What I Wish I Had Known as a First Year Teacher

Jitters. Hope. Excitement. Fear. Optimism. Most veteran teachers still share some of these feelings on the first day school. But, for first-year teachers, these feelings are multiplied exponentially.

We ALL were first-year teachers and lived through our first day of school and the first year. But wouldn’t it have been nice if a group of experienced educators – with all due respect to college professors – sat you down before your first year of teaching and said, “This is what is really important. This is what you really need to know.”

Of course! Here is that conversation:

What did you wish you had known during your first year in the classroom?

“Showing love affects how much students learn.” —3rd Grade Teacher, 7 years of experience

“How to transition between activities better.  I wish I had multiple classroom behavior strategies so if one didn’t work, I had others to use.  19 years ago, it was okay to put a name on the board with checkmarks if the misbehavior continued.” —4 th Grade Teacher, 19 years experience

“Building a relationship with my students is the key to their success.  When students know you care they feel a sense of purpose, which reduces everyone’s anxiety and sense of feeling overwhelmed.  When anxiety is decreased, real learning can happen.” —K-8 Private Learning Specialist, 21 years of experience

“It never slows down. You can’t put things off assuming you will have down time to work on them later.” —4 th Grade Teacher, 10 years experience

“It’s okay to be completely overwhelmed! The reality of teaching, especially in public education, is daunting. It’s a big, important job. Every student brings with them a unique set of experiences and ways of processing information that makes your work a constant challenge. It can be a joy, too… but a lot of the time you feel as though you can never do enough. It can be exhausting. Rest assured, children learn from the totality of who you are: How you respond to challenges, the kinds of words you use, and how you make them feel. It’s not just the perfect lesson that matters.” —Private Practice Reading Specialist, 7 years experience

What is your best advice for first-year teachers?

“Teaching is a journey and not mastered in your first year. Understand that for every year you are blessed with a willing pupil, you will fine-tune your craft. Only the best teachers are never satisfied. Take it one day at a time.” —3rd Grade Teacher

“Develop and nurture the relationships you make with your students.  You will always be remembered, so make it worthwhile! They won’t remember (or care) what they scored on the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment), but they will remember the feeling they had walking through your classroom door.” —4th Grade Teacher

“Focus on your students.  Think about what they need to be successful in your classroom.  Everyone learns differently, so understand that your first attempt to teach something might not match every student.” —Private Learning Specialist

“If you are organizationally challenged, seek out help and advice from your most organized colleagues. Beg, borrow, or steal their organizational systems and keep them up religiously. Also, never feel guilty about having students correct their papers as a class; it frees up time for you to do any of the other gazillion important things you have to do, and it provides students with immediate feedback.” —4th Grade Teacher

“Don’t let the highs get you too high, or let the lows get you too low. Teaching is emotional and you put your whole self into the work. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner: Be flexible, open to change, and willing to learn from (inevitable) mistakes. When you take the long view, you see how you can’t do everything but you can do something. And that’s enough to make a real difference.” —Private Practice Reading Specialist

There you have it, the secrets to success in the classroom. Starting your teaching profession may feel like solving the Da Vinci Code, or running a marathon with no sneakers and no training. In reality, it’s much harder than that! But take solace, all successful, highly effective teachers were once first-year teachers. Summarizing the experts quoted in this article, make connections with your students and asking for help when needed sounds like a recipe for success in the classroom and out.

David Karch works with students in grades K-12 on academics, study skills, test prep, and homework coaching. His background includes over 10 years of classroom teaching and 15 years of private tutoring. Areas of specialty for David are working with students with ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Executive Functions issues, and other learning differences. Developing organizational strategies, time management skills, and priority assessment is among his strengths. David tries to make learning fun through the use of hands-on games, integrating multi-curriculum lessons, and injecting humor into the tutoring sessions.