What do you wish you knew when you first started teaching?

After teaching for awhile, I realize how unprepared I actually was when I first started.  I knew how to plan and present lessons, but dealing with a room full of teenagers everyday and still keeping my life balanced was something I had to figure out for myself.  There are so many things I wish I knew my first year.  So, I reached out to my friends and experienced teachers to ask them…

When I was a first year teacher I was so unprepared!  Here are some tips from experienced teachers to help new teachers at back to school.

What do you wish you knew your first year teaching?

I wish I had known the baggage each student comes in to the classroom with. Before my first year of teaching I thought you simply taught and the students would just receive the information. HA! Now I know the child's well being is so much more important than the information to be taught. Once you build up a child you can start to teach them. 

That it becomes your life! It's not an 8-5 job. You must be passionate!

No need to lecture. After my first day of teaching I cried for about two hours from the stress of standing in front of kids talking for the entire day. I never did it again. Now my students and I happily engage in all manner of discussions and projects, but you'll never find me lecturing for 50 minutes in a row. It just doesn't work for me, and it's not actually the definition of teaching like I originally thought. 

I wish that I knew how useless my teaching classes would actually be.  I can plan a great lesson, but managing group of teenagers is a whole different story.

I wish I had known how hard it was going to be. Not that I would have chosen a different career, but it would have been nice to be more prepared. Plus, I would have given a lot more love to my own teachers.

I wish I knew that this job was going to involve many more hours outside of the classroom.  I'm not talking about the hours spent prepping.  I knew that was going to be part of the job.  I'm talking about the hours you spend worrying over the growth Student A isn't making, or is Student B has somewhere safe to go after school, or what is going on with Student C who hasn't been to school is a few weeks....the emotional wear and tear is daunting.  I do not think I was mentally or emotionally prepared for that.  For some kids, you are their everything:  teacher, coach, caregiver, provider, safe haven, counselor, etc.

How much paper work there was!

To be prepared for any situation at any time!  Make sure you have some sort of lesson extender ready to go, just in case the lesson finishes early (this happened to me also during an observation).  Even if you think you have plenty planned and there's no possible way you'll get it all done in one period/block, have something ready just to be safe!

I wish I had known what I know now about the awesome brains all students bring to every class!

Organization: Creating simpler systems for organizing student work, lessons, classroom stuff etc.
Relationships: How to set boundaries with parents and students.
Warm Demander: How to have high expectations with a warm classroom culture. 

I would never have guessed that even two decades in I'd still have to work evenings and weekends.  I'm not sure that would've deterred me though. One of the reasons I still have a lot to do, other than marking, is that I'm always thinking about new ways to do things.

If you're a first year teacher, I hope that this helps put some things in perspective.  Everyone struggles at first.  If you need help, reach out.  Sometimes you can find help in within your department, sometimes you may need to look in your building or online.  Find someone that will listen and that can help (if needed).  Have a great first year!

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  1. Oh how valuable a post - and what an honor for the brainy shout out. Thanks! We are in it together and we can do so much with and for endless awesome teachers, students and parents! Kudos to you all - and thanks for inviting me into your amazing line-up!

  2. Mrs. E., you ask a thoughtful question. I wish I had known how to facilitate students' multiple intelligences in both lessons and assignments. By engaging students' gifts and talents, they accomplish so much more and begin to feel good about themselves and are much more motivated to learn and participate.

  3. Robyn, it is important! Not only do students accomplish more, but they have a much better attitude while they are working!


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