Congratulations! You’ve got a job as a new teacher! Welcome to a fulfilling, challenging, noble, stressful, and ultimately rewarding profession! You, like many other new teachers, are probably asking yourself: I’m a Teacher – Now What?
Compiled below is the I’m a Teacher – Now What Guide. A short list of resources and advice for how to spend your time leading up to your first day teaching. The information compiled on this list is taken from interviews with experienced teachers that have excelled in their field. It is my hope that this guide can set you up for success in your first year of teaching!
The summer leading up to your first year of teaching is an excellent time to become familiar with the curriculum you will be teaching. Spend some time learning what is included in your curriculum and what standards need to be taught. You should also create lesson plans and student assignments for at least the first whole unit (or more, if possible). This will save you a lot of time in the future, knowing exactly what the day to day plan is for the first month or more of school.
If you have the opportunity, consider the following:
- Ask your administrator if a veteran teacher is willing to come in over the summer and discuss curriculum
- Ask your administrator if there are curriculum maps or resources available to review over the summer
- Check out Harry Wong and Rosemary Wong’s The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher. While there are a ton of philosophies around how to approach your first day of school, this book covers a lot of basics that university education misses.
Resources and Classroom
The classroom you teach in will be the first impression your students get of you. If you have time over the summer, visit your classroom to see what it looks like, and how you can make it a more safe, inviting, and exciting place to learn. Take some time to discover what resources are at your disposal. Do you have a budget, and who is in charge? What technology do you have? Do you have posters or big paper to put on the walls?
- If you teach in a shared classroom – ask your administrator if you can touch base with the other teachers in the classroom and ask what their norms are.
- If you are a traveling teacher – ask your administrator or janitor for a cart you can easily transport materials on.
- Working on your classroom early is not always necessary. However, it does show dedication, and can pay off with time saved in the long run.
Your school probably has a formal workshop week where new teachers are shown the building, and learn about how the school is run. However, the following points are all logistical questions that will need to be answered by the first day of school. Getting a jump start on these can make the first day and first week much easier and less overwhelming.
- Where are the staff bathrooms?
- Where is the media center, gymnasium, computer lab, and other shared locations?
- How do you schedule class in the above shared locations?
- How do you use the school phones?
- Where is your mailbox?
- How do you call in sick – especially in an emergency?
- What is the referral process for your school?
- How do you use the copy machine?
- Where is pick up and drop off, and busing for your students?
- Where can you keep your lunch?
- Are there shared resources, like paper rolls, tape, and more? Where are they located?
Take Care of Yourself
Teaching is not easy work, and new teachers especially can find themselves easily stressed. During your summer leading up to the school year, find some relaxing and comforting activities that you can do in an evening after work. This might involve playing games, having a great meal, reading a book, or sitting with your eyes closed listening to music.
During the school year, if you find yourself stressed, overwhelmed, panicked, or any similar emotion, fall back on these activities. Sometimes it helps to even add them to your routine!
Finally, don’t forget to get your sleep! Remember, you will be a much more effective educator if you are well rested and not completely stressed as you go through your first year of teaching.
Focus on the Details
As the school year gets closer, begin visualizing your lessons. Walk around your room, and pretend to teach to your class. The purpose of this activity is to think of the small details that you are not remembering. Forgetting to explain these details to students will often lead to misbehavior, and it is one of the most challenging things for first year teachers to learn. Important details to consider might be:
- What a student does if they come to class late
- Where late homework is turned in
- How students get into partners
- How students get into groups of 4
- Where regular classroom supplies are
- Where Kleenex or tissue is
- What to do for a bathroom break
- Where students will sit (and how students will know where to sit)
- What students will do as soon as they enter the room
There are a lot more considerations, and it would take too long to list them here. However, visualizing your lessons step by step, detail by detail, will catch most of these aspects of your lesson that you might be overlooking. Making sure to include them in your instruction, and to teach your students expectations, can save a lot of headache in the long run.
Be Ready to Work Hard
Teaching is not an easy profession, and does require hard work. Your first year teaching will probably be the year that requires the most amount of work.
Remember to strike a balance. Do your best. Ask to volunteer when you can, and apologize when you can’t. Help your colleagues out, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Be sure to get your work done, but also take care of yourself. Ultimately, teaching is a job – but it’s an important one.
Build Relationships with Colleagues
As your workshop week begins, put effort into building relationships with your colleagues. Schools are big systems with a lot of tiny nuance. Having a friendly, supportive teacher you can easily ask a question (or a few) during your school day can help solve a myriad of issues.
Perhaps more importantly, find a colleague that can help you with emotional support. There may (or may not) be days where you want to scream in frustration, or curl up and cry. Having a colleague there for support, even if it is just an ear to listen, can make the difference between you figuring it out, and you spiraling down a more negative path.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes and Learn
You are about to be a first year teacher. You are going to make a lot of mistakes. This is completely okay! Just make sure you learn from your mistakes.
Have a growth mindset as you begin teaching. It will give you the flexibility to try new things. It will allow you to bounce back from any setbacks. Most importantly, it will allow you to keep going and keep learning, once you do make mistakes. Remember – it’s okay to make mistakes!
I’m a Teacher – Now What
Ultimately, teaching can be a very fun profession. Take time to smile and reflect on the positives that happened during the day. Take an active approach to focusing on your victories during the school day, no matter how small. After all, life is too short to not enjoy what you do!
This is a working article that is updated frequently to best suit the dynamic needs of new teachers, and ever-changing education landscape. Most recently updated on 5/7/2019.