Congrats, graduate—you did it! All those long nights, hard work, and blood, sweat, and tears. This is the moment you have been waiting for: College life ending and your teaching career beginning. As you get ready to enter this next phase of life, here are some tips to help you with your first year of teaching.
Interview: Apply, apply, apply! Send your resume everywhere, go to job fairs, and get online to fill out as many screening interviews as possible. When you finally get the interview, be sure to dress professionally. The principal may have just cooked 127 hot dogs for the school carnival, but you should show up dressed to the nines. Give a firm handshake, make eye contact, leave your phone in the car, and smile often. Let your potential employer know how excited you are to be a first-year teacher. Share all of the experiences with children you’ve had so far: student teaching, nanny jobs, volunteering, etc. Follow up with a thank you email to show how much you appreciated the interview.
Preparation: If you are lucky enough to have landed your first teaching job already, you have all summer to prepare. Begin by meeting your new coworkers and try to schedule a get-together during the break. Ask your new principal if you can take home some materials over the summer to look at your new curriculum. Try to map out your school year with long-range plans. All of the things that we teachers have to fit into one year can be very overwhelming, but if you have a general idea of where you are headed, it can really help with your transition into a new job. And don’t forget about Pinterest—check out the site for fun bulletin board ideas and themes for the upcoming year. Laminate, cut, glue, and staple as much stuff as you can before August. It will save you so much time when the mad rush begins!
Mentor: Most school districts will assign you a mentor for your first year, but if they don’t, find one. Find someone who has worked in the school for a while and seems “in the know.” Not only will you be learning a new curriculum, but each school is so different, you will have many, many questions! Where does lunch money go? How does dismissal work? Where is my before school duty? How do I submit attendance? Most districts will have training for first-year teachers a few days before other teachers return. This training will give you some great insight, but you will need someone you can turn to for help with the day-to-day questions. It might also be a good idea to keep an ongoing list of questions and helpful answers.
School’s Website: Check out your new school’s website for information. Sync your calendar to the school calendar so you have all the important upcoming dates—I have all the dates for the entire year in my calendar before August even starts. It will help you know which days you have off, too! Checking out the website can also give you a feel for your school climate. Follow your principal or coworkers on Twitter so you can see the many fun ideas and activities they have done throughout the year. Social media can also give you a great snapshot of what your new coworkers are like. Additionally, this will help you learn the many names of staff members you will have to remember come August.
Enthusiasm: One of the best things about a new teacher is the enthusiasm! All the information you will learn about your new teaching position will be overwhelming, but don’t let it squelch your enthusiasm. You have just learned many new, wonderful ideas from college that other teachers will be excited to learn from you! Invariably, being the youngest can have some downfalls, such as not being treated like a professional. However, don’t let this stop you from sharing your new and fresh ideas. Even the most experienced teachers are still learning, and most are willing to try new things.
The Students: Here they are: young, bright-eyed, and ready to learn. Well, that is the hope, anyway. But before you can get to that wonderful part of your job, it is imperative that you have an effective classroom management plan. This cannot be stressed enough. You can’t teach effectively unless you have a proper plan in place. Do your research—and be sure to ask your mentor and coworkers. Of course, there is a big learning curve in your first year, and most teachers will tell you they learned more in their first year than most of college when it came to classroom management! Be forgiving of yourself as you navigate the best plan for you. The most important thing is to be fair, loving, and consistent. You need to teach what is expected in your classroom and have follow-through. Once you have classroom management established, then you can accomplish anything.
You are about to enter one of the most rewarding professions. Will it be challenging? Yes—every day. But you will inspire, teach, create, guide, motivate, encourage, love, and dream every day, too. You are going to make such a difference, you can’t even imagine how much right now. You are going to change the world one student at a time. To quote my dear friend, Dr. Seuss, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!”
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