As you gear up to start on the road to a teaching career, chances are you’re feeling an entire range of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to apprehension about whether you can actually do it. Having an idea of what to expect in your first year, though, can help you get through and keep you from running for the door before the ink on your license has even dried.
All teachers, whether first year or in the trenches for decades, start the school year optimistic and excited about what is to come. Experienced teachers know that there will be ebbs and flows, along with times when everything is going great and days when you feel like you just can’t get through to anyone.
First year teachers are usually unaware of these cycles and can get frustrated by this natural rhythm. Several studies have shown that new teachers should expect their first year in the classroom to be a lot like a rollercoaster ride – with the first major dip about six weeks into the school year. Whether it’s the realization that managing a classroom of unruly students is much more difficult than it seems or they have a hard time developing relationships with other teachers and administration, new teachers often question their career choice sometime around November.
It’s okay if this happens – everyone goes through it. Instead of focusing on what’s going wrong, take some time to reflect on what’s going right. Try some new strategies, seek advice from an experienced mentor and consider the reasons why teaching is something you feel is a good fit for you, and you’ll get over the inevitable disillusionment hump.
Remain Professional…and Set Boundaries
Imagine you’re in your first year. You’ve had an awful day in the classroom: your students wouldn’t focus, you couldn’t effectively communicate a concept, and that one troublemaker almost had you pulling your hair out. At the end of the day, it might be tempting to head to your blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed and vent, but avoid that temptation. As a teacher, you are expected to remain professional at all times, even in your private life. Anything you post online is public, and when you are in the early stages of building your reputation, you need to focus on staying positive and enthusiastic. In other words, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Staying professional also means respecting the boundaries between your personal and professional lives. It’s easy to get caught up in everything you have to do as a new teacher and everything you want to do. Practice time management, as well as making time for family and friends and your own hobbies. Maintaining a full life outside of the classroom makes you a better teacher, and helps prevent burnout.
Make Sure you Offer Substance over Style
Once you finally have your own classroom, you’ll want to turn it into the perfect, homelike, beautiful environment that you’ve imagined since you first started dreaming of becoming a teacher. Before you spend all of your cash on decorations and supplies, though, remember that it can take years to collect all of the items that experienced teachers have in their rooms. You probably won’t have your dream classroom in your first year, which is absolutely ok.
At the same time, you want to make sure that whatever you do adorn the room with serves a purpose, and that the look of your room doesn’t detract from it’s purpose. If you aren’t prepared to teach, or have a less than effective teaching style or classroom management abilities, all the comfy reading nooks and beautiful bulletin boards in the world can’t hide it.
Classroom Management is Key
Chances are, you have yet to study classroom management principles and techniques, but until you’re actually running your own classroom, you’ll never really know what it’s like. However, learning and understanding all of the aspects of classroom management from the layout of desks to relationship building with students is the first step on the road to becoming a great teacher.
Understand that effective classroom management is not going to happen overnight. As you gain more classroom experience, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, and how to implement strategies to create the best possible learning environment. In the meantime, seek advice from experienced teachers, review the strategies you own teachers have used and give yourself a break if your time management idea turns out to be a colossal failure.
Scared of teaching, yet? Don’t be discouraged. There’s no denying that your first year as a classroom teacher is likely to be the most challenging. That would be true of any career, as the first year is the time to get comfortable and develop the strategies and skills you need for future success. Be confident that as you further your own education and receive your degree, you’ll develop the formal skills you need; everything else comes with experience. So, cut yourself some slack and don’t panic; you’ll learn.
This guest post article was written and provided by Lindsey Stinson who one day hopes to become a (http://www.creighton-online.com/programs/educational-leadership-degrees-doctorate-of-education.asp)>doctor of education and is currently a freelance writer and hopes to finish her (http://www.creighton-online.com/programs/educational-leadership-degrees-doctorate-of-education.asp)online ed.d programs early next year.