10 Things for First Year Teachers to Embrace!

My first year of teaching was a whirlwind of emotions. I got hired to teach 3rd grade at my wonderful school about a week before pre-planning started. From the second I received that monumental phone call, I have learned so much. I have been writing down things that I wish someone had told me before that first year began all year. Now that summer is here and the next school year is just around the corner, I wanted to put all of my first-year findings in one spot.

As I began typing out my thoughts, I had 7 strong points that I wanted to write about. Seven things that I felt were crucial for the future first year teacher to embrace. HOWEVER, I ended up deciding that my experience may not be enough. My experience may not be the same as someone else’s experience. I want to help any and all future teachers better prepare for that first year of teaching. So, I did a Facebook survey. The information that fellow teachers gave me were so great! The list grew from 7 points to 10.

10 Things for FIRST YEAR teachers to EMBRACE! #Teaching #FirstYear #Advice

#1 You will be overwhelmed.

From the moment that the job is offered to you, you will be overwhelmed with emotions. You will have a tangle of to do lists, ideas, worries, and anxieties running through your head all at the same time. Take it one step at a time and decide what is most important on your to-dos. I was worried about all of the wrong things during pre-planning and it left me STRESSED out when I realized I had spent too much time on things that ultimately didn’t matter. My personal piece of advice would be to get everything practical done first – getting to know your school, setting up your classroom (in a very BASIC way), and getting to know your grade level’s standards.


#2 Start practicing early mornings the second that you accept the job!

You may be a morning person – LUCKY YOU. However, this girl is not. I love to stay up late and then sleep in late. If you’re like me, or if you DO like I DID, then the first month or so of school is going to be extremely difficult. I did NOT get myself into a routine of getting in bed at a decent hour or waking up early. When school started, I felt like a zombie.

You may be thinking, “BUT IT’S SUMMER!”… Yes. It is. However, you’re already going to be overwhelmed and mentally exhausted. Preparing your body for waking up that early will help you from getting physically exhausted, too.


#3 Dig deep into your grade level’s standards.

In college, you briefly go through the standards that your degree is targeting. For me, that was Early Childhood Pre-K through 5th grade. So, I was briefly exposed to those standards. However, remember this: Education is ALWAYS changing and though you have seen the standards before – the brief exposure that you had in college is no where NEAR the level you need to be at.

Here’s my story. I started the beginning of last year teaching the Habitats science standard. I teach in Georgia so we still use the Georgia Performance Standards for Science and Social Studies. Here’s the standard:

S3L1. Students will investigate the habitats of different organisms and the dependence of organisms on their habitat.

As I was preparing, I read that standard and because I’d been briefly exposed to the habitats while I was in college, I knew that the students needed to understand the various habitats in Georgia and what kinds of plants and animals live and thrive in each.

After a few days of going through the habitats and doing some SUPER CUTE habitats projects… I felt as though my kids completely understood this standard. I could not figure out WHY my grade level needed multiple weeks to teach this unit when I felt as though this rockstar-first-year-teacher had knocked it out in a couple of days. In the next grade level planning, I asked if I could see the test that the grade level gives for habitats. There were ALL KINDS of things on this test about adaptations and changes in the environment and things I had absolutely not taught my kids.

a. Differentiate between habitats of Georgia (mountains, marsh/swamp, coast, Piedmont, Atlantic Ocean) and the organisms that live there.

b. Identify features of green plants that allow them to live and thrive in different regions of Georgia.

c. Identify features of animals that allow them to live and thrive in different regions of Georgia.

d. Explain what will happen to an organism if the habitat is changed.

So much for the rockstar-first-year-teacher, right?

I took a look at the standards again and realized that I had not read them close enough. I had to SPEED TEACH and pray and pray and pray that I could effectively teach the students the things that they needed to know (that would typically take a few weeks) in a matter of a couple days.

It was a rookie mistake – and one that I will never make again!

#4 Be confident in what you learned in college.

You went to college to understand how to teach kids. The professors worked tirelessly to help you to understand the different elements of teaching that administrators and state officials are looking for you to know how to do.

Be. Confident.

#5 Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Even though you absolutely should be confident in what you learned in college – there will be things that you do not know. You will not go into your first, second, or even tenth year of teaching knowing it all. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS! If your school does not give you a mentor for your first year, FIND ONE. Embrace your fellow coworkers and make sure you are on the same page as everyone else. Even if you know everything there is to know about the state standards, teaching practices, and classroom setup/management… if you are brand new to teaching or brand new to a new school there is a GOOD chance that there are certain practices and requirements that you don’t know about. Do not be afraid to lean on those who have walked the road before you for ideas and information!

#6 Do not let your students offend you.

I don’t know what it’s like to teach middle school or high school, but I can tell you – without a shadow of doubt – that if you teach elementary school, your students are going to say some CRAZY THINGS. I teach 3rd grade and this past year I heard everything in the book. I found out I was pregnant RIGHT before school started, and as my belly grew, so did the outrageous things my students said! You can’t even make the things up that comes out of their mouths.

Don’t get offended by them. They are kids. Either brush it off or take it as constructive criticism.

Mid-way through my first year of teaching  {and being in my second trimester}, my skin started to do some CRAZY things. I had EXTREMELY dry skin and all of my current beauty products just weren’t cutting it. I decided to take things into my own hands and get some make up from the drug store that would compliment the changes in my skin. The next day, wearing my new makeup that I thought looked awesome, one of my precious little girls came up to me.

“Mrs. Glaze, WHAT HAPPENED to your FACE??”

“I got new makeup! Do you like it?”

{With a serious look of concern on her face} “Um… no.”

Later that day, we went out for recess. As we were lining up outside, the same little girl came up to me and expressed how much my new look was bothering her:

“Mrs. Glaze, that makeup does not look good at all. Your face looks orange and thick. You should probably not ever wear it again. Ever.”

That afternoon, I went to my local Belk and let a professional set me up with the perfect product for my new super-dry skin. The next day, that girl expressed how much better my face finally looked.

Take it as constructive criticism or brush it off. I’m telling you. They don’t mean you harm.

#7 Don’t stress about having a “Pinterest Perfect” room

As a future educator, I spent hours looking on Pinterest for how I wanted my room to look. During pre-planning, I worked my tail-end off making those dreams come to life. It’s all I focused on.

It ended up looking NOTHING as I had imagined. It was not Pinterest-worthy. It looked empty.

Then, I was FREAKING OUT because I hadn’t looked through my permanent records, I had not planned how I was going to seat the students, I had not planned my classroom management based on my particular students’ needs.

Then I was stressed out. Because it was open house and none of this stuff had even been thought about.

What I learned was that Pinterest-worthy rooms come over time. Focus on the BASICS during your first year. Decorate here and there, but DO NOT spend your entire time during pre-planning decorating and decorating. You MUST focus on planning at some point.

#8 Don’t let your first year be your most expensive year.

Refer to #7. The “expensiveness” of your first year of teaching comes from over-decorating and spending money on things you do not need. Buy it AS YOU NEED IT.

I am one of the most OCD people I know as far as how my room looks on a daily basis during the year. So take it from someone who CANNOT STAND IT when her room is not perfect – it’s not worth it to stress about it during your first year. You have WAY more important things to be planning for!

#9 Be flexible.

Things are going to change. Sometimes weekly. Sometimes daily. Sometimes multiple times in 5 minutes. Stay positive and know that flexibility is a beautiful quality for a teacher to practice.

#10 Be human.

Your students are going to visualize you as this super-human that never ever makes mistakes. However, we all know that EVERYONE makes mistakes. Your students need to see you as a HUMAN and not a celebrity. They need to know that it’s okay when they make mistakes because everyone makes mistakes – even their teacher. Apologize when you get something wrong. Admit when you have NO idea the answer to a question {a great way to redirect that situation is to make a lesson out of researching it to find the answer as a class}. Be human to them. Give them hugs when they ask for them (or when they just run up to you and attack you with hugs) – and remember, your hug may be the ONLY hug they get all day. Make sure that THEY KNOW without a shadow of doubt that you care about them. That you want them to succeed. That you are their biggest cheerleader. Be their teacher – Inspire them – Love them. Be the difference in their lives.

One comment

  1. Brenda says:

    Thank you for all these wonderful tips. I’m not going to be a first year teacher, but I am going to be doing a long-term sub job for the first 3 months of school while the teacher’s on maternity leave. I will be attending the pre-planning week and totally running the class for 3 months, so I will definitely need all your tips. Thanks!

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