10 Things A First Year Teacher Should Do New Teachers by Joel Wagner - September 13, 2009June 30, 201010 Do you hate your job? I just finished my third week of school and am excited about how much fun my job will be this year. It’s super exciting. I remember back when I was a first year teacher, though. It wasn’t quite like this. This was underscored this week when a couple of anonymous readers (disgruntled and hey) left the following comments: It’s interesting reading all these comments and I was searching the internet for other jobs I could do if I wasn’t a teacher.. My story is the opposite. I have a great bunch of students and a really supportive (mostly) group of parents also. I am disgruntled by the workload and also extra things that end up taking all of my time. The processes in my school are frustrating and I feel like we spend all of our time preparing our students to sit standardized testing so that our school results can improve. My frustration comes from not being able to nurture the other aspects of my students and that the day is taken up by all these other commitments. There is no time for doing those ‘just because’ activities. I am finding it really hard to overcome the politics at my school, the lack of consultation, the procceses and procedures and that unstable employment. It’s these things that are weighing in my mind and making me consider all my options. And I’ve been teaching two weeks and am stressed out to the max. I teach special ed and have to prepare 33 lessons a week. I teach three classes in one hour, jumping from two kids to another to two more. I literally run around all day like a chicken with my head cut off. I work 12 hours a day and constantly worry about my job. I come in on the weekends. I have the worst job for a first year teacher. I hate it. I don’t know that you actually have THE worst job for a first year teacher, but admittedly, you have it pretty bad! If I were in your situation, I would do the following things immediately. Commit to stay at the school through the year This could easily be a defining moment for your life as you confront this challenge head-on. Don’t give up, no matter the circumstances. Remember that you do have some days set aside as sick days Use them. There is much to be said for the value of “mental health days.” Don’t abuse them, and also keep in mind that you need to save them and use them throughout the year, but why can’t you miss a day every three or four weeks? Let the subs see the mess you have to deal with. Avoid the temptation to gossip As we get more stressed, it’s a lot easier to say things about people behind their backs. If you do and end up looking for another job next year, it will come to bite you in the end. Avoid the temptation to live excessively Don’t live for the weekend. Don’t overeat. Don’t start smoking or smoke more than you have. Just keep a level head. Talk to friends It’s easy to focus only on yourself when the situation seems hopeless. Don’t do it. That simply makes you feel more hopeless. As we focus on others, we come out of our selves more. Do less, but do what you do exceptionally well You really don’t have to have a different lesson plan for each student. Copy and paste. Focus on the group of students you are working with completely while you are working with them. Slow down The only one stressing about your job is you. If you slow down, you will be less likely to make mistakes, and you will breathe more easily. I find that the parents of students with special needs tend to be more patient with teachers when the teachers are trying their hardest to help the student. Become friends with you administrators You don’t have to be their best friend, but get to know your administrators at least on the surface. Have a good relationship with them, and things will be much easier for you down the road. Always act with a conscioucness of how your actions will affect your situation later on. Keep complainints out of your vocabulary Talking about problems without suggesting a solution is complaining. Talking about problems while considering possible solutions is brainstorming. Come up with solutions before you even mention a single problem to anyone else. It’s tough, but it will make you much more pleasant to be around and you’ll find people become more sympathetic to your situation. Set aside one day a week to completely leave work by 4:00 It’s easy for me to say “never take work home” but if most teachers did that, they would be at school until 8:00 most nights. But it is realistic to plan to have one night a week where you don’t do anything work-related. Every week. Without fail. If you can’t do it the same day every week, be sure you know which day it is this week and just get up and leave at 4:00. You’ll find that you’re not much furhter behind tomorrow morning than you were this morning. I remember how stressful things were for me when my coworker had a stroke. We had kids in the band hall constantly from the time I opened the band hall before 7:30 in the morning until I locked the door usually after 5:00. Even during my lunch time. I was perosnally responsible for over 225 students for three months. I know how hard it can be! Hang in there, my friend. Welcome to the world of teaching. Hang in there. As is usually the case, I am sure I’ve overlooked some glaring solution that one of my lovely readers will point out in the comments here as well. So be sure to read whatever they write below! Joel WagnerJoel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.