Tuesday, June 6, 2017

First-Year Teachers: What to Expect

The months before you start teaching for your first year bring about all sorts of emotions.

Excitement & Nervousness.
Ambition. & Paralysis.
Clarity & Confusion.

Your mind begins to fill with questions upon questions.

Did I choose the right school?
Do I really know my content?
Do I know how to manage a class of teenagers?
Am I ready for this?

All of these feelings and questions are normal responses and you shouldn't worry!  If you're having these thoughts, it likely means that you're concerned about your career and your path in life in a productive manner.  You're a responsible adult who wants to take his or her profession seriously.  But don't let it consume you.  

Instead, choose to be prepared.  Take time to learn about what to expect during your first year of teaching.  Plan for your responses to those different successes and challenges.

Below, I've outlined what I experienced during my first year of teaching.  I know from my colleagues that all of these situations are to be expected.  

  1. You will be overwhelmed.  They're not lying when they tell you that you will have more than you can possibly imagine on your plate.  The teacher role wears several hats.  The counselor.  The curriculum builder.  The assessor.  The instructor.  The planner.  The employee.  The leader.  There simply is a lot to do.

    My Tip: Take time on Sunday or Monday to intentionally plan your week.  Consider all of the tasks that you can imagine for the upcoming week (grading, planning, meeting, teaching, in-services, coaching, etc.).  Then mark 3-4 for the week that are the most important goals to get done.  This will give you focus for the week.  For each day, then, be sure to write a to-do list.  Highlight the 1-2 urgent tasks that you need to accomplish and 1-2 important tasks that will help you with your 1-2 weekly goals.  This is not a mind-blowing solution.  However, taking that time to intentionally plan out your week and focus your actions makes all the difference.  I continue doing that to this day and my boss, her boss, her boss, and his boss are always astounded by the amount of work that I can get done and the level of focus that I have.
  2. You will be confused.  The summer that I was hired for my first teaching job was spent planning. I knew what classes I was teaching and my Department Chair had given me the texts.  However, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to teach those classes with the textbooks I was given.  It was the day before classes started that I finally reached out to him about it.  Turns out, he had given me the wrong text books.

    My Tip: Ask questions but not before you've exhausted all of your options.  Your leaders want you to reach out when you're confused.  As a teacher supervisor myself, there's nothing that I want more than for my teachers to ask me questions. The one caveat here is asking questions for something you should already know.  Please exhaust your options.  Check your resources. Check your emails.  Check with a co-worker.  Then reach out to your boss.  He or she will greatly appreciate your doing so.
  3. You will be challenged.  You will be doing something that you've never done before.  It will be difficult and that's okay!  Some of the most challenging moments are when students challenge your authority.  I still remember on the first day of class where a student told me "I own this class" while throwing a ball in the air.  I had no idea what to do. I'm telling you, they can smell fear from a mile away.  They can smell uncertainty.  That was a huge hurdle for me when I started teaching.

    My Tip: Invest in yourself.  Make personal and professional development on your weekly, if not daily, to do list. I love to listen to podcasts on my way to work.  Listen to teaching podcasts yes, but feel free to branch out.  Podcasts on multi-level marketing are particularly interesting to me because they are always about team-building and creating an environment of safety and recognition.  Imagine if I had started listening to that during my first year!  I would have prepared my communication skills to respond to that troublesome student.  My favorite podcasts are Team Beachbody, Build Your Tribe, The Daily Boost, Coaching for Leaders, and Vibrant Happy Women.  Shameless plug, check out my Spark Mentorship Program for some exclusive training from me!
  4. You will be proud.  You should be!  Your first year of teaching is hard work.  It takes dedication and consistency.  You will find yourself being thrilled over the big and small - from successful units to conversations with students.  I remember a unit I did that focused on giving back to the community by paying it forward - oddly enough it was paired with Lord of the Flies.  I was so proud to read the acts of kindness that my students participated in.  Holding doors open.  Talking to new students.  Picking up garbage.  They weren't huge.  But they were special.

    My Tip: Journal.  Keep track of what you're proud of.  If you don't want to keep a journal, then keep it in your planner.  At the end of the day or week, make a note of what was successful.  I like to do this as it keeps me motivated.  Sometimes it's easy to move from one thing to the next without truly reflecting.  This gives me the opportunity to be joyous in the work that I've produced.  Do this with your students too.  Choose 5 students a week to write notes to.  Tell them that you're proud of their hard work, their effort, or how much they've grown.  Not only will it show that you notice, but it'll create an environment of recognition.
I know the first year can be scary. But revel in it. Allow yourself to experience those fears and truly engage those feelings.  Be prepared on how to handle them when they come up. Most of all, give yourself permission to grow.  Often times, we just want to be in the end result.  But that's not how it works.  We need the growing pains if nothing else to appreciate where we end up.

Love y'all!