Encouragement for First Year Teachers

Even though I hate clutter, I am a big fan of saving old journals, notebooks, and planners. 

Why? Because reading through them reminds you of the ups and downs in life that you would otherwise forget. The other day, I flipped through an old journal in my office. 

I ran across a journal entry from my first month in my first year teaching in a public school. This job was at one of the most challenging schools in the city. Before I got there, it had faced closure and had to adopt a special educational model in order to stay open. 

A month in, I had been hit hard with things like new Common Core standards, PLC meetings, data meetings, iStation, iReady, faculty meetings, committee meetings, division meetings, almost daily team meetings, and more paperwork than I could have ever imagined. 

To add to the fun, the educational model included an extended school day (8:15-4:30) and no recess for my Kindergarteners (apparently, this is supposed to help them learn better?). A normal day for me meant leaving for school at 6:30 AM and getting home around 9:00 PM. And that was with a 10-minute commute. How long is that even? Like, 14 hours?! 

Did people know that this is the life some public school teachers are living? 

Because I certainly had no idea. 

I was excited to work there but once I jumped in, I felt like I was just getting through it day-by-day. And some days, hour-by-hour. The time absolutely FLEW by everyday! Even with the crazy long hours, I never, ever felt like I could catch up. 

There was always another meeting to attend. Always another form to fill out. Always another new student to add to the classroom. 

It was like Finals Week every week. Are you in the same boat? Read on.

(Speaking of Finals Week: 7 Tips for a Productive Finals Week)

Here is the journal entry:

September 29, 2015

I am feeling so overwhelmed by my job. The amount of time that I spend at work is ridiculous. I don’t sleep- I lie in bed and obsessively think about work until I force myself awake at 4:00, 3:00, 2:00 AM and can’t go back to sleep. We meet all the time, which turns into me sitting in a room, counting the seconds until we can leave… but there’s never really an “ending” time, so it really just turns into me waiting for the janitor to kick us out. I am definitely on data overload: books, meetings, handouts, announcements, articles, advice… it’s all really great, except that I never have time to implement any of it because, from the second I walk in the door to the second I leave, other people have my time planned for me. I knew that public school would be hard, time-consuming, and different but I had no idea I would look forward to leaving “early” if I only worked a 10-11 hour day. I am burnt out, exhausted, tired, resentful. I worked so hard to get this job but now that I have it, I just miss my life. I miss working out with my husband after work. I miss my husband. I miss my family. I miss sleeping through the night. I miss being hydrated and clean. I miss the happy demeanor and positive rapport that I used to have with my old students. It will get better. 

I love that last sentence: It will get better. Simple and encouraging. 

Even though I was struggling to make it through each day, I refused to let my job defeat me. I knew that it would get better. And it DID! 

On the next page of my journal, I listed specific problems I was having in my classroom with possible solutions. Over fall break, I completely reworked my classroom management from the ground up. 

Yes, I spent my entire Fall Break working at home and in my classroom, but it was necessary. And it paid off! From Fall Break until Christmas Break, I taught new routines and procedures and consistently and strictly enforced my classroom management plan. When I came back from Christmas break, I had a wonderful second semester! 

(15 Quick Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine)

Here are the biggest resources that helped me:

1. Eric Thomas

Have you heard of Eric Thomas? He is the best, most motivational person on the planet! I would get to my classroom an hour early, turn on his YouTube channel and just let it play as I worked. “You Owe You” is my favorite video, but they are all really motivating!

This is an excellent blog written by a teacher, if you’re having a challenging year, READ EVERY POST and subscribe to it! I could not read enough of this blog. It completely changed my experience. They are very relevant to everything you will face in the classroom. 

Skip straight to the Classroom Management section (for some reason, it’s in the back?) and begin implementing a strategy a day! I would wake up, read a strategy, think about how I could implement it in my classroom, and focus on implementing it all day long. It worked!!

Even if you aren’t a “new teacher”, this is a good book! Each strategy is only one page long! Start from the beginning and implement a new strategy each day! I really like that so much of it focuses on the viewpoint of the child/student. It helps keep things in perspective. 

5. Teaching Journal

Every morning, I got up a little earlier and read a strategy from both of these books. Then I wrote 3-5 sentences in a journal about how I would implement each one that day. When I got home, I wrote a few sentences about how it went and how I could do it better next time. 

Holding myself accountable for the implementing the strategies had a huge impact on my year. My rapport with my students improved, I gained more confidence as a teacher, plus it even counted for Professionalism points in my Teaching Portfolio at the end of the year! 

(Study Strategy: Just Get Started)

Please don’t think I’m trying to scare you out of teaching! It is literally the greatest job on earth! But it is a difficult job and it definitely can be overwhelming. If you’re a new teacher or an even an experienced teacher adapting to a new setting, just know that you are not alone! 

And remember that last sentence: It will get better. 

#teacherlife is the best life, I promise! 🙂

Are you in a challenging teaching situation right now? Or have you ever overcome one? What were the biggest resources that helped you? Share your experience below! 

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