Inside: 10 ways to rock your 1st year teaching. Advice from a teacher who has been there.
With Instagrams new ask a question feature I have gotten the question many times so far “What is your advice to a 1st year teacher. Starting out as a new teacher is terrifying, so I thought I would share my advice to all 1st year teachers. I will be starting my 7th year teaching this Fall. for some advice from a younger me check out these 2 posts.
If you are a student teacher, check out this post first! 10 Tips for Student Teachers
Here are 10 ways to rock your 1st year teaching!
Related to School
1. It is about relationships, not a pretty classroom.
The summer before my first year I spent way too much time doing DIY classroom decorations than I needed. Did it make me happy to have a pretty class? Yes. Did I have any idea what I was doing actually teaching? Not really. The relationships you build with students are SO much more important than spending a ton of money on decorations. When I think back to high school, the teachers who I loved the most had literally no decorations, but cared about me as a person. I know Pinterest and Instagram give you a false sense of what your room “needs” to look like. Save your money and invest your time with students instead. All you need are a few posters with a purpose like I CAN statements, Word Wall &classroom expectations.
2. Get a great mentor.
Use the crap out of them. This does not need to be a formal mentor. For me it was the second year teacher down the hall who did not teach my subject area, but helped me with everything related to the school, families and being a new teacher. I also had my circle of ladies my mom’s age who I ate lunch with. They gave great advice about how to work with certain students and had the wisdom of age for classroom management and just life in general. As the only World Language teacher, my online PLC was and still is a lifesaver. Joining #langchat on Twitter and reading blogs gave me ideas to move beyond just teaching how I was taught and inspired me to ditch the textbook and try new things.
3. Make friends with the important people at school
While setting up your classroom, make time to get to know the people who really run the school, the secretaries and custodians. The secretaries might be able to show you the hidden room of school supplies where you can stock up on expo markers, binder clips, kleenex and pencils for free. They can also answer just about any question about anything related to the school. The janitors and maintenance people will help to set up your room, bring you a ladder, and might come to the rescue when your projector does not turn on the day of your observation. (Well at my small school our head custodian is also our go to technology helper, you might want to add tech specialist to your important people list).
4. Do not create everything yourself.
If that mentor above teaches the same thing as you, buddy up and let the sharing begin. If you are a department of one like me, ask your principal for money to spend on TPT to buy yourself some time. Before you make something yourself, search. Is a couple dollars worth an entire night of creating a new lesson or assessment that someone else has already made, tried and out works out the kinks? I think so! If you are teaching a novel, ask your school to buy you the official teachers guide. They will save your life.
5. Find out the minimum amount of grades you are required to post.
Run with it. You do not need to grade every little thing. Using standards based grading, I only enter summative assessments. everything else is ungraded practice. Give verbal feedback, conferencing with students one on one while others work. It is more effective and saves you from grading outside of class.
Take care of YOU
6. Drink Water
I fill up multiple large water bottles at the start of the day to make sure I drink a lot of water during the day. If they are not filled up, I do not drink much, lose my voice and start to get headaches. I am actually much better at drinking water during the school year and my students often comment on the large amount of water I drink.
7. Meal Prep to Eat Well
Sunday afternoon I take about an hour to make sure I have easy, healthy food for the week. I cook a large (usually healthy) meal on Sunday and portion the leftovers out into lunch size containers. That way each morning I can just grab my Pyrex and go. It ensures I eat a good lunch each day. In the fall and winter my favorite is a big pot of soup or chili, and when it is warmer outside I like make stir fry or paella. I also like to make a big egg bake (a dozen eggs scrambled with some milk, spinach and sometimes turkey sausage) that I cut up, put in the fridge and warm up for a quick breakfast with my coffee each morning.
8. Get comfortable shoes
Teachers are on their feet. A lot. The cheap flats I wore to my desk job in college made my back hurt after standing on the hard linoleum and pacing tons of steps a day while in the classroom. Now I am that old lady who immediately checks for good arch support when shoe shopping, after I decide if they are cute. I love the fake Target Birkenstocks when it is warm and nice boots for the winter.
9. Do not take work home.
Set boundaries to only be at school an hour before and after school. Then go home, work out, cook yourself a good meal, binge Netflix or spend time with friends or family. Do whatever makes you as a person (not just a teacher) happy. My first year I burned out hard directing the play and musical and staying at school from 7am-9pm. So the next year I quit the extra stuff, left school by 4pm and had a life outside of work. Here is how to not take school work home.
10. Get a person (or people)
Every new teacher needs someone outside of school to vent to, to cry to, and to talk some sense into you. Maybe this is multiple different people like my husband to be my calming voice of reason “it is just school, why are you so worked up, relax,” my mom who just listens and offers practical suggestions, and my non teaching friends who take me out to forget about school. If you ever need a person, feel free to reach out!
BONUS!! – Get Free Stuff to make your 1st year easier
Make sure to download the Back to Spanish Class Ebook for many resources to get you started, follow my TPT store for resources to save you time & check out all of my posts for back to school as
2020 Update for Digital Learning to start school year
Relax, because you will do great things! Experienced teachers, what did I miss? Please comment with your advice as well.