars closed, then go out for breakfast at 3 a.m.? Those nights will definitely be a thing of the past once you start teaching. In fact, you'll likely be so tired from the mental and physical energy you've exerted all week that you may find yourself asleep before 9 p.m., even on the weekends.
Teachers make numerous daily decisions, we talk and stand and bend and chase—it's an exhausting job. Taking time for yourself, including going to bed early, should be a priority.
#6 You Will Get Sick
You can wash your hands 100 times a day and antibacterial-ize every surface in your classroom every day (which might hurt more than help anyway), but getting sick is inevitable. Working with kids means working with germs, and it's especially precarious if you work with elementary students. Get a flu shot every year, get plenty of sleep (see truth #5 above), and keep washing your hands.
#7 You Will Go Home and Cry Sometimes
According to a 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, over half of teachers reported "great stress at least several days a week," (pg 53). The stress of instructing, grading, planning, comforting, counseling, meeting deadlines, and maintaining a personal life can be taxing.
It's okay to have an occasional breakdown once you get home. It might even make it easier to go back to the classroom. However, in moments like these, make sure you have someone you can talk to—be it a fellow teacher or a sympathetic friend. Too many teachers quit because they get overwhelmed with the stress of all their responsibilities; having a way to vent is vital to staying in the profession.
#8 You Will Have Lessons That Flop
Have you ever heard the phrase, You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather? The same is true of lessons plans. You might be super-excited about your lesson on the earth's biomes, but the students might not feel the same enthusiasm. Don't be discouraged; the next one might be better.
#9 Some Students Won't Like You. Don't Take It Personally.
If little Joey refuses to listen to you, makes fun of your stylish frocks, and insists that you are the worst teacher he's ever had, don't take it to heart. More than likely, Joey has an underlying reason for loathing your existence that has nothing to do with your predilection for floral patterns or teaching techniques.
To him, you might seem like an aunt who treats him poorly or another teacher who was mean to him. Whatever the reason, it might help to have a chat with Joey to figure it out, but even if that doesn't work, you have to let it go; it's not about you.
#10 You Will Feel Like You're Not Making a Difference, But You Are
You really are. You have entered a profession where the rewards are sometimes delayed for years. Don't let it make you think what you're doing doesn't matter, because it does.
Are there any truths you'd like to add to this list? Share them in the comments below.