I should say, part one of one gazillion of the series, “The Importance of New Teachers”! New teachers, we love you. We’ve been you. And we need you. Thank you for your enthusiasm, super cute bulletin boards, and willingness to join us on this crazy ride we call “education”
Here are five tips for new teachers:
- Find your people. Or your person. 🙂 You really only need one person. You know how Jim and Pam of “The Office” only had to give each other one look during a meeting to survive the crazy? Find a mentor-and it doesn’t have to be a teacher in your grade level. Some of my best mentors have been school secretaries. No one is better at managing people-stressed teachers and exhausted parents alike- as a school secretary. But my mentors have also included the shop teacher, the counselor, and our school librarian. Find a friend to push you to try new things and who you can also be a listening ear for in a time of need.
- Take a day off. I was convinced early in my career that I wasn’t allowed to use my day off. I now know this is poppycock. While taking the day off during professional development or parent-teacher conferences to get a mani-pedi will not elevate our profession, actively and efficiently planning a day off is absolutely allowed. Find your sub, crank out some awesome sub plans (TPT sellers have the best sub plans ever!), and prep your kids. Then enjoy that well-deserved day off!
- Join professional organizations. As a new teacher, you simply do not make enough money. It’s just the truth of our profession. Growing yourself as a teacher is essential. Most professional organizations, like the National Science Teaching Association, have reduced-price memberships for new teachers. Being a member includes subscriptions to journals and access to free-online learning and resources that make the membership cost worth the price.
- Find the balance between relationships and rigor. Just before my first day of teaching, I was told that if I didn’t make at least one student cry, I would be failing. I couldn’t do it-who in their right mind would want to make a first grader cry on purpose? I was also urged to keep my students robotic and silent as they moved through the halls. Listen, behavior management is essential for maximum learning time. But you have to be you. You became a teacher for a reason, and it wasn’t to march children through the halls for “quiet practice” or to make children lose their dignity and love of learning. Finding the balance is hard. During their first year, some teachers will let kids walk all over them and others will be too strict. Give your self some time to find your teacher-persona, but most importantly, be yourself!
- Go take a walk. You have to get out of the building sometimes! If your school has a protocol for having you sign out when you leave, make sure to follow that rule. Sometimes a 15-minute walk can make all of the difference in your ability to be the most effective teacher for your students. When I was teaching in Germany, there was a path running through a small forest-like area. At least three times a week, I’d change into running clothes and go for a 20-minute job on my lunch break! One time I had returned and one of the students, who was celebrating her birthday, had left a cupcake on my desk. It was like finding gold at the end of the rainbow!
First-year teachers, recognize that you’re entering the workforce at an unprecedented time. None of us has ever taught under these conditions. Thank you for jumping in to education at this time, and for all of the support you’ll bring to America’s kids.