Dear first year teacher,
Congratulations! You have your first ever teaching job. In a tough job market you were one of the lucky ones who got a job after graduating and are getting ready for your first day as an official high school teacher. Now Relax. No, your classroom will not look perfect or be complete on day one. You do not need to have planned the curriculum for every class for the entire year, or have made enough copies to kill a forest. Your room and lessons will not look straight out of your favorite teaching blog, because that teacher has been teaching for years and is only showing you the polished side of what they do trying to make themselves look better (myself included). So here is the advice I wish I had been given before my first day teaching high school.
Eat – It is pretty simple concept, but if you are anything like me and start to cry when overwhelmed, frustrated or upset while also being hungry, eating can make all the difference. Make sure to have a good breakfast, and pack a lunch and snacks for your big day. Have a granola bar or a piece of chocolate during your prep while sitting by a blasting air conditioner will give you the strength to keep on going. Pack a lunch because the hot lunch system is always a mess day 1 and you do not want to waste your precious 25 minutes waiting in line in the cafeteria, but rather getting tips from veteran teachers in the teachers lounge with your sack lunch. Finally, bring a bottle of water and have it in the front of the classroom. Having your teacher pass out of heat stroke day one is not exactly the first impression you were going for.
Smile – Greet every student who enters your room with a handshake and a smile and have them introduce themselves to you. Also, introduce yourself to every other person you encounter in the school, the secretary, janitor and the neighboring teachers. These are the people who will help you out tremendously your first year if you are willing to ask. When a student tells you her grandma has your shoes, smile and tell them their grandma has good taste. (If you were not aware as a high school teacher you are walking the fashion runway everyday with 100 of the toughest critics out there. On day one wear something professional, lightweight, and hopefully not something their grandma has.)
Breathe – No, your first day will not be perfect, and in that moment when a student says something so rude you want to scream at him across the room, turn around take a sip of your water and take a couple deep breaths. No, you will not get through a third of what you thought you would the first day, but there are 179 more to go.
Day 1 is about the following 3 things:
- Who are they? – Get to know their names, the sooner the better. Knowing their names week one is a huge behavior management technique, as well as shows you care about them. Study the yearbook, and impress them by greeting them each by name the next day.
- Who are you? – As the brand new person in their high school bubble, they will not be able to hear a single thing you say until they know the following about you: Do you have a boyfriend/husband/kids? What activities and sports were you a part of in high school? How are you going to affect my life as a hard/mean/pushover teacher? Do a little presentation to introduce yourself to them, and including embarrassing old photos is a bonus so you can laugh together.
- Have fun! – Day 1 is notorious for being the boring syllabus day. Do something to get the kids excited about your class. Read Teach Like a Pirate for some great ideas.
After you make it through Day 1
- Go Home! – Do not stay in your oven of a classroom for hours obsessively planning for the next month. Get everything ready for day 2 and then get an ice cream treat on your way home to celebrate your accomplishment.
- Call your mother – After your first day your mom will be more anxious to hear about how it went than your first day of Kindergarten. She will tell you she is proud of you and make you fee better about wearing grandma shoes.
- Celebrate! You did it! You are now a seasoned, real teacher. Go out there and change the world!