9 tips for surviving your first year in the classroom

Whether this is your first year of teaching or your 15th, you are likely diving into the school year with hope, excitement and even apprehension. Here are nine tips that will help you succeed and make it to year two (or year 16). 

1. Remember: Everyone’s been in your shoes

The experienced teachers on your campus have all gone through a first year, so use your colleagues’ hard-earned wisdom to your benefit! If you haven’t been assigned a mentor teacher, cultivate relationships with one or two veteran educators who can provide support and answer all sorts of questions, from “Where do you get paper clips?” to “How do I work in bathroom breaks?”

2. Good communication is essential

Prioritize effective communication year-round but especially during the first weeks of school. As your student load increases, so does your parent load. Depending on the number of students you have, introduce yourself to parents with a phone call, or send a welcome letter home during the first few weeks of school.

3. Keep things positive

As you begin parent conferences, make sure to start every conversation with a positive comment about the student—and end on a positive note as well. Showing your students’ parents that you care is crucial and will make a world of difference throughout the year.    

4. Build your students’ trust

Maintain an open line of communication with students. Let them know that you are there for them if they have a problem, and demonstrate to them that you mean it. It can take a while to establish trust, but it will be worth it when you see a reluctant student come around.

5. Give yourself a break

Know that you can’t do everything or be everything to everyone and that you are not perfect! Allow yourself to learn from your mistakes. This is a learning experience for you as well as your students.

6. Keep a journal

Take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down your successes and potential areas for improvement. This is both therapeutic and helpful as a professional development tool. Reflect on your own professional needs, and be proactive in finding solutions. There are so many programs, books and classes that will help you improve your craft; look into what your campus, district and ATPE offer. Make sure to seek activities that will be beneficial, not just things you feel pressured to attend.

7. Don’t spend a ton of money on classroom supplies

During your first year, it is so tempting to buy, buy, buy for your classroom to make it your dream teaching environment, but it takes time to build your classroom library, math center or science lab. When you do shop, visit garage sales.

8. Learn to say no

Your first year, you might be most tempted to go above and beyond: volunteering at the PTA bake sale, going to students’ sporting events, organizing field trips, etc. Don’t overextend yourself by saying “yes” to too many things during your first year. Don’t worry—the opportunity will always be there next year, and the next year, and so on.

9. Do it for the kids

Do your best to help your students do their best, and leave it at that. If you fail, try again so your students will learn the same. Try to find something special to share every day, and stay focused on why you entered this honorable profession—your students!