Real Talk about That First Year

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten. I remember countless times as a child forcing my little sister to be my student as I played school in our family room. I have always loved working with children and am excited whenever I get to share some new insight with them. The night before my first day of real teaching, I could hardly get any sleep I was so excited and nervous. For those first few days, everything was like how I had dreamed. My students were all eager and excited to learn. I had prepped out every question I would ask in every detailed lesson plan I had written for that first week. Everything was going splendidly. And then, week three hit. 

Suddenly, my inbox was inundated with emails. Students were starting to struggle in math. I had tons of grading to do every plan period. I had run through all the lesson plans I had prepped before the start of the school year but didn’t have enough time in the day to plan them so I was having to do them at home in the evenings and on the weekends. My students were getting rowdier and my control of them seemed to be slipping. Teaching was no longer this hazy dream I had imagined. It was hard and I was getting tired.

How many of you felt this way your first year of teaching? So many of us came into this profession with dreams of what it would be like and the great impacts we would make only to find the reality a rather rude awakening. But were all those visions complete fantasy? No. Teaching has fulfilled all those dreams I had when I was little. But they didn’t all come true in that first year, or even in the second.

This job does come with a lot of responsibilities and challenges that take a few years to truly get in hand. And it is impossible to succeed at them all in your first year. So, I want to share some practical tips to make that first year manageable:

  • First, take it easy on yourself. The first year is hard, and it is hard for everyone. Give yourself an abundance of grace for every mistake. 
  • Second, prioritize what’s essential and be ok if other things slide a bit. In the first year, one of the most important things is getting familiar with your grammar, phonics, and math as well as working to form good relationships with your students. All of your classroom behavior issues will be greatly reduced if your students feel you care about them, so that is a really good investment of your time. 
  • Finally, ask for help. We have all lived through our first years of teaching and know what it’s like. Teachers that have been there for a few years have thought through many procedures or have had students with similar challenges that you are facing, so get their insights. Don’t feel like you need to come up with everything on your own.

Teaching really has fulfilled all my greatest hopes. I have gotten to work with students and bring them to their ‘aha’ moments. I have had delightful incidents of laughter as we discover something new. I have had students share sweet messages with me. But this didn’t all happen right away. Trust in yourself and all the good that you can do as a teacher.