Franklin Habit once said, “Teaching seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.”
At this time of the year, we all know that this quote could not be more accurate. Though sometimes it feels like we are herding cats, and every once and a while we can physically feel our blood pressure sky rocket, educators are always on the same page regarding their profession: We do it because we love the children. The ones that don’t? They find out quickly that while you do get the summers off, they are incredibly well deserved. In my last post I spoke to new teachers about how to handle students and the relationships that you create with them (For the first post, click here!) For my new teachers, your first semester is about to come to a close. When you come back in January, it is a perfect opportunity for you to start fresh with expectations. If you didn’t like something that you did the first semester, change it! This is something I do almost every year, and I usually am very pleased with the adjustments made.
Since in the last post I spoke about students, this post will focus more on ways to take care of yourself during one of the most stressful years of your career. Again, I will be using insight from some of my co-workers, all of which I consider master teachers. These tips are to support personal and professional growth and will help guide novice teachers to another level of confidence. Here are several last tips helping out those new teachers we know and love…
Ask Questions, ask questions, ask questions
Just on a personal level, I really dislike when people worry about me. I like to take care of others rather than be taken care of. This was my conundrum as a first year teacher, because you really need to be taken care of…like on every kind of level. Whether it’s understanding the fourteen acronyms you learned that day in a PLC, incorporating standards into a lesson plan, or even asking what palatable lunch places are close to your school, you need to feel comfortable asking someone that you trust. A solid piece of advice I received as a second year teacher was to find ONE person that you can confide in. Ask them questions, trust them with your venting, and allow yourself to grow from them. Along with that person, ask other teachers about their personal experiences, ask to watch their class during your conference, and consider yourself a sponge that is soaking in all of the great things happening around you.
I have said this before and I will say it again, teachers are the most selfless and gracious people, you are not annoying them if you have a question, they want to help you. And if you make a mistake? That is okay, own up to it, ask what you can do better, and open your arms to growth. Make it a point to learn so much, that you are able to be a light to other new teachers in the future!
What do the masters have to say about this?
“DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS to your experienced colleagues and supervisors. When I first started, I was afraid that by asking questions, I was gonna be perceived as incompetent. I was always freaking out on the smallest things when I could’ve asked for help.”
“Find people that you respect and ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. Reflect, and make changes to your practice constantly”
“Adopt a growth mindset and impress it upon your students every chance you get.”
“Don’t compare yourself to the good veteran teachers. Learn from them but don’t think you have to be on their level.”
“Don’t be offended if someone tells you you’re doing it wrong, ask for help”
“Be different- I believe the teachers that have the biggest impact on the kids are the ones that do things/teach differently than other teachers. We all remember things that “stood out” at the time, not the mundane. Same goes for a teacher throughout the school year”
“Make small goals each six weeks, don’t try to be super teacher from the start, comparing yourself to other teachers. (This six weeks I wanna learn about grading, or warm ups, or a new technology platform). You can’t learn it all at once!”
“Find good work friends, like the ones you can talk to about the best day, your worst day, your crazy dream the night before, your fears, and your goals. Someone who will help you run copies and remind you to be at meetings. And be that friend to someone else!!!”
Know Your Worth
Like I stated before, my first year teaching I would stay at school until about ten o’clock at night, exhausted and in tears because I felt the weight of the very heavy world on my shoulders. At that point in time, I was over stimulated. I didn’t know how to stop. I would come home and want to watch “Parenthood” while I graded papers…until midnight, while not cultivating a social life at all. It wasn’t until the second semester that I realized I needed to separate my work life from my personal life. I made a promise to myself that I would stay at school for as long as I needed, so that I wouldn’t have to take work home. I also made a vow that I would consistently exercise, for it was the only thing that lowered my anxiety. I finally realized how important it was to put me as a priority. I was officially an adult, and I had to start making decisions that affected me for the rest of my life. Whether it was with my health or with finances, I realized I was worth taking care of. As the years progressed, I noticed the little things matter, and it is okay to splurge on yourself every once and awhile. These are the things that keep us sane. For instance…
When you are up at school late, it is okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, go home.
Find time to get a massage, you deserve it.
Use a personal day if you feel like you need to catch up on life.
Schedule time with your friends.
Say YES to social events.
Go to Yoga.
Take a bubble bath.
Get that Starbucks on Friday.
Go to the doctor when you feel sick.
And ALWAYS know you are worthy of these things!
This is my personal list, but let’s check out what the masters say-
“You don’t have to grade every single thing! Meaningful assignments and personalized feedback is more important!”
“Take out disability insurance.”
“Join professional organizations.”
“Don’t let observation stress you out, there is nothing you can do about them.”
“You have to learn how to manage your time.”
“It’s okay if some of your lesson plans don’t work! Last year I would freak out if I didn’t fit a certain timeline. Realize every kid works at a different pace!”
Organization is KEY
This is a huuuge deal in teaching that we often times don’t talk about. There are so many things that teachers do besides teaching. I remember my first year, I was baffled by how many emails a teacher received in a single day. I once took a personal day while not checking my phone at all- I received 42 emails by the end of that day.
Email is so important because it is the most common way we communicate as a school community. You must make it a point to sit down and check your email at least twice a day, if not more. And after you read those emails? Write the things you need to do in your very nice, quality planner that you invested in because it is now your Holy Bible. I write things in my planner and then put meetings in my phone…wi
th an alarm, because I know me, and I will forget by the time that 4 o’clock bell rings. Between ARD meetings, staff meetings, learning meetings, tutorials, team meetings, data meetings and not to mention if you have extra curricular activities that you are responsible for, you have to stay on top of your schedule. Consequences are real, and you don’t want to deal with them if you don’t have to!
What do the masters say about this?
“Keep one calendar. Keep up with it. Set reminders.”
“Get there early, less rush”
“Communicate EARLY if you have a conflict.”
“Don’t let stuff pile up and over commit, do what’s required your first year and then start adding to your plate.”
“Make sure all of your certification tasks are tracked and in your calendar. Don’t forget to do ANY of it. And make sure you start studying asap if you need to take a different certification test.”
“Keep a personal file (either digital or paper) of every copy of any professional development certificates/documentation.”
“Learn what your principals and counselors and other admin are responsible for. Get the list, study it. They can answer so many questions for you.”
At the end of the day, teaching is your job, not your life. And like every job, you want to strive for greatness. Although your first year of teaching is crucial for growth, I am still learning. I am constantly refining what I do in my classroom, and try to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. I attempt to find one beneficial thing I can take back into my classroom from every professional development session, and I love hearing what others do in their classrooms. My first year of teaching, my principal told me one thing that has stuck with me to this day- “Just do your job, no one can be upset with you if you do your job.”
Even though that sounds relatively easy, a teacher’s job is a bunch of little jobs jammed packed into one. They are a counselor, a nurse, a coach, a parent, a custodian, a secretary, an entertainer and so many other things not mentioned. When things get difficult, remember that struggle is good, embrace it and grow. My new teachers, you are valuable and essential for the future of the country. You are powerful, strong and are affecting hundreds of lives every day. Regardless of how your day ends, remember you just have to do one thing, and that is your job. Do it right, do it with passion, because you are making a difference, and that, is what you were destined to do.