So Congratulations. You did it! Oh no, what now? As great as your professors, classes, and cooperating teachers have been up until now, I have bad news, you are not ready! It’s not really bad news, it’s simply a fact. Don’t take it as a discouraging idea, take it as a challenge, a starting point. If you are anything like me, you came into your first job thinking you were some kind of rock star that was going to change the world on day 1. Your not (most likely) but that is not a bad thing. You are a rock star in training, you are going to have a million questions. You are going to screw up, second guess yourself, and feel frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed. This is just part of being a first year teacher. The learning curve is so high that even if you spent a few years working in schools, you still have a lot to learn.
Now I hope you are listening! I am going to give you a major piece of advice I wish I had starting out. FIND YOUR ALLIES!
You are going to be in need of help. Even veteran teachers need support, collaboration, and validation. You will need it most of all. So who is really there to help? In a dream world/dream school EVERYONE would be supportive and helping to build you up for success. Sadly we do not all get to teach in a dream school. Schools are frequently filled with political crap. Success in your first year and beyond has a lot to do with surrounding yourself with good people.
I highly recommend reading Reframing the Path to School Leadership. It was the first book I read in my Leadership program, but I wish I had read it coming into school. It is a narrative that follows a new principal and a new teacher as they seek advice from veterans while explaining the many landmines in the educational landscape.
So during your first year (especially the first month) – SHUT UP AND LISTEN If you are in the teacher’s lunch room or staff lounge, don’t talk, don’t share, just listen. Find out who thinks what. Here are my helpful hints:
-How often do they talk positively/negatively about students/parents/school/administrators?
– Have they offered you any help just because? Shared resources?
– Are they interested in their PD?
– Do they put students first!?
-When you ask them a question, do they tell you or show you?
In my first year I had a class and within 5 minutes of the first day I had their previous teacher come to say “watch out.” I spent most of my year locked in my room and plugging away. While I survived and improved my students, I could have had a much easier year and avoided some talk that went on behind my back, simply by finding my allies.
This job is hard, you need to find your people. When you fail, you need your people to help you see the future success, when you succeed, you need those same people to celebrate with you. Your life as a teacher will be so much more fulfilling by connecting. Not just with the global education community online, but with educators in your building.
Year one is a huge challenge for every new teacher. Watch, listen, and FIND YOUR ALLIES. Without them…Who ya gonna call? Not even the Ghostbusters could handle a room full of kids (see GB2!)