This post was inspired by a tweet from Marcia Neel.
As I prepare to begin my third year of teaching, my very first day on the job still seems like it happened just yesterday. All of the events and emotions associated with that day are still remarkably vivid. As a brand-new crop of educators prepares to enter the classroom for the first time over the next couple of weeks, here are some of the things I’ve learned during my first couple of years that may be beneficial.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This is something that I let my music students know from day one. They are expected to make mistakes, and learn from them. The same is true for new teachers.
Will you make mistakes? Absolutely. But, your students, colleagues and administrators will be patient with you and help you learn from these mistakes. Everybody you work with will have experienced that “first day of school” at some point, and they want to see you succeed. Don’t be afraid to screw up, you can get a lot out of a mistake.
Show your human side. Walking into your classroom for the first time can be very intimidating, especially if you’re replacing a teacher that was well-liked. Your new students likely don’t know a thing about you, and they’re very curious to find out who you are.
Don’t hide your personality, it can be your biggest asset in the classroom. Lots of new teachers will spend a ton of time focusing on classroom rules and procedures. Relax, there will be plenty of time for that too. Share your sense of humor, your love of sports/movies/books with your students early on. Relationship-building in the classroom starts immediately.
Take a deep breath. It’s very easy to dive in and completely immerse yourself in work as a new teacher. You’re excited to be on the job, you want to have the best classroom possible, you want to be well-prepared, etc. Many days during my first few months were spent working in my classroom until five or six o’clock, hours after the school day officially ended.
If you want to stay sane and healthy, you’ve got to balance work and play. Indulge your hobbies, take time to relax and catch a movie, or grab a beer with friends. Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about doing any of these things. They will help keep you happy even in the face of job-related stress.
And most importantly…
Don’t panic. You’ve been hired because the interview committee likes your personality, trusts your expertise, and knows that you’re a good fit for their school. Self-doubt may creep in during some trying times, but remember that the interviewers WANTED you, they didn’t settle for you.
The Trombonist's Mouthpiece by Joe Guarr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License