Tips for First-Year Teachers

You’ve gone through four years of content and methods classes, and you’ve survived the gauntlet of student teaching. Congratulations! Now it’s your first year in your own classroom. No matter how good your college’s education program was, nothing quite prepares you for that first year. So, from one teacher to another, here are some tips for your first year of teaching!

You won’t feel comfortable for the first few months—and that’s OK.

In the weeks before the beginning of the school year, you can plan and make decisions about how you’ll run your classroom, but, honestly, until you get into teaching, you won’t have it all figured out. There will be a learning curve, you’ll make mistakes, and that’s ok! Learn from your mistakes. Be flexible. If a strategy or procedure isn’t working, be willing to change it. On the other hand, don’t be too quick to give up—sometimes a strategy just needs time to take effect. Give yourself time to adjust. By October or November you’ll have found your rhythm with teaching the content, scheduling your day, and adjusting to the needs of your classroom.

Don’t overload yourself.

Teachers are busy people. Teaching in itself takes a lot of time, but then there’s the time needed for preparing lessons, attending meetings, decorating your classroom, and so on. Then there are the extracurricular activities—sports, clubs, fund-raising events. While these extras are all good opportunities, your first year of teaching is probably not the best time to get heavily involved. Give yourself that first year to get to know your curriculum, lessons, and grade level.

Keep it simple, but don’t stop improving.

Lessons should be well prepared, and teachers must avoid the temptation to put little or no effort into lesson planning. But, with 30+ lessons a week, you don’t have time to spend two hours on every lesson. (Honestly, your most creative ideas may come to you while you’re teaching! Don’t be afraid to deviate mid-lesson if doing so is best for your students.) Prepare well, but don’t wear yourself out. That being said, don’t get apathetic either. Periodically target subjects or lessons to improve, and be creative! Get manipulatives to make math easier, or research fun crafts to include with history. Read articles and books and get ideas to make your lessons more exciting and effective. And don’t forget—you have access to the knowledge and experience of the teachers around you. So ask questions, get advice, and learn from the veterans.

Have a classroom management plan.

Sadly, many first-year teachers give up on teaching because of classroom management. Plan ahead! Determine what your discipline system is going to be and create procedures to help your classroom run smoothly. Implement discipline and procedures consistently. One key to effective classroom management is to be organized. If you’re scrambling around to find lesson papers or craft materials, your students will get restless or take advantage of your divided attention, so don’t give them that chance!

Do not tolerate irritation towards your students.

The ultimate goal of teaching is discipleship. Your goal should be to influence your students toward Christ. So when you are handling discipline issues, you cannot allow irritation or anger to rule your response. Just as God chastens His children in love, you must discipline your students in love. If you are struggling with wrong feelings or attitudes, repent and seek God’s help to eradicate irritation and anger towards your students. Ask God to help you love the unlovely, and you will be an example of Christlikeness to your students.

The key to being a good teacher is to be intentional. Plan, organize, and step back to evaluate how you’re doing. Your first year may be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. Enjoy the experience of your first year! After all, it only happens once.

Do you have any helpful tips for first year teachers?

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Fall 2015 edition.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.