If I Could Start Over: Advice for a First-Year Teacher

By Colleen Ryan — If someone tells you that they were 100% prepared for their first year teaching, odds are they are not being truthful.  In fact, I don’t think there is such a thing as being 100% prepared as a teacher.   I spent part of my spring break reflecting on how this year could have gone better, and what areas of my teaching need to be improved.

I thought a lot about the advice I would give if I could start the year over and decided to share it for any new teachers out there.

  1. Organization:  Staying organized can save you a substantial amount of stress.  I feel as though no matter how much I organize there is always a “papers to go through” file in my desk. However, I am not only talking about organizing papers but also organizing your schedule, to do lists, deadlines, and your personal life.  I attended a professional development that introduced me to different strategies to help me organize all of the things I mentioned above, and it has been a lifesaver.  The most useful part was learning how to plan my prep period; it is very easy to let different things take over that special time I get, student misbehaviors, checking my email, doing random tasks, etc.  I wish I would have known from the beginning to have specific plans for any free time I have during the day, this makes getting my most important things done a lot easier.
  2. Relationships:  I always knew it was vital to build a relationship with each student, but never thought much of building relationships with my co-workers until I began the year.  I find myself very lucky because the faculty and staff at my school are so wonderful, it was easy to build relationships from the start and I am so thankful I did.  Being able to ask other teachers for help, advice, or suggestions has been so helpful to me in this first year.  I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through the year without the support of some of my co-workers.
  3. Importance of songs, poems, and little tricks:  This may be because I teach kindergarten but I have found these are key to my students remembering important concepts.  I could tell my students the same thing ten times and find that some just cant remember, but the second I make it into a little song or even add some rhythm to a sentence it is as if it is in their head forever.  Not only does it make it easier to remember but it also makes it more fun! (for me and them!)
  4. Reflecting and remembering:  Going along with number 3, it is SO important to write these kind of things down.  I wish I would have written down all the tricks I used from the first half of the year because I know next year I will forget some that worked well.  I also have found it very useful to take ten to fifteen minutes after each day to write notes on my lesson plans of things that went well, and things that needed to be done differently.  This helps me reflect on my own teaching and remember things for next year.

1 Response to “If I Could Start Over: Advice for a First-Year Teacher”

  1. 1 missprofessorcasey April 18, 2012 at 10:12 am

    You are so right about organization. I’m in my second year of teaching, and as an adjunct, I juggle many classes/ schools. Every week it seems I find some new trick, or new post-it method to keep my head on my shoulders. Sometimes I feel a little guilty for having to go stock up on school supplies at the end of every semester, but it makes life SO much easier.

    And that’s a great point about relationships. I will have to get on that.


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