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Tackling First-Year Jitters: How First-Year Teachers Can Launch a Successful Career

First year teacher - University of the Cumberlands

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 10:00am

It can be daunting to make the transition from student teaching under the watchful eye of a seasoned educator into being in charge of your first classroom completely on your own. When you have many hopeful faces walking through your door ready to learn, you need to have confidence that you will be prepared to teach them. This collection of hints, tips, and strategies will help you transition into classroom teaching with confidence and ease.

What to Expect During Your First Year of Teaching?

Your first year of teaching will be filled with highs and lows. You will enter the classroom full of expectations, and you will also have a bit of anxiety. Both of these are normal. Throughout your first year, you will grow and develop in your skill as an educator in ways you never could have in supervised student teaching or the college classroom.

One of the biggest ways you can prepare for your first year of teaching is by accepting the fact that you are going to make mistakes. Some of the things you learned in the classroom at college may not work in the classroom at your school. Be flexible and grow in your skill, and you will soon find your niche.

Tips to Get Through the First Day Jitters

The first day of school is nerve-wracking. You have new people to meet, friends to make, and places to explore. And that’s just for you as the teacher. Your pupils are feeling very similar emotions. There are some ways you can get through the first-day jitters and start the year off right.

1. Be Prepared

The first day isn’t a day when you can wing it. Have your day planned out carefully. Plan extra items in case you finish your plan early. Know what your discipline plan will be and how you will implement it. Have each student’s desk or seating area labeled and ready to go. If you want to go the extra mile, put a small gift on each person’s spot to welcome them to your class.

2. Greet the Students

When your students come into the room, greet them and have them tell you their names. This will help with hard-to-pronounce names and also give you a chance to learn any nicknames they may prefer. This personal attention will start your day off right.

3. Give Something to Do Right Away

You’ve heard about “what I did on my summer vacation” reports, but there’s some value to these activities. If your students have something fun and engaging to do when they walk in the door, you can attend to the attendance and help students put things away as they come, without having a classroom disrupted by kids talking loudly and trying get each other’s attention. Plan a fun and engaging—but hopefully self-directed—activity for them to do when they walk in the door.

4. Get There Early

Running late on the first day of school will not help your nerves. Plan plenty of time to arrive well before your students. If you have extra time to tidy your desk or talk to a new co-worker, that’s fine. If you are rushing in moments before the students arrive, you’ll be flustered for the rest of the day.

5. Establish Rules and Routines

Your first day is more about setting your rules and routines than it is about academic learning. Use the day to discuss classroom rules in a positive way, encouraging students to embrace them. If your kids are old enough, have them help develop the classroom rules. This will calm your nerves and start the year off on the right foot.

Common First-Year Mistakes to Avoid

All first-year teachers will make mistakes. However, there are some common mistakes and pitfalls that you can watch for early on. By knowing what mistakes are common for new teachers, you can take measures to avoid them.

1. Spending Too Much Time at School

You’re young and excited about your new profession, but make sure you’re taking time off occasionally. Staying at school from the moment the doors open in the morning until the custodians lock the doors at night is dangerous. This can quickly lead to burnout. Make sure you take some time away from the classroom and learn to work efficiently.

2. Focusing on Just One Student

You will always have a student that seems to need you more than others. You will always have a student that pulls on your heartstrings that you feel like you can help. While you should pour into that student all that you can, you need to give all of your students some attention, as well. This protects your other students and it also protects you. Sometimes no matter how hard you try you won’t see the progress you want. Spending too much emotional energy on one student can be emotionally damaging, especially when no matter what you do, there’s a lack of progress.  

3. Assigning Too Much Homework

Challenging homework does not make a strong education. Yes, you will assign homework, but make sure the homework you assign has a purpose and does not put too much of a burden on the family. Remember, kids and families need time that’s not school-related just like you do.

4. Not Giving Positive Reviews to Parents

You’ll need to contact parents from time to time when students are struggling, but make sure you also send emails or notes when the students are doing well. Parents should look forward to talking with you as you give them a chance to collaborate to find success for your child.

5. Writing Complicated Lesson Plans

In college, you likely had to write lengthy lesson plans complete with objectives and assessments. If you do that for every class and subject all year long, day in and day out, you will burn out. Instead, streamline your lesson planning to serve as a basic overview, not a detailed road map.

Strategize for Success

What can you do to set the path towards success, even in your first year in the classroom? Consider these strategies:

  • Find a mentor. Connect with a seasoned teacher who does a good job and loves the work. Ask that educator to work with you as a mentor.
  • Let go of some control. There are some things, like what happens to your students at home or decisions that the school board makes, that you can’t control, so be willing to let that go.
  • Have a toolbox for extra time. There will be days when your lesson plans don’t take as long as you expected, so have strategies to pull from to help you tackle this extra time.
  • Develop your own style and teaching philosophy. You aren’t going to teach like your mentor or your supervising teacher when you student taught, and that’s ok. Be who you are, and your kids will respond!

Strategies for Coping with the Stress of Your First Year

Your first year in the classroom is rewarding, but it is also stressful. It takes some time to find your groove, learn the ways around your school, and discover shortcuts that help you do your job more efficiently. Give yourself some grace. Use these strategies to manage the stress of the year effectively, so you can give your full attention to your students:

  • Keep schoolwork at school as much as possible. This allows you to have downtime when you go home. If you do need to grade some papers at home, set boundaries so you get some non-school time as well.
  • Don’t try to do it all. The curriculum functions as a buffet, and you have the freedom to pick and choose what your students need to succeed.
  • Schedule time for activities you enjoy. Get a pedicure, read a book, or go out for coffee or drinks with a friend.
  • Understand you will make mistakes. There will be days that feel like a struggle, and you will have to re-teach concepts because you took the wrong approach at first. Even seasoned teachers make mistakes and re-teach, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect.
  • Pick your battles. Know what is important to fight for in your classroom and what you can let go.
  • Tiptoe into extra-curriculars. If you’re asked to host a club, coach a team, or plan an event, proceed with caution. This is the year you need to focus on your classroom strategies, so don’t take on too much.

The Classroom Awaits—Get Out There and Teach!

Your first year is going to be full of many new and exciting emotions. As a first-year teacher, embrace them all. Make your checklist of must-haves for your classroom and let other aspects of the classroom play out as they will. Remember, even if you make mistakes, and you will, the kids will thrive when you love them and pour yourself into them each day. Even as a new teacher, you can and will make a difference.

If you are interested in learning more about the notable undergraduate or graduate education programs offered at University of the Cumberlands, contact an admissions counselor or request more information today.