One common question I get is what is your advice for a pre-service or new teacher?
Today I want to share a few things that have helped me survive the first 4 years of my career, and prevent the burn out that so many of my undergrad professors warned me about.
Whether you're an education major getting ready to graduate, entering your student teaching, or beginning your first year as a teacher, I hope you'll find these tips helpful.
This is me after graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in 2012. I student taught that fall, and was hired January 2013. You can read a bit about that here.
Okay, maybe this seems a bit obvious, but it's hard as a new teacher to ask for help sometimes. Remember that EVERY teacher has been a new teacher, most of your colleagues will be more than willing to help you. I had 2 different mentors for my first 2 years of teaching. Both taught different grades and content than me, and one was even at completely different building. I sought a lot of help from my neighboring teachers. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
This was actually a piece of advice I received from my cooperating teacher during student teaching. I thought she was encouraging me to be a recluse and not socialize at all, but after I began my career, I immediately realized what she meant. Teachers have bad days, some more than others, and they like to vent...in the lounge. You will meet some teachers that have lost their passion for teaching, and they make everyone know how much they dislike their job. Negativity can bring you down my friends, and you don't need that! If you find yourself in a situation that is filled with negativity, it is okay to stay in your room for lunch. Maybe invite a colleague that inspires you to eat in one of you rooms. It's okay to avoid the teacher's lounge.
This is going to be a hard one, I know. I still struggle with it myself. Pick one night a week (more if you can) to not take anything home. Leave your teaching bag at school, and don't feel guilty about it. I would also encourage you to have at least one weekend a month that you do the same. Enjoy that episode of Grey's Anatomy, or a glass of wine...or if you're like me....both.
When I was in college, I had a professor who handed out Scholastic book orders for us, and boy did I take advantage. No matter what, I would buy all the $1 books each time, more if I had money to spare. She was a sweetheart and used her bonus points to get a variety of books, then let each student in her classes pick one for their future classroom. #bestprofessoreva
I also picked up A TON of discarded books from my local public library. Check with your library to see if they have discarded book sales. My library's children's books are $.25 each for paperback and $.50 for hardback. #teachersteals
I also put children's books on my Christmas and Birthday wishlists. My family loves helping out my classroom in whatever way they can, and this is one of the best ways! I also request a few board games for my classroom each year. We obviously test them out for a #familygamenight before they make their way into my classroom.
I struggle with this one, too. As a new teacher, you will feel obligated to say yes to every.single.thing. Pick a couple things you're passionate about, or that you think will be most beneficial to. Other things, say no...politely. Explain that you really want to focus on your classroom and getting familiar with your curriculum before you take on extra duties. Your principal is most likely asking you because they think you'll say yes...prove them wrong, but earn respect by knowing your limits. Don't spread yourself too thin.
This kinda goes along with #3 but in this I want you to treat yourself...to a Starbucks, to a trip to the Dollar Spot, to a 45 minute nap afterschool! Take sometime to unwind and do something for YOU! You will do so much and spend so much on your classroom and your students, it's important to share the love with yourself.
Your ideas matter! Your ideas need to be heard! SHARE THEM! As a new teacher, you may feel that your ideas have already been done, wrong! There are so many things that you have learned and ideas you have thought of that will inspire your colleagues. What's the worse that could happen?!
Remember WHY you went into teaching. I keep student picture from my first year in 3rd grade by my computer at all times. It says "Merry Christmas, Miss Johnston ~Haley". This student was the hardest to form a relationship with. She needed so much love, but didn't know how to react when she was loved by someone either. When I met her she was sassy, rude, and incredibly defiant. That girl changed my life, and she has no idea. She finally warmed up to me around Thanksgiving, and by Christmas she was a changed girl.
This little girl asked if could braid her hair. Last week, I asked her if I could comb her hair out for her. I used detangler and a new comb. I have a feeling this will be morning routine. The hoodie she's wearing? A Christmas gift from me after she wore the same hoodie every day. Now she wears her new one every day. Breaks my heart, but makes my day knowing I'm helping this little girl. #myjobrocks #teachersfollowteachers #fishtail
She moved shortly after this picture, and I haven't seen or heard from her since. Keep pictures and notes that lift your spirit. I need to make It's Worth It box as described by Christina AKA Miss DeCarbo.
Teachers do not take sick days. Mainly because it is a TON of work to write sub plans. So we toughen up and go to school, but we shouldn't. One, let's not get the kiddos sick, too (even though they're probably the ones who gave it to us). Two, a sick teacher is not a productive teacher. So, take a sick day! Your kids will survive! If you need help with the sub plans, I recommend a sub tub or sub binder to help you out.
This substitute binder has been my life saver!
Love them, and love them hard. You get such a short time with them, cherish the moments. My first group of 3rd graders will be in middle school next year, and my middle schoolers are in high school, some entering their senior year. So, love your kids, because they are your kids, now and always.
If you have any tips for future teachers, leave them below in the comments. Remember to follow me on my journey here on the blog, as well as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.