By Ashley Lovelace
Starting a new career as a teacher can be both exciting and terrifying. On one hand you’ve chosen a fulfilling career that makes a huge difference in the lives of young people; on the other hand, you’re now responsible for people’s children and their education. One thing to remember is that every great teacher had to start at the same place you’re at now. Here are a few tips to help you off to a great start.
Find a Mentor
Most schools or school systems will have a mentor program available to new teachers. Such programs usually involve pairing beginning teachers to veteran teachers for two to three years. The idea is to give new teachers a resource for advice, guidance, and a bit of supervision. As a new teacher you will have questions about all kinds of things, from classroom management to lesson planning. Your mentor is the first place to go with these questions.
If your school has no mentor program, no worries! You can always find your own. Try to find a teacher in your school who teaches a similar class and ask them questions. The wisdom of other teachers can be valuable. In addition to asking for advice, try to observe them once or twice in their classrooms. Seeing things done in a different way can open your eyes to other possibilities.
If you’re about to begin your teaching career, chances are you may have just graduated from college with your teaching degree, and that’s great! Yet, it’s vital that you keep in mind that the field of education evolving. Content standards, assessments, and teaching methods are always changing. Attending professional development is a great way to stay on top of these changes.
School administration will schedule some on their own, but you can always find your own as well. They come in many forms: conferences, after-school meetings, and even webinars. Universities, the state, or even private companies can provide these opportaunities. They are great places to learn new information. Many schools will send staff to these professional development opportunities so that they can come back and present to the staff that stayed behind. This sounds scary, but it’s a great way to show leadership in the school community. Administrators love that.
Organization and Documentation
An organized teacher is a happy teacher. One of the unfortunate parts of the job is the paperwork. Pretty much every teacher hates it, but you must do it. Making sure you keep everything organized will save you a headache down the road. There are many ways to organize, so try to find a system that works for you from the start. You could scan things and save them on your computer, lock them into a filing cabinet, or use a teacher binder.
A teacher binder is a great place to keep all your info in one portable place. You can create your own, but an internet search will show you countless templates that you can use for your own. This binder will help you keep track of many things. Use dividers to create easy to navigate sections and fill them with whatever you need. Some examples are contact info, lesson plans, a calendar, grades, staff meeting notes. This is not an exhaustive list, so feel free to add sections for whatever you need.
Teaching can be a stressful job. You'll find yourself dealing with many things at once. For example, some of your students will sometimes display less-than-stellar behavior. There may be helicopter parents who demand a lot of your time, or there might be parents that show little to no interest in their child's education. Administrators can be picky. They will have something to say about everything from your lesson planning format to your classroom management style. On top of that, you have to stay on top of other responsibilities such as grading and paperwork. It’s okay to admit that you’re dealing with anxiety as a result.
Stress management is necessary to avoid burning out, but there are some things you can do to combat it. Talk to your mentor or try something like yoga or meditating. Keep in mind that your administrator's critiquing is meant to be constructive. Stay on top of your required work so that it doesn’t overwhelm you later. Many school districts even offer free or reduced cost counseling if it’s something you need.
It's Okay to Make Mistakes
Don't let the list above fool you; teaching is a rewarding profession! It will allow you to make a difference in children's lives, which is a beautiful thing. New teachers (and old teachers) will make mistakes. And that's okay. As long as you reflect and learn from them, you'll be fine. Don't be afraid to ask for help and embrace teaching for what it is: lifelong learning. Work hard, ask questions, and keep a positive attitude and you'll go far.
If you have any of your own tips or questions, please feel free to share below :)