Overwhelming! It’s the perfect word to sum up my first year of teaching.
It’s not all doom and despair though. It is exhausting, but your first year teaching will also be full of discoveries and excitement! I’m reflecting back and writing this post with the hope that my experience makes the transition a little smoother for other teachers.
Here are the top 7 things I wish I had known going into my first year:
1. Spend tons of time teaching & reviewing procedures. I use a tried and tested approach called the “Teach to”. You can read all about it in my post: 3 Ways to Start the School Year with Ease!
2. Setting a tone of love, respect, and consistency is key to getting your class to buy in. I did this in part simply by being sincere. I told them how much I loved them right off the bat. They seemed to love me back for it. (For liabilities sake, I always tell this to them as a whole class and not individually.)
3. Curriculum is overwhelming. (It literally took 4 trips with a large rolling cart to get all the curriculum materials to my classroom.) You don’t have to do it all! Scan it. Try to find the most important pieces that work well for the group, and build on it from there.
4. (This goes along with #2.) Trust your instincts. If you’re confused, the kids will be even more confused. I used to think that I must be missing something when the suggested activities seemed to be lacking. I mean, experienced professionals were hired to create it, right?! It took me a long time, but I finally gained confidence in myself as an educator to call it as I see it. If the activity or worksheet seems like a flop, skip it. You can always teach the skill in a different way.
5. Let the kids help! I would stay after to file, sharpen pencils, prep for the next day. Save your sanity by divvying most of these tasks to the early finishers every once in a while. It’s okay! Just try to use different students for help. The late finishers can even help during silent reading, morning work, etc. It builds a sense of ownership and community in the classroom. It also helps you get out of there before dinner time ~ something you should not feel guilty for doing, by the way.
6. Collaborate. Find your teaching bestie. They’ll let you know what’s working in their room, break it down in manageable steps, commiserate with you, and most importantly encourage you to keep moving forward.
7. Not all student work needs to be kept, graded, or returned. When you become overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to use the circular file (recycle bin) for the less important papers. One could even argue that returning fewer assignments will help parents focus on the grades and skills you really want them to see.
Remember that it gets easier! Next year you’ll feel 10 times as prepared. Throughout your career, you’ll remember your first year in the classroom more vividly than any other. You’ve got this!
There is a plethora of other little odds & ends that can make your year go a little smoother. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help you out.