In one of my other ‘First Year Teacher’ posts, I outlined three Must-Dos in your first year of teaching. #1. Find an Ally; #2. Develop Systems; and #3. Allow yourself to grow. In this post, I will explain how not doing these things could be a big mistake in your critical first year! In 2019, Forbes reported that teachers leaving the classroom after their first year is at an all-time high, and 1/3 leave after 5 years in the classroom. If you would rather find yourself in the 2/3 of teachers who are satisfied with their jobs in the long run, keep reading.
First Year Teacher Mistake #1 Doing it Alone
While teachers are #1 in their own classrooms, this profession is not meant to be done independently. I love this quote by Robert John Meehan and couldn’t agree more:
“The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.”
Teachers need each other for basic collaboration, planning, preparing resources, sifting through standards and curriculum, interpreting data, etc. But teachers need each other for moral support, camaraderie, encouragement, and more. Teachers are people, too!
In my first year of teaching, I had no sense of “team” in my grade level. I floundered all year with the most basic concepts, like interpreting teacher manuals. I struggled with classroom management (more on that below), my whole team ate lunch in their own classrooms. If I could have had just ONE ally on my team or in my building, maybe I could have had a more successful year. I struggled, therefore my students struggled.
When I accepted a teaching position at a different school for my second year, I was welcomed into a team of teachers who collaborated DAILY, even HOURLY! I felt like it was my first year all over again, only this time I had support. I was successful therefore my students were successful. Find an ally…BE AN ALLY!
Mistake #2 Winging it ?
You are a teacher, not a butterfly. Whenever possible, DO NOT WING IT! Secure systems, procedures, routines for everything! Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know. The name of the game as an educator is being flexible and reacting to every scenario that is thrown at you. When I was student teaching, a student threw up on his desk. I HAD NO IDEA what to do! Thankfully my cooperating teacher stepped in and saved the day.
You better believe I have a procedure in place for when this happens now! It has only happened one time since but I was prepared to jump into action, so my kids followed my lead. Anticipate everything possible and be prepared to explain clearly and concisely how you expect your students to behave. Consistency is the key!
First Year Teacher Mistake #3 The Dreaded Know It All
Please, don’t let this be you! Of course, you have prepared to be a teacher for years. Maybe all of your imaginative play as a preschooler had to do with playing school. Or maybe you were born to teach third grade. Maybe you have memorized your state’s standards, aced your educator licensing exams, and are a technology whiz. But please trust me, some facets of education can only be learned with experience.
Some aspects of teaching can only come with certain classroom dynamics, delivering certain student accommodations, or learning about unfamiliar diagnoses. It is a great thing to be inspired and ready to blaze your path as an excellent teacher – but allow yourself to grow and learn. There is an amazing kindergarten teacher at my school who helps her students develop hand strength for handwriting by using salt on a paper plate.
I implemented that with my third graders for practicing cursive! When my new math curriculum referenced number bonding as a prerequisite skill, I went knocking on my daughter’s first-grade teacher’s classroom door to learning how she introduced number bonding. It is almost impossible to grow when you are limited to your own perspective. Give yourself room to GROW and BLOSSOM, especially in your first year.
So first-year teacher, embrace that facts that mistakes WILL be made, but maybe not these! If you would like to save this post for later, just pin the image below!