In my first quarter of teaching, I have experienced quite a bit. Highs and lows. Successes and failures. Going into your first year of teaching is an incredible experience, but it can be difficult to navigate. Below I have compiled my top 10 treasures from my first quarter as a first year teacher!
Number One: Be Real
One of the things I have learned to treasure most is the times I can be authentic with my students. Being real, honest, and transparent is what makes teaching such a more joyous experience. I love sharing my successes and failures with my students. It makes them see me as a real person. By being more honest, I see my students desiring to build a relationship with me. I treasure the moments of realness we have in my class as it makes my students more comfortable to be real themselves.
Number Two: Take Risks
In the classroom, it can be easy to play it safe and only do what you know is easy. However, the reward from taking risks in instruction can be incredible. When students are engaged in meaningful learning they care more about the learning process. Sometimes that means you have to plan a lesson that might flop. If we are instructing in a meaningful way it may mean that the lesson may fail or students may not understand. If that is the case, you have to know that it is okay. Other times, when you take a risk, you can see incredible growth and amazing comprehension. Risk taking is a difficult neighborhood to navigate, but it can be incredibly beneficial and something I treasure so greatly.
Number Three: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
This treasure is the one that keeps me sane most of the time. My team. As a first-year teacher, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I did not know what exactly teaching the curriculum would look like or how best to organize my classroom. Luckily, I have been blessed with a team that is willing to dumb things down for me to understand. They are willing to take the extra 10 minutes to help me figure something out. It is incredible to work with a team that is willing to help one another succeed. They are an amazing treasure.
Number Four: Kids Will Be Kids
Teaching is such an incredible experience and each day comes with its own highs and lows. Kids are just like us. Somedays they are on their game and ready to do their job. Other days… not so much. One of the things I have to keep reminding myself is that kids will be kids. You can try to help them and work so hard to help them succeed, but in the end, they may not do what you expect of them. It can be easy to blame yourself for a student not understanding a concept or having a behavior after you have spent so much time and effort to help them succeed. But you cannot do that. Kids are going to do what they will do, even after you have done everything to help them. Treasure the successes but don’t blame yourself for the failures.
Number Five: Ask for Help
When I started teaching this year, I was terrified to ask for help. To admit I didn’t have it all together made me feel defeated. By taking the first step and asking for my team’s advice, I felt encouraged and supported. I felt like I could actually do more. No one is perfect in this profession. We are all learning and growing. It is scary to take the first step in asking for help, but when you do and you ask the right people they will be more than happy to help. Even a quarter through the year (almost two), I am feeling like there are so many things I can ask for help about. Instead of remaining confused or defeated, I am able to treasure my job and grow as a teacher.
Number Six: Teacher Knows Best
Many educators may have input as to how to correctly teach your students. They may try and tell you the best way to get students to stop being chatty or how discipline should work in your classroom. While seeking the advice of others is something to treasure, it is also something to take with a grain of salt. Meaning, somethings may work for you and some may not. As the leader of your classroom, you have the authority. You get to make the decisions that impact your students. If someone suggests something to you and you do not like it, then you do not have to use it. If you know your students won’t respond well to a certain activity, don’t do that activity. If a lesson totally flops, it is okay to repeat it the next day. You know your kids best.
Number Seven: Partner with Parents
In the world of education, it can be difficult to find a way to work with parents. In my first quarter, I have failed many a time to reach out to parents when I needed support or clarification. Often times, it is easy to be afraid of how a parent may respond to something you do or say. However, if you discuss with parents and make an intention to partner with them there can be so much success. I have seen this in various ways in my first year. Parents want to see their child succeed and if you can voice that then parents will be excited to work with you. There have been many times that I have been terrified to call a parent, but after voicing my concerns, I have received tremendous support. I treasure the conversations that I have with parents to help their children succeed.
Number Eight: Take Digital Precautions
Nothing bad has happened to me yet with my social media accounts as an educator. I have had to learn by other’s mistakes how important it is to keep a professional online presence. Parents can find anything out about their child’s teacher just by a search of a name. This is why it is important to keep the settings on your personal account private and the share with parents the accounts that you use to communicate about your classroom (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Through this, you are protecting yourself, your students, and school. Though you may be like me and not have anything that you are concerned about families seeing on your social media, small things can be misconstrued easily and it is better to be safe than sorry.
Number Nine: Leave School at School
As educators, it can be easy to take what happened at school home with us. However, this is such an unhealthy thing to do. You must be willing to allow the stuff that happens at school to stay there. It might be a kid who is consistently being defiant or a coworker who bothers you. Maybe it is a student who is behind and you can’t seem to help them. Leave it at school. By leaving work at school and not forcing yourself to get everything done every day, you are allowing yourself to rest. Not stressing about what is going on in your classroom is healthy. Take some time to do something you enjoy! Read a book. Binge-watch your favorite Netflix show. You have to allow yourself some time to just relax. If you can’t take care of yourself properly then you will not be able to teach properly. I’ve learned to value and treasure my time away from school as much as my time at school. Self-care is essential to this profession.
Number Ten: Be a Thermostat
I’ve heard this phrase time and time again. “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.” This quote can be applied to various areas of life. For teaching, this means that as teachers we set the temperature for the learning environment. Students feed off of our energy. If I am not entirely attentive one day, then neither are my students. If I am incredibly excited about the coming lesson… the kids will be too. A thermometer reads the temperature of the room and responds accordingly, however, a thermostat sees the temperature and decides to change it. This has been a true treasure in my classroom. I have noticed on the days when I am energized and welcoming students excitedly, my students have a better day. If I tell my students about how I am not feeling well and am tired, they are not as excited to learn. So we must set the tone for what the day should look like in order to best help our students learn.