Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Note for New Teachers

The best thing anyone ever told me when I accepted my first "real" teaching job was that and I quote, "You're going to be great! It's going to be awful."

"What?" I asked.

"You're not going to have a life. You're going to be exhausted all the time. You'll feel awful but you're going to be great!"

And it's true. It was awful. And it was great.

Here are a few things I wish I knew when I started:

1. Classroom management is HARD! Like really, really hard. And you can't speak 90% target language when they won't listen to you in English. And all that stuff that professor who hadn't taught since the 1960's isn't going to work. I had a student who regularly rolled under her desk shouting how she hated Spanish class. No one had taught me how to handle that level of off-task and defiant behavior.

2. So relating to #1 - try different things. Find what works for you. And give yourself a break. Because it's going to be HARD. Really, really hard.

3. Some things you do will work great. You will feel awesome and like you have found your true calling. Like when students get you off track asking you questions in SPANISH about a picture you showed them.

4. Some things will crash and burn so hard that you will end up in the bathroom crying (or at least I did.) You will feel like you have made a huge mistake. The first time I tried centers the students tore up all of my materials and two kids got into a fist fight. That might explain why I still don't really feel comfortable doing centers...

5. Joining your professional organizations will help you get through. You won't feel like you have time but going to any professional development you can will give you ideas and help you to build a support network. I'll never forget going to a workshop at KWLA conference 1 month into teaching and having Helena Curtain tell me that 700 students once every 6 days sounded really hard and to hang in there. Her encouragement got me through that year.

6. But don't just rely on those organizations. Read blogs, watch videos, scour Pinterest, and join in Twitter chats like #langchat. I may look like a bum on my couch with my coffee but I am doing some serious research.

7. Pick one or two things to focus on this year. And next year. And the next. You can't do everything so give yourself a break - especially if you have hundreds of students you only see once a week!  My first two years I focused on classroom management and target language usage. I knew my assessments were awful and I didn't write lesson plans that weren't on a post it note but that was ok because those things could come later.

8. Keep in touch with your friends - especially your non-teaching friends. I call my best friend, Susan, every day on my way home from work. She listens while I complain about my job and her complaints about her corporate job remind me why I left and went into teaching.

9. Remember it might not feel like it now but it does get better. And as my friend said " You're going to be great! But it's going to be awful."

What would you add to the list? Are you a first year teacher - what are you struggling with? Share in the comments below!


  1. Don't take on too much! All the committees are great, but they take time and effort. If you don't have time, say no. They will still be there in a few years

  2. Love this!! I am in my 8th year of teaching Elementary are some thoughts:

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