I’ve completed my first year of teaching and am almost a month into my second. I will continue teaching second grade but this time much closer to home back on the East Coast in Pennsylvania. As the year has been moving, I’ve reflected a lot on my crazy first year of teaching. I am writing this letter to the first year teacher. These are all the things that I would tell myself (and remind myself daily) a short 13 months ago.
Dear First Year Teacher,
1. Your year is going to be every bit as demanding, strenuous, exhausting, and emotional as you have been warned. This career will consume the seemingly few hours in each day. You students will constantly be on your mind, for better or for worse, and tugging at your heartstrings. You will devour internet sites to find ideas because what in the world are you supposed to do to teach silent consonants?? I think over the last year I’ve been very honest about all of this. However, what you may often forget through the rollercoaster ride of your first year, is that it will be every bit as rewarding as you ever dreamed. The chance to truly impact a child’s life come in each in every moment of the day. You have been given the gift, opportunity, and honor to make this kind of impact, but your students will also impact YOU, changing you every day for the good for the better.
2. Swallow your pride. As a first year teacher, there will be bucketloads of things that you simply cannot know do to inexperience. Do not be afraid to take the help of others. Do not be afraid to ask for help and admit that you feel like you’re barely staying afloat. Do not suffer in silence.
The time will come when you will be the one helping others. Be patient, young grasshopper, your time will come.
3. Leave the idea of perfection behind. In college you had much more control over your successes and failures. Now there are 24 little minions and multiple big minions (also known as administrators) who are dictating your day. Just make the most of each day. Accept your limitations and know that you can also improve in the future. Looking back I can’t help but think, had I done xyz since day one, my students could have progressed SO MUCH further. Hindsight is 20/20, my friends.
4. Pick one thing and become really good at it. It is not possible to perfect everything at once (please refer back to #3). Put your effort into one thing each year. For many people, they choose classroom management out of necessity. For me, I took one of the most difficult parts of my day (small groups) and got the help to make it some of the most effective hours in the classroom.
5. Parents are your allies. It is scary talking to parents, especially for less than stellar reports. Do it anyway. I truly believe that 100% o parents (in a healthy state of mind) want what is best for their children. Sometimes they are doing what they can to help and sometimes not. It’s not your place to judge. Instead, support them, involve them, and encourage them to advocate for their child.
Imagine giving your most prized possession to a stranger for 24 hours. Maybe it’s all of the money in your bank account, maybe your car, or wedding ring. Would you trust them? That’s kind of like teaching except that children can NEVER be replaced and the effects we have on children will never fully disappear. I repeat – You have been given the gift, opportunity, and honor to make this kind of impact. Never forget.
6. YOU CAN DO THIS! There’s a reason that you are a teacher. You didn’t choose teaching, it chose you. So buckle down, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride.
A first year survivor <3