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10 Things I Would Tell Myself As a First Year Teacher

August 3, 2013 by Emily

Ten Things I Would Tell Myself as a First Year Teacher


If I could tell myself 10 things as a first year teacher, this would be it!  As I embark on a new year in a new grade level at a new school, I keep thinking how grateful I am and how lucky I am to have the experiences I went through in just three fast years.  Rewind three years in time.  I was about to get my very first class.  I knew exactly what I was getting myself into but had NO idea just how it would feel like to be run down and tired all the time.  If I could go back in time, and give myself advice, this is what I would say…

1.  You are not perfect.  You will never be perfect.  Do what you need to do to be effective and successful.  You are going to have to learn as fast as you are going to have to think.  Many things are going to be hard the first time.  Things are not going to be comfortable, so throw perfection out the window.  You may get pretty darn close one day, just not anytime soon.

2.   Be confident in your direction.  Even if you don’t know what you want the kids to do, be sure you make it up as you go.  Let your students know you may change your mind and that is okay.  Kids are resilient and they know when you don’t know what you are doing.  If you are confident and assure them that even though the direction or procedures may change, you are still sure of yourself.

3.   Know who’s who on the staff.  This includes the tattle tales and the brown-nosers.  Yep.  I said it.  Even if you think you are not doing or saying anything wrong.  Every site has a different culture, and you don’t know what the “rules” are.  Let everything settle and scope out the people you can trust.

4.   Focus your attention on what is impactful for kids.  Ask yourself, “Does the energy I am spending on this have a direct impact on kids?” If it does not, do what you need to do to follow policy, but do not loose sleep over it.

5.   Youtube.  Youtube anything you need help on.  If it is engagement strategies, attention-getters, cooperative structures, etc.  I still use Youtube to learn the latest and greatest on best teaching practices.

6.   Be nice to the teachers on your team and do not flaunt the fact that you learned a lot in college.  Although you did, take everything they have to say or give you.  You will not be able to do it all.  Listen to what they have to say.  Do not reinvent the wheel.  Take, borrow, beg, steal.  They know what they are doing (most of the time). My supervising teacher gave this little tip to our small group, and I am so glad she did.  It saved me a lot of damage-control.

7.   Listen to the parents, stand your ground, and admit when you are wrong.  You are going to have to grow some thick skin, because you are going to be questioned.  Be open to what they have to say, apologize, and come up with a solution.  This creates a relationship where it is okay to be honest  and they are less likely to contact your administrator before calling you.

8.  Be proactive, not reactive.  You are going to be evaluated, and you are going to have things that you have to work on.  Take this advice.  It will only make things easier for you in the long run.  Work on what they say, because it will make you a better teacher.  It is easy to get frustrated and react over negative feedback, but if you think about the lesson and how it looks from an outsider’s perspective, it may make sense that you could improve.

9.  Get a mentor and do everything they do.  Stick to the way they do things as much as you can.  That way, when you have a problem with something such as the behavior system, or instructional approaches, they can better guide you on where you are going wrong.   If you have a different system, they will have a harder time giving you advice on how to implement and/or enforce it.

10.  Breathe and enjoy your students.  Don’t spend your entire weekend planning for the next week/quarter.  You are going to burn out really fast.  Reserve some time to yourself each day and weekend and do not think or speak of school.  Then take the rest of the time to do what you need to do.  You want to be there for the kids, but if you can’t take care of yourself, you will never be able to take care of them.  The kids are why you became a teacher.  Don’t forget that.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!