Tips for Surviving Your First Year Teaching...And Your Second, And Your Third, And Your Fourth, Etc!
Hi, my name is Monica and I've been teaching for 10 years all around the world, and I still go home most days thinking I have NO idea what I'm doing! Whew, it felt good to get that off my chest! ;)
I got to thinking about all the hard times I have had as a teacher as I read this article titled, "Hey, New Teachers, It's OK To Cry In Your Car" from NPR. If you're reading this I know you are aware of how tough teaching can be, but did you know 1 out of every 10 new teachers don't make it through their first year of teaching?!? October and November can be the hardest months because it's when enthusiastic optimism is beat down with so many long, unappreciated, and less than perfect days. I got to thinking about some of the things that have gotten me through all the hard times. And just like you want to tell all of your students (especially my middle schoolers), IT GETS BETTER! Here a few things you might want to try!
Make a Happy Folder. You know you already have file folders for everything else, so make one for yourself. Keep any pictures and notes from students, class photos, great Valentine and Christmas cards, and print out encouraging emails from parents/administrators/colleagues. No, not everything in your day went perfectly. But if you are going to let one bad thing in your day have such power over you, then let all of those good things have power too! I guarantee you are doing more good than bad to these students. Savor the good moments by keeping them on hand and pulling them out when you need a little emotional boost to help put things back in perspective.
Go Home. Take care of tomorrow, and then go home. It took me quite awhile to realize that the more hours I put in at school, the worse I was for the students. I just wasn't my bubbly, happy self who LOVED my job. So I started scheduling in and prioritizing time for myself...to make me a better teacher! Now you can find me running out the door at 3:45 several times a week to catch a much needed yoga class and spend some time with loved ones (there is the man I live with that I occasionally run into called my fiance!). If you are so stressed you feel like crying in your car, you have probably already reached the point of diminishing returns with the hours you've worked. More hours in the class will not fix everything! Do what you need to do for the next day and then make some time for yourself! Feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next day with a clear head can make a huge difference!
Work on one thing at a time. You will never attain perfection, and trying to attain it daily will drive you crazy. However, getting better and better at ONE thing every day, that is possible. Choose one thing you want to work on that you know is a best practice and maybe a weakness of yours and do that one thing until it becomes a habit. Then work on something new. My one thing I've been working on this year is referencing our class objectives repeatedly throughout the lesson and making students take ownership of them. Next on my list: getting good closure at the end of lessons and not just frantically wrapping up the activity when the clock alarmingly shows that the class is almost over (okay, I have an alarm that goes off on my phone to help me with my time management)!
Don't reinvent the wheel. Any problem you are encountering not only has a solution, but has a solution or two from a colleague (including colleagues on the internet!). Ask for help and ask for advice! In other words, to quote a cliche: Work smarter, not harder! Oh and BUY things on Teachers Pay Teachers. It took me years after using Teacher Pay Teachers to finally look past the freebies and spend my hard earned money on something...and it changed my life! My time was worth the money spent. I recommend getting big units for social studies and science and year-long aids that can make a huge difference in your planning time and aid in continuity like year long spelling packets, bell ringers, etc.
Classroom Management. This is the hardest part of teaching hands down. It takes YEARS to get a system that works for you and your classroom. I have recently started using Whole Brain Teaching in my 6th grade classroom and LOVE that it is one cohesive program that covers so many aspects of the classroom. The point system I implemented got my rowdy classes under control in no time and keeps them motivated. (If I have more points at the end of the week they have weekend homework, if they have more points they don't! Works like a charm!) I encourage you to check it out and see if it is right for you!
I hope that at least one of these helps you get through the days, months, and years ahead. And in case no one has mentioned it lately, thank you for all your do for 'your' kids! Please share any tips you have! Happy teaching!