Dude. Being a teacher is some hard stuff. I won't lie to you, my beloved blog readers, when I first started teaching, I imagined this magical life where we all sat down together, read novels, discussed our findings within them and there was 90% participation from students (come on, I'm a realist! I know it can't be 100%). Any troubled students I faced would be easily redirected with a discovery of the right book for them.
It all seemed so right.
Now, I'm certainly not saying we don't do those things. We definitely do. But there are some realities that didn't hit me until the end of this "Probationary" period of teaching.
Here's some of the things I tell incoming teachers now:
- Get really good at emailing. It may seem weird that this is first, but seriously, it will save you so much time. Learning to send meaningful, concise, friendly, and professional emails right out of the gate is key. As a young or new teacher you have to make sure that all of your interactions are professional. So, brush up on your use of commas. Think about how you dealt with angry customers at your college retail job and apply that to every interaction. This will make parents and other teachers connect with you more. Don't be afraid of a smiley face, and invent a professional looking signature.
- Find an ally in the building. You are going to face conflict, and that shit is going to suck. Just being for real. You will conflict with an experienced teacher who is thrown off by your enthusiasm and naivete, or another new teacher who doesn't agree with you, or a principal who wants to redirect you. That does NOT mean you are a bad teacher or are going to be a bad teacher, it means you and that person are different. Find someone in the building you feel comfortable with that will help talk you through that conflict. Probs not someone that will spread any drama further but that can gently redirect you when you need it or motivate you to keep going. Conflict is healthy, learning to manage it will save you a lot of stress.
- Get plugged in to some kind of program. I know a lot of teachers that dislike working after school hours. We work a lot, we work really hard, we don't get enough wine or naps. This is true. Don't feel like you have to take on a club or program, but if you love basketball, go to a basketball game once in awhile. I love volleyball but coach a different sport, so on the evenings I can I help to run the line judging so I can stay involved. The community sees me in that role and it helps! Plus seeing the kids is great.
- Let your weird flag fly. I jump on the desk when I teach the Gettysburg Address or act out my funny stories about my dogs hiding in the bathtub. Kids love it. If you are a nerd about a mascot or a cartoon character, let your kids know. I love the Little Mermaid. I have 6 mermaid related coffee cups and an entire upper cabinet filled with memorabilia that is of the nautical sort. Whether it is your love for fish, favorite song, sports team, or movie, let kids see you as a real person.
- Give yourself some grace. If you don't want to stay home and grade papers on a Friday night, don't do it. If you don't want to grade outside of school, don't assign work that needs extensive grading. I pre-plan my courses before school even starts at the beginning of each semester so I know when is the most packed. I plan on one assignment a semester I'll bring home. Since I travel a lot for my coaching roles, its made a big difference. Also, Teachers Pay Teachers is a life saver and filled with great stuff. You don't have to invent a bunch of worksheets. Someone probably already has.
Have other advice for new teachers or want more tips and tricks? Comment below or post it on Facebook!