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Eight Things I Wish Veteran Teachers Had Told Me My First Year

01 Aug 2022 by Isabella Henriksson

When I started teaching four years ago, I was one of a handful of new teachers in a small school that experienced high teacher turnover. We new teachers had to figure it out as we went along but were lucky to have a handful of veteran teachers for support. I remember more experienced educators telling me that most teachers don’t really feel like they have it together until year three, and that year four is really when the magic happens. 

Having now completed four years in the classroom, I can say that year four is amazing. But I can also say there are some things I wish veteran teachers had told me back in year one.

While I will not be in the classroom myself this year, here’s what I would tell new teachers starting their careers in education.

  1. Things are different for teachers today, but that doesn't mean it’s all bad 

    Veteran teachers will tell you that teaching today is very different than it was twenty years ago, especially when it comes to student and parent behavior. Let this be reassuring on your tough days. Everyone is struggling, so it’s not just because you are new. But don’t let this cause you to doubt the field you have chosen. While you may not be living the glory days of education, you are going to have so many great moments in your classroom and you deserve to enjoy them.

  2. This is easier for us because we have years of plans and supplies 

    Don’t compare yourself to veteran teachers, learn from them! If you find yourself feeling frustrated because you seem to be scrambling to get everything done while your coworkers have it all together, stop and remember that they will have more planning time in their day because they have years of lesson plans to reuse and modify. Their classroom management will be better because they’ve refined their routines. As you accumulate experience and supplies your lesson planning will become easier and stronger. 

    Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to your mentor teachers for resources like tried and true lesson plans or classroom management tips. If you don’t have someone in your school who you can go to, consider joining an online group for teachers like the CLASS Learning Community. There you will find many seasoned educators who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and supporting new teachers.

  3. We aren’t always getting it all done  

    Even the most experienced teacher will have weeks that they fall behind and need to catch up. School years are unpredictable, and every class has a different set of needs. You may need to adjust your pace. This is normal and you are not alone!

  4. Plans are more important than a pretty classroom 

    I remember when I was fresh out of college and prepping my classroom I was totally overwhelmed by the beautiful classrooms I saw on Pinterest. But it’s good to keep your room simple. Personal touches make your environment more like home, but don’t spend six hours on your Saturday making a bulletin board if your lesson plans are not finished. Ultimately you will have a better day if your day is planned and you are rested than if your borders are on theme.

    A note on classroom environment: it is important that your classroom environment serves a specific purpose. Consider thinking about whether it’s more beneficial to find the perfect theme for a room, or ensuring that your space reflects elements from each of your students’ cultures? Your students will feel more welcome and at home if they see themselves represented in the space rather than having decor that is on trend. 
  5. They do act that way for me sometimes 

    Nothing stung more than hearing “well, they don’t act that way for me” after asking a more experienced coworker or administrator for classroom management tips. And sure—a veteran teacher probably (or at least hopefully) has better classroom management than you. They should! They have more experience! But even good teachers, and students, have bad days. Kids will occasionally act out for anyone, it’s not just you. 

  6. Sometimes we sit down 

    My first year teaching I was terrified to ever sit down. Cut to my fourth year when there were days that I literally taught in a throne. This job is demanding, so honor your body. Sometimes that means sitting and teaching the lesson in a way that allows for you to slow down and get through your day more comfortably. 

  7. We want our students to like us  

    I've met teachers who are adamant that they don’t care if the students like them, they just want them to learn. I’m skeptical. While I’m not offended if a student doesn’t like me, I know that children learn better from people they trust and respect. Having positive interactions with students will make your day infinitely easier and enjoyable. 

  8. This may be your calling, but it’s okay if it’s not

    People, veteran teachers included, will refer to education as a calling, but this is often a way of saying you’re about to do something pretty important without much reward. If you feel like you have a higher calling to teach, that’s great! But if you view teaching as a job, that’s okay too. You can be an amazing teacher without dedicating all aspects of your life to your work.

With the great resignation in full swing, it may seem like more people are talking about leaving education than joining. But if you are joining the field this year for the first time, I am so excited for you! Despite its challenges and what people may say, being an educator is a rewarding experience. We hope to hear about your year in the CLASS Learning Community!

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