5 Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a Teacher

I loved my first year as a teacher. I had a great class with super supportive families, and 12 years later, I still keep in touch with several of my former students and their parents. That first year is filled with emotions: excitement, enthusiasm, exhaustion, confusion, fear, stress... Today I want to share my top 5 tips for surviving in your new chosen career. Chances are, this is your first professional job, and you do not want to mess this up!
Calling all beginning teachers! This blog post has 5 tips for making your first year as a teacher a successful one!

1. Find Your People 

I was lucky to find my People right away at my first teaching job. I didn't have to go far... my teacher friends consisted of my team and a few first grade teachers across the hall. We were all first, second, or third-year teachers, so we had a lot in common.

But what happens when you don't click with your team? Unfortunately, it does happen some times.
This is when you look outside your team. Go to staff gatherings after school, sit by other teachers during staff meetings, connect with the special education or ELL teachers that work with your students, or just go up to someone you think you might have things in common with after school and say hi... You might have to go clear across the school to find the people you connect with, but they're there. Frienships don't form overnight, so give them time to happen naturally.

And if you can't find anyone to connect with, look to Facebook. There are TONS of teacher Facebook groups that are grade level specific, location specific, content specific, instructional programs... You can also build your Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Instagram and Twitter.

2. Make Friends with the Secretary and Custodian

The secret behind a great school is the secretary and custodian(s). These are the two (or more) people who keep your school running like a well oiled machine, so you want to be on their good side. Talk to them and take a genuine interest in their lives and their interests. Bring them coffee or treats. Have your students make them cards and pictures. Because you never know when you're going to need that book shelf moved for the 87th time that day, or when you come down with the plague mid-day and need someone to scramble together a sub for you... They're more willing to help you out if they like you.

3. Ask for Help

I was 22 years old when I started my first teaching job. In my efforts to prove my worth as a teacher and my place at my school, I had this mindset that I could fix all my problems and do everything myself. WRONG!! I was fortunate to have a good class that year, but I shouldn't have gone that journey alone. Here are some ways you can reach out to other staff members at your building
  • Ask the previous year's teachers for information about your students. Is there a family/home situation you need to know about? Or a behavior plan you should begin on the first day of school? I try not to ask too much because I want to give students a fresh start every year, but some information should be shared ahead of time.
  • Have a difficult student? Ask the guidance counselor, social worker, school psychologist, or maybe even the principal if they have any suggestions for helping your student to be successful. Or maybe a teammate or teacher friend has a trick that you could implement.
  • Have students with special needs or English learners? Reach out to the special education teacher, EL teacher, SLP, OT, PT, and aides/assistants to learn more about these students, their IEPs, or services they receive. 
  • Have students in the GT/TAG program? Talk to your gifted teacher to see if they have a DEP or other plan that needs to be followed.
  • Working with a difficult parent? Talk to your teammates, your mentor/veteran teachers, the previous year's teacher, guidance counselor, or principal to learn more about the history with that parent and steps you can take to diffuse any tense situations. 
  • Have a question about the procedures at your school? Ask your mentor or another veteran teacher. 
The most important thing, though, is to not wait until you are at your wit's end before you reach out. It just puts unneeded stress and pressure on yourself.

4. Dress Appropriately

So here's where this post gets awkwardly uncomfortable... but someone's gotta say it! One of the first things my cooperating teacher said to me when I met her was, "Nobody wants to see your boobs or your butt." Wellllll, OK then! I've always dressed more on the conservative side, so I never really thought much about it. Are your pants high enough and shirts long enough in back so you can squat down to help a student? Do your shirts come up high enough so that when you lean over your guided reading table, your students don't get a show? Are your dresses and skirts long enough so that when you're standing and your class is sitting on the carpet, they won't see your underwear?

I know that for my body type, I always need to wear a cami under every shirt.  Does it dig into my armpits all day? Yes. But it's better than the alternative! And leggings, people! Wear leggings!! Nobody wants an uncomfortable conversation with their administrator about their choice of clothing. My husband, who's a principal, also tells me how much administrators hate having that conversation too. So do everyone a favor and make sure you're covered up. You'll thank me for this tip later.

5. Watch What You Post on Social Media

Confidentiality and professionalism is the name of our game. Never post a student's name, photo, or identifying information without his/her parents' permission. Or just play it safe and never post this information at all. Never complain about a student, your coworkers, your principal, your school, or your district on any platform.

You might be thinking, "But I have my Facebook profile on lockdown. I'm good!" Not so fast.... you never know who's reading your post and who they might know. I would even extend this practice to the Facebook groups I mentioned above. Teachers have gotten fired because of posts they make on social media. This doesn't mean you have to pretend everything about teaching is rainbows and unicorns... if you needed to, you could occasionally post something like, "Had a tough day. Wine is calling my name!" But less is more on social media, especially when it comes to your job.

So there you have it: my Top 5 Tips! Your first year is going to be both amazing and exhausting all at the same time, so make sure you take a few moments every day to just soak it all in. If you've been teaching for a few years, what other tips would you add to this list? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think!

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Calling all beginning teachers! This blog post has 5 tips for making your first year as a teacher a successful one!

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