10 Things Every First Year Teacher Needs to Know

Your first year of teaching can be one of the most exciting and stressful times of your life. You're fresh out of school or ready to start a new career. You have all kinds of ideas and theories, and you are ready to set the world (or at least your little corner of it) on fire. But make sure you aren't too hard on yourself. Becoming a teacher is kind of like becoming a parent. You can read all the books and take all of the classes, but you really don't know what it's like until you are thrown in there. You learn as you go. Your own classroom will be the most educational one for you yet. Here are 10 things every first-year teacher needs to know. 

Starting a new job as a teacher is exciting.  Get off on the right foot with these 10 practical tips every first year teacher should know.

1.  It is All About the Kids

Remember that you students are the reason you became a teacher. Your relationship with them will be some of the most rewarding of your life.
No matter what, at the end of the day, the week, and the year it's always about the kids. And it always should be. They should always be the why of everything that you do. 

It is so important from day one to set that positive tone. Let them know that you are here for them, and that everything you do is for them. Establish that loving relationship from the beginning. 

You WILL have days that don't go so well.  We all do! You'll feel like everything went wrong, but chances are it wasn't really everything!  Lessons will flop, activities might be confusing, classroom management will seem as if it doesn't manage anything.  Just know that this is not the first time and you are not the only one. Get back in there and try again tomorrow. 

2.  Be Flexible

If you only take away one thing let it be this! Flexibility is key! You're perfectly planned out days won't always look like they do on paper. In fact, it will be a miracle if a day actually goes as planned. You'll have constant interruptions from the office, behavioral or emotional issues that you need to deal with, unexpected assemblies or activities to attend, and extended recesses or late starts that will all interrupt your day. That's okay. Just expect that things will happen and be ready to adjust with a moments notice.  It's going to be one of your newest and best skills!  Smile, be flexible and it will all work out in the end. 

3.  Establish a Routine

Routines and classroom procedures will be the foundation of your classroom.  Ever walked into a classroom that seems to just function on its own, even when the teacher is not front and center?  Routines and classroom procedures! You need to establish them from the start.  Before the first day of school, think through everything you and your students will do and come up with a routine or procedure for doing it.  Then, starting the very first day of school you will begin teaching these routines and procedures to your class. The first weeks of school should be dedicated to learning and practicing these routines.  For each assignment and activity in these first days, think about what routine or procedure you can teach your students. Taking it slow and learning routines and procedures from the beginning will set you up for success for the rest of the year! 

So what do you need routines for?  EVERYTHING! You need set routines from the moment they walk in the door in the morning until the moment they leave in the afternoon.   Here's some everyday classroom happenings that you need a procedure for:

  • morning arrival and unpacking
  • making lunch choice
  • getting supplies
  • where to store supplies
  • sharpening pencils
  • going to the bathroom
  • lining up 
  • moving from one activity to another
  • packing up at the end of the day

Don't worry - you don't need to teach all of these at one.  In fact, on the first day focus on the most important.  Each day practice what you've already learned and then add in a new routine or two that connects to the activities you are doing.

4.  Be Consistent and Have Clear Expectations

Having clear expectations and sticking to them will help your students know what to expect every day, thus making your classroom management strategies more successful in the long run.
Kids thrive off of consistency at home and in the classroom. This comes back to routines. If you are consistent every day with your routines and classroom environment, your students will be successful. 

Kids also find comfort in knowing what to expect and how to carry themselves.  This could be the daily schedule or the behavior expectations for the playground.  Our young students generally want to please and knowing the expectation helps them know just how to do this.

Set clear expectations and consequences with your students starting on day one. I always love to come up with classroom rules and a mission statement together with my class.  This is a great first day or first week activity that sets the tone for the rest of the year. We write up our rules or mission statement and all sign it. Then I hang them on the wall so have them to refer back to all year long. We come back to them often in the first weeks, and later when needed during the year.

5.  Have Fun

You don't have to be serious all the time. Yes, you are here to learn, but you are also here to show your students that learning is fun! Building a relationship with students is also an important part of creating a classroom community.  Take a minute to laugh and tell a funny story. Take a brain break and turn on some music and dance together. These moments will save your sanity and build relationships all at the same time. Learning and fun can and should go together.

6.  Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like setting clear expectations, be sure to stick with them throughout the school year to help reinforce your classroom management techniques.
Just like in sports, practice is important in the classroom. This is important to remember for things like routines and expectations as well as skills and standards. 

At the beginning of the year you will be doing lots of practice.  Don't rush it!  You are preparing now for the months to come.  You may have a day in October or January where you are convinced your class has forgotten all that you practiced.  Don't worry.  Just go back to practice mode.  Take the time to go back and reteach the routine just like you did for the first week of school. 

When it comes to skills and concepts students will need practice.  All year long, students will review and practice important skills.  It is this practice that eventually leads to mastery.  You may think that your class should have picked up a new concept in a couple days.  But this doesn't always happen.  If students are struggling take the extra time to reteach and practice.  Your next lesson will build on this one and you don't want that to be a weak foundation.  Patience and practice will always pay off in the long run.

7.  Be Intentional

I'm specifically talking about lesson planning here. We should always be intentional when we sit down to plan for the day or the week. Have your standards printed out and next to you when planning.  If your school or district has scope and sequence, keep that handy too.  Use these as tools to guide your planning.  You don't have to reinvent the wheel! 

There should always be a "why" behind what you are teaching.  As you plan lessons make sure to note the standards you are covering.  A standards check-list is a great tool.  And don't forget that sometimes you covering more than one standard at a time.  By using these tools you will make sure that you are covering all of the required teaching standards.

As you plan a lesson or activity get in the habit of asking yourself "why?"  Focus on the skill or standard that will be taught or practiced through each activity.  Don't get caught up in that amazing Pinterest activity just because it looks fun. Instead choose it because it will help your students learn or practice a required skill.

8.  Take Care of Yourself

Make sure to plan time to pamper yourself. Spend time taking care of you while spending time with new friends will help keep first year teacher stress at bay.
Your first year of teaching will be exhausting. It will be a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows.  You are going to be learning and doing new things everyday!  The learning curve is steep at times. Remind yourself of this and remember to give yourself grace. 

Your to do list will seem like it is never ending. Set a work schedule and stick to it!  It will be one of the kindest things you can do for yourself.  Build in some planning and grading time to your work week.  Have a time that you will leave school each day and limit your work time at home and on the weekends.  

Set some boundaries and make your personal time a priority.  Teacher burnout is a very real thing. Take care of yourself so that it doesn't happen to you.  While I'm sure that you already know the importance of a healthy diet, exercise and sleep, I'm going to remind you of them again.  These three things are foundational to taking care of yourself physically and mentally.  Your personal life is not limited to the summer months.  Make sure to set aside time to pamper yourself (whatever that might look like) and nurture your family and friend relationships.

9.  Make Friends

I'm not just talking about with your students. Your team teachers and co-workers can and will be your saving grace. Learn from them, ask for advice and count them as one of your biggest resources. They have been there and done that.  In addition to being a resource, they may also become a new circle of friends.  You will, after all, be spending much of daily awake time with them.   

It's also important to make friends outside of the teacher circles.  Take the time to get to know the campus support staff.  They are the reason your school and classroom are running.  This includes the janitor, the office staff, the cafeteria staff and the nurse.  Take the time to get to know them. You'll be glad you did. You'll quickly learn that they are the hub of the school. They have tons of information and have established many relationships that will help you in the long run.

10.  You Can't Do It All

Remember this!  In fact, go back and read number ten again.  Remind yourself of this often.  While Pinterest has millions of amazing ideas, every moment won't be Pinterest-worthy! You can't do it all.  In fact, that teacher who you think is doing it all probably has years and years of experience.  Start out focusing on the most important things.  Add one or two amazing Pinterest ideas a month or semester.  Next year, you can add more!  

And that Pinterest worthy classroom . . . well, it's likely filled with years and years of accumulated supplies.  Don't get caught up with wanting all the new things.  You can create a fun and welcoming classroom environment without breaking the bank.  You will be amazed at the great classroom supplies you can find at your local dollar store! Remember, in the long run your students aren't going to remember the matching bins and bulletin boards . . . they are going to remember you!

Pin It and Save It!

I hope your first year of teaching is a great one! There won't be another one like it.  This is going to be a year you will remember for the rest of your life! Remember these 10 things every first-year teacher needs to know and you'll be off to a great start!  Be sure to save this pin to your favorite classroom board and come back for a reminder when you need it.

Starting a new job as a teacher is exciting.  Get off on the right foot with these 10 practical tips every first year teacher should know.  These tips from a veteran teacher will help you get ready for your new teaching position, prepare for the most important things, and set in place good boundaries for work home balance.  If you are a first year teacher you need to read this article.

Post a Comment