If you’re reading this, I hope you are one of the lucky who get to be a teacher. It’s a great job and very rewarding, but I’ll tell you that the first year will be no picnic. You’ll be working hard to establish the type of teacher your students will need you to be. You’ll be figuring out how to handle the paper load. And on top of that, you’ll worry about how to convince your parents that you are actually old enough to be a teacher!
Below are a few tips that I would give all new teachers based on my years in the classroom.
1. Develop good habits
Good habits are the foundation for success as a teacher. And one of your goals should be to shape good behaviors into habits.
Your number one priority should be sleep. Get plenty of rest. You may have to leave some papers ungraded, but you won’t be any good to your students if you are constantly tired.
Develop a good morning routine as well. You’ll be getting up earlier than you’d like to, and the last thing you want to do in the morning is make choices. Eat breakfast. Stretch and meditate to wake up your body and mind. Get to school early and settle yourself before the student arrive.
I also highly recommend that you develop an exercise routine and stick with it. I know a lot of teachers like me who enjoy yoga while others enjoy running or crossfit. Even a nice walk after school is nice. Your mind will need that time away from school, and exercise is a natural stress release.
2. Establish boundaries
This is related to number one. There are probably things that you really enjoy doing and they make you happy. It could be reading a book. Or playing guitar. Or getting together with college friends.
Teaching will take up all the time that you allow it to, so you need to be deliberate about scheduling time for the things that refresh you. My suggestion is to schedule those things first on your calendar, like “read a book from 4-4:30.” That way they’ll get done.
3. Take good notes
After you teach every lesson, spend some time at the end of the day writing notes about how it went. What worked? What didn’t? What would you change the next time? You’ll spend a great deal of time during your first year planning for your second year, and those things that you think you’ll remember? You won’t. So take notes and you’ll save yourself a lot of time in your second year.
4. Keep It Light
Remember to have fun with your students. Teaching can be a high-stakes profession with all the tests and the pressures of graduation. It’s easy to get caught up in how crucial everything is. But you need to have fun with them. Randomly do the hokey pokey. Or have a rock paper scissors tournament. Not only will your students appreciate the break, but it will help you relax too.
5. Take sick days
I was raised in a household where if you were sick, you were expected to “tough it out.” This is lousy advice for teachers. You don’t have the kind of job that you can phone in. If you are sick and really need to rest to get better, listen to your body. Take the day off.
And just to warn you, teacher guilt for not showing up for work is real. You’ll feel like you are letting your students down. You might be tempted to email your administrator to tell them of all your symptoms so they don’t think you’re faking it (don’t do this). But the next day, hopefully feeling better, you’ll find that everything was fine.
Your students deserve to have you at your best, and sometimes that means not being in front of them.
6. Don’t check your school email after hours
You just might find an angry email from a parent that will ruin your night or weekend. You aren’t on call 24/7.
7. Find your most productive time
For me, I love to grade in the mornings and so I ask for first period off. Other teachers like to get things done in the afternoon. But you’ll want to figure out what works best for you. I like to grade essays in the morning when my mind is fresh. Grading multiple-choice tests is a great Friday afternoon activity because it’s pretty mindless. Positive emails and phone calls are also great for Fridays because you end the day feeling good.
8. Be a good employee
Even though it can seem like you’re running your own small business most of the day, you do work for someone. Don’t be a complainer, and don’t get too big for your britches. Dress like an adult too, especially if you teach high school. And above all else keep the secretaries on your good side. Keeping them happy should be one of your top priorities. And for that matter, treat everyone employed in the building as if they are equal to you, no matter if they are custodians, librarians, or tutors.
9. Don’t Go it Alone
Don’t think you have to have everything figured out. Lean on your fellow teachers with more experience and borrow their good ideas.
Don’t forget that you don’t have to create all your materials from scratch, either. You migh think that using someone else’s materials makes it seem like you don’t know what you’re doing, but quality teaching materials will save you hours of planning time.
I know you’re the kind of teacher that makes their classroom a fun, engaging learning environment. I have a series of lessons done as comics that address various ELA topics like grammar, poetry, editing, and Shakespeare, all of which will make your students glad they came to class that day. All the fun is there for you, and your kids will love studying any of these topics because they’ll get a new comic every day! Please check out my resources and let the learning begin!