I remember my first day as a teacher like it was yesterday. I graduated in December of 2009 and was fortunate enough to find a job taking over for a retiring teacher. I was hired days before the first day after winter break. I had no time to go in and prep because the campus was closed for holiday. Luckily, the retiring teacher left everything behind, but still I didn’t know what to expect when I walked in that Monday. Here are 5 truths I wish I knew my first year of teaching.
1.) Behavior Management is Everything
Behavior first….learning second. During my internships and college classes I thought it was the opposite. There is no textbook that can prepare you for the moment you realize you are severely outnumbered. There are way more kiddos in your classroom and only one of you. You need to have a firm grasp of behavior in your classroom. Your students need to see you as loving and caring, but also authoritative. They will undoubtedly try to push the limits and see what they can get away with the first few weeks of school. It’s best to come out strong and loosen the reigns later. If you start out with no management, its harder to establish boundaries later on. I carried over the behavior management plan the retiring teacher had during the second half of the year, but it wasn’t me. My second full year I switched to a credit/ debit system which I have ever since.
2.) You Can’t Make Every Parent Happy
This was really hard for me to accept and it took years. There is no way you are going to make every parent happy with every decision you make. Do what you feel is best for your classroom. You are the professional. Listen to the parents and try to come to some sort of common ground. At the end of the day follow your heart. You will upset parents. You will get emails that may upset you and even hurt. Stay in touch with a mentor or your administration and keep them aware of any challenging situations happening. They will support your needs.
3.) You Can’t Have Over The Top Lessons Every Day
During my first few years of teaching, I lived education every waking moment. I would get to school at 6:00 am every morning and school didn’t start until 7:30. I stayed late and then went home and worked on prepping activities until bed. On the weekends I scoured the internet for ideas to make every lesson I was teaching more engaging. During the summers I would drag my husband to my classroom and we would completely transform the room into a new theme for the new year. I lost touch of other aspects of my life that were just as important as my job. My family, friends, and personal time took a backseat to my role as a teacher. Not every lesson in every subject has to be over the top. You will run yourself down trying to glamorize every second of the day. You can have those all out activities once in a while, but sometimes a worksheet is just fine too.
4.) Set Financial Limits
First year teaching salaries aren’t as fruitful as you would hope. I had student loans to pay off and bills to be paid. Whatever little amount was left over went right back into my classroom and students. I bought books for my library, toiletries and food for my students in need, and much more. Set a monthly and reasonable budget for how much you’re willing to spend on your classroom.
5.) The Provided Curriculum Doesn’t Always Cover Your Standards Completely
Teachers most often rely on textbooks to teach the mandatory curriculum. Some are required to use district provided resources and others are just more comfortable with it. Unfortunately I have yet to find a textbook that adequately covers curriculum to its fullest depth. Some lack conceptual understanding, others are based on general standards instead of standards specific to the state in which you teach. Don’t be afraid to use supplemental resources or even make your own activities and questions. My first year of teaching I felt like I didn’t know enough to write my own questions. Today, I now know that I am the best advocate for what my students need.
If you’re just starting out as a teacher, you will find your way. Even veteran teachers seek support and change. Leave a comment with something you have learned during your time as an educator.