You’re almost ready to begin your first year of teaching. First of all, congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back. Being a novice teacher can be tough, and it is almost a guarantee that unpredictable situations will occur. Here are some common challenges that teachers face, as well as some ideas to make things easier on yourself and your students. Good luck!
The Personal and the Professional
Personally, new teachers go through a lot when starting a new job at a new school. This can include finding secure housing, establishing personal relationships and discovering where you can go to blow off some steam—whether that’s out in nature, at a yoga class or on a patio at your favorite restaurant. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your students.
A solid self-care routine is crucial to managing stress. Find ways to comfort, soothe and support yourself. Developing healthy practices—such as deep breathing, meditation and stretching—can go a long way in helping you maintain your physical and mental health. When in doubt, stop and breathe deeply.
You also want to make sure your personal and professional life is in order so that these details don’t distract you as you’re working hard to be the best teacher you possibly can. Develop an organizational system for yourself to keep track of important information that might be new to you. Read and file away documentation on any new medical benefits and investment programs, along with letters, contracts, transcripts, certifications and professional requirements and expectations.
Finding a mentor or developing relationships with veteran teachers can also be extremely valuable as you navigate your new work environment.
Hopefully by now, you have figured out where you fit in in the social structure of your new educational community. If not, there’s nothing wrong with asking for some help! Make sure you understand the policies at your new school and district, and don’t be afraid to ask for support navigating that information.
Veteran teachers and support staff at your new school can serve you well as you move forward in your new profession. They can help you identify not just what you need to know but who else you can turn to for help with specific issues.
Curriculum and Assessments
As a new teacher, you’ve received guidance on what you should be teaching to your students and how to pace your instruction, methods of assessment and rubrics for testing. This can all be a bit overwhelming, so don’t be shy about asking for help. It is important to understand what is expected of you so that you can better help your students and set clear expectations for them.
Knowing the principles of assessment, including terminology, methodologies and techniques, is assessment literacy. As an assessment-literate teacher, you should understand the how and why of different assessments and be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
You’ll also be able to create a balanced classroom assessment system, including methods of data collection for grades and growth indicators. It is also important to engage your students and get their feedback on your assessment process.
You can seek out professional development activities, such as workshops on classroom assessment. All of this will enhance your instructional performance, making it possible for you to implement an instruction and assessment program that both addresses the curriculum and promotes student learning.
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Organization and Lesson Planning
Once you’ve got a handle on what you’ll be teaching and how to assess your students, it’s time to get organized and plan. If you were a student teacher, it’s possible that you learned some tricks on how to keep classrooms running smoothly, but you may not have seen exactly how much work your supervising teachers put into that. Once you officially begin your teaching career, you’ll undoubtedly realize how much effort it really takes.
Assessing Your Classroom Organization Strategy
Teachers are responsible for organizing the space, materials and time for all of the students in their classroom. You’ve probably got an idea about what works—and what doesn’t. This is a good thing! You want to be able to identify the processes that are necessary and effective for your class. When you discover a process is not effective, you want to get to the bottom of why it’s not working, so you can develop an alternative system.
If you feel stuck, check in with a mentor or a more experienced teacher. There is also a benefit to visiting other classrooms and seeing other teaching methods. By doing this, you’ll better understand what works for those educators. Make sure to ask questions and consider how you might be able to implement more effective procedures in your own classroom.
You’ll want to be organized, but you also need to be flexible and open to making improvements. Don’t stick with an ineffective organizational system just because it’s familiar or it worked for your supervising teachers during your certification process.
Every class is different, and making adjustments to improve classroom operations is something you should embrace as a new teacher, rather than shy away from. Evaluate and reevaluate as the school year progresses. Reassess your systems and make tweaks when necessary.
Lesson planning is another arena in which you likely have had quite a bit of guidance as a student teacher, but what you learned may be difficult to actually execute. You may have come into this year of teaching with all kinds of ideas and visions about how detailed your planning would be, only to be met with the reality of how quickly you’ve had to change or adjust those plans.
Because the work of a teacher is never done, it’s important to prioritize and focus on specific goals.
One thing you can do is pick an area to concentrate on for the majority of the year. You can work to make lesson plans detailed for your class, while leaning heavily on the curriculum guidance provided by your school for other subjects. You can also collaborate with teachers who have chosen a different concentration and share lesson plans.
Excellent classroom management is the key to a smooth operation. This includes overseeing student learning, social interactions and behaviors and working to create and maintain an environment that students excel in. You’ll want to examine your own beliefs, strengths and weaknesses when it comes to classroom management and determine how you want to deal with discipline.
In order to effectively manage your classroom, it’s important that you are confident in your ability to set goals and clear expectations, model positive behaviors and enforce classroom rules. Do your best to create a respectful learning environment in which your students feel safe to learn, explore and ask questions, as well as share and express their own views and feelings in a positive, constructive way.
Classroom management and instruction are inevitably linked. If you struggle with managing your students’ behaviors and interactions, the more likely it is that they will have trouble focusing on learning. Teachers who are able to keep their students on task with learning activities of the appropriate level, pace and content will be less likely to deal with behavioral issues.
Keeping organized and prepared will do wonders for improving class management. Daily schedules and the systematic handling of materials will help keep your classroom in order. Developing solid strategies for behavior management—including setting expectations and boundaries, redirecting and having individual conversations—will help you focus on teaching rather than disciplining.
Again, don’t be ashamed to seek support from a mentor, veteran teacher or behavioral specialist if you have persistent problems with student behavior.
Managing a classroom takes practice, so be open to learning new ideas, applying different strategies and making changes throughout the year to improve class management. Do your best to be firm yet flexible. If you need help, take a look at our classroom management guide for facilitating positive behavior.
It is important to create a sense of belonging in your classroom. Activities that allow you and your students to get to know each other and have some fun will help keep your students engaged.
These activities can include projects that provide opportunities for each student to share about themselves, such as selecting a star of the week, going on field trips and doing show-and-tell activities that help students engage with the rest of their class.
Creating a classbook is another fun and creative way to keep your students engaged. Select a topic for your classbook and have students brainstorm ideas for their classbook pages in small groups. Once each student has determined what they will contribute to the book, they can work individually on their pages.
When their pages are complete, you can have each student share what they’ve created. Finally, once you’ve gathered all of the pages together for your classbook, you can have that published to create a finished project your whole class can be proud of.
Establishing regular check-ins with your students and their parents will also help you keep your students engaged. You can use chat platforms, email, phone calls, conference video call-ins and text messages to keep lines of communication open. You’ll want to provide emotional and social support services for your class.
Utilize all of the resources available to you, such as counselors and specialists, to help your students and their families stay engaged if they are having a rough go of it.
We know the first year of teaching can be overwhelming, what with all the different roles you have to play and all that is expected of you as an educator. Seek personal and professional support, stay as organized as you can, prepare as much as possible and do your best to stay flexible as you reevaluate your teaching techniques and processes. You’ve got this.
Studentreasures provides FREE Classbook Publishing Kits. Creating a classbook is not only a fun activity that teaches students about the writing process, it can also help build their confidence as young writers. For fun writing activities and project ideas, be sure to take a peek at our online Teacher’s Lounge. You can also reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter any time!