Reference and Education

Surviving Your First Year of Teaching

When you decide to become a teacher, the truth of the matter is that teacher preparation programs give you skills and technique, but they simply do not teach you the reality of classroom teaching. As a new teacher, you may be caught off guard. You can become quickly overwhelmed when you first set foot in a classroom. You may feel like you are constantly behind the eight ball and the job of teaching can rapidly become your entire life. You may easily spend up to seventy hours or the week on schoolwork.

Unanticipated problems can send even the most dedicated new teacher running. However, with a little knowledge and preparation, the new teacher experience can be a pleasant one for you.

First know that as a new teacher, you will go through a number of phases. These phases are anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, and finally reflection.

The Anticipation Phase

The anticipation phase usually starts during student teaching. As a young teacher I was very excited about getting my first teaching job and having my very own classroom. I, like many young teachers, had a romanticized view of teaching. I couldn’t wait to start planning my lessons, decorating my room, and meeting my students. I believed in education whole heartedly and my passion for the job was high. For most new teachers, this excitement lasts through the first few months of teaching.

The Survival Phase

The first day of school is an exciting experience for a new teacher but this excitement can fade fast as the new teacher becomes overwhelmed with various problems and situations they did not anticipate over the year. Students are unruly and don’t listen. Parents are uncooperative. You are told to focus on preparing students for a state test that is months away.

New teachers struggle just to keep up with the new pace. The good thing is that even if a new teacher feels blindsided, many of them still have a lot of commitment and energy.

The Disillusionment Phase

After many weeks of constant work and stress, the disillusionment phase begins. The effects of this will vary depending on the teacher. As a new teacher you may be realizing that things are not going as smoothly as you had hoped, and your morale may get low. You may even begin to question your choice of career.

As a new teacher, you have to deal with new events such as back to school night and the first nerve racking evaluation by your supervisor. These events contribute to an already stressful situation. During a back to school night you will probably be expected to talk about your plans for the school year but these plans may still be unclear in your mind.

The first formal evaluation is extremely stressful and creating the “perfect lesson” for your evaluation can be mind numbing. If that first evaluation is weighing heavily on your mind just be sure you know what the supervisor expects, plan your lesson to the best of your ability and do something to relax your mind the day before the evaluation.

Almost every new teacher becomes distressed because they are spending more time on classroom management and discipline than curriculum. The disillusionment phase is when you may have a lot of self-doubt.

The Rejuvenation/Reflection stages

During these last two stages, a new teacher will come through with a new attitude. Usually during the first lengthy school break, you will have had some time to rest, reflect and organize. New coping strategies develop and there is a better understanding of the realities of teaching. You may decide to enlist the help of another teacher to help you with some things that you are unsure about. You may also decide to promise yourself one day a week where you will do something just for you to relieve stress.

The end of the year is a very good time for a first-year teacher. You can begin to look back on the year and realize what strategies worked and what didn’t. You can then think about the changes that you can make in the following year to be successful. Once you begin to plan for the following year, anticipation builds once more.

Teaching is challenging and rewarding. Once you have a clear understanding of the realities of starting a teaching career, you can anticipate what can be done, and plan on how to be successful.