When it comes to teaching, the first year is undoubtedly the most difficult. It doesn’t matter how good your training was or how much time you spent student teaching. Those things are all good, but there is no comparison to being alone in a classroom and wholly responsible for the learning of anywhere between 20 and 100 students, depending on what grade you are teaching. It is trial by fire in its purest form. Fortunately, it is possible to survive your first year of teaching and live to teach another year. If you are preparing for your first year of teaching, here are some tips that will help you to make it the best year possible.
First and foremost, do not try to do it yourself. If your district has a formal mentoring program, use it. If not, find an informal mentor. You are looking for a more experienced teacher who has experience in the grades or subjects that you will be teaching. This will be the person that you go to when you are dealing with a difficult student or trying to unravel a complex concept for your class. He or she will hopefully be able to give you tried and true tips, share resources, and generally serve as a sounding board and source of good advice. Finding an experienced teacher to mentor you is probably one of the most important things that you can do as a first year teacher to make sure that you and your students are successful.
In addition to finding a mentor teacher, you need to be organized. Depending on which grade you teach you will be dealing with anywhere from 20 to 100 students. This means you have that many names to remember, that many sets of records to keep, and that many papers to grade every time you give an assignment. The only way to be able to teach effectively with those kinds of numbers is to be organized.
You will need to come up with a system, or more likely several of them. You will want a system for communicating with parents, for collecting and grading papers, for tracking grades, for starting new students midway through the year, and for tracking which students need additional help and which need more challenges. Your mentor teacher should be able to give you some ideas that will help you to be as organized as possible.
Particularly at the beginning of the year, it is important to keep your focus on the basics. Concentrate on classroom management and on teaching what you need to teach. Try some new ideas and of course keep things interesting, but don’t try to take on too much all at once. Large, overarching projects are great, but trying to do too much too quickly will overwhelm both you and your students. It is better to stick to the basics and choose one or two things at a time to focus on. Remember that there will always be another year to add in more complexity. Lastly, don’t forget to take time out for yourself. Teaching is a job that can become all consuming. No matter how many extra hours you spend, there will always be more work waiting for you. In order to deal with this you need to consciously take time out to relax and recharge yourself. Doing this is the only way to ensure that you have energy and patience for your students.