Surviving Year 1 as a Teacher: What You Didn’t Learn in College but Need to Know

Surviving your first year of teaching is quite an accomplishment, and often one that has new teachers questioning their career choice. The shift from teaching assistant, where you are considered more of a friend than truly “the teacher” to being fully in charge of a classroom – often without backup – can leave your nerves jangling.

Long-time teachers often take newbies under their wing and share great advice about everything from surviving parent-teacher meetings to maneuvering through office politics. We’ve gathered up the best inspiration and practical ideas from dozens of teachers who have truly learned how to keep control in the classroom while living into their new role as an educator.

Stay Organized and Keep It Simple

Keeping your head when everything around you is dissolving into tears and tantrums can be one of the most unexpected parts of a new teacher’s life. When you keep yourself organized, you will feel much more in control of your day, which can be something that you go back to when it feels as though everything is flying apart. Pre-plan and do as much work as possible the night before or during planning periods, as it is amazing how quickly a school day can go. Start with materials created by others, and build from there.

During your first year, you may feel the desire to simply huddle in your room over lunch or free periods instead of seeking companionship in the break room. While there are times when you will need to be alone to regroup, it is amazing how much better you can feel when you have access to others who have “been there, done that”.

Communicating with your team members helps you share best practices and tips for maintaining your sanity with challenging children (and parents!), while collaborating with others may provide you with opportunities to create a shared learning experience. Working together spurs creativity and promotes an environment of positive vibes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and learn from them — you might be surprised to find that they are learning from you and picking up some of your passion and fresh ideas as well!

Find the Balance

Some days, it can be difficult to determine which is worse: parents or children! As you go through your year, you will find yourself faced with a variety of situations — some pleasant, some less-than-ideal. Create a “Joy” notebook, and every time something wonderful happens, be sure you add it to your notebook. Similarly, if you find yourself being challenged, keep a book of phrases that may help you make it through. Think about the worst possible scenarios you can imagine as a teacher and run through them and how you would like to respond.

Check out these quick time-hack options for fitting in grading when you can’t seem to get through the workload:

Don’t be surprised if you bump into students and their parents in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office and at the movie theater. Be clear with boundaries and let pushy parents know that you will be delighted to set up time with them during the school day when you can chat in peace and privacy.

Stop Disruptions in Their Tracks

Dealing with difficult students is simply a part of teaching, and one that many teachers will tell you is their least favorite. There are many things that you cannot do in many states, and there are students who will not react to even the most stringent rules. It’s incredibly important that you are able to keep your cool and manage your classroom with patience and grace — two things that are tough to muster when children are throwing things, yelling and generally acting out. Here’s a roundup of some good resources for keeping your classroom under control:

If these tactics don’t work, you can always try the tried and true methods: creating a suggestion box or adding extra work to keep your troublemakers busy. The government offers some tremendous resources to help teachers stop bullying in the classroom, as well as some exceptional ways to keep your students and yourself safe in the event of an active shooter or other emergency situation.

Teaching is one of the most challenging and rewarding professions in the world for good reason. The relationships that you will form with your school administrators, peers, children — and yes, even the parents — will last for decades.

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