I recently finished my first year teaching! I’m quite proud of myself for making it out alive, it was one hell of a year. I had two groups of 3-4 year olds, both with their own challenges, but I absolutely loved the crap out of teaching. I only hope I can get better as the years go on, but for now: here are ten pretty basic not-really-to-do-with-teaching things I learned in my first year:
1. Children can smell fear.
Or sense it in some way. My first three months teaching were a hell-scape because I didn’t know how to handle a classroom at all. I went through an Alternate Certification Program, so I didn’t go through a student teaching block. All I had to go on were the three months I spent substituting for a local school district (which is NOT the same, at all). In the end, I just had to learn through practice. I’m almost certain I might have to go through the same thing at the start of next year and learn how to deal with an entirely new group of students, but I’m hoping to eventually get to the point where I’m somewhat certain of what works and what doesn’t.
2. Co-teachers are harder to deal with than children, sometimes.
My job involves going into Head Start classrooms for half day and teach/prepare the students for public school. This means having to work with the teacher that is “actually” in charge of the classroom, and… that was a challenge I wasn’t anticipating. One co-teacher had such a dislike for me that she would report me to the center manager every other week for something ridiculous. I grew used to it after a while, but it was horrible to deal with at first. I don’t have the thickest of skins yet when dealing with insults, and ended up crying my evening away more than once. Adults are, as a rule, usually ten times worse than children.
3. Teaching means embarrassing yourself.
My students are coming to preschool. It’s their first experience with schooling of any kind most times, and they’re afraid. Of everything really. They’re scared of other children, of speaking up and participating, and of doing something wrong. You have to be willing to look ridiculous by adult standards. Dance around like a monkey. Act like you’ve NEVER seen yellow and red mix together to make orange. Make sure the children learn to trust your reactions and feel safe being wrong.
4. A new program means nobody ever has any answers.
I feel like I spent most of this year asking question after question and never getting a straight answer! If Head Start doesn’t use lined paper, am I allowed to use it? Which teacher is in charge of the Circle Time? Can I print at the center or do I have to print at home? Am I allowed to stay alone with the children? Do I teach letter names or letter sounds? I got different answers to every question, every single time I asked. It was beyond frustrating. In the end, I learned to trust my gut, and if I got it wrong, we’re learning as a program. Everyone was bound to mess up.
5. Co-workers can be evil.
I’ve heard of teacher drama before, from cousins who work in the field, but it hit me hard this year. I can’t understand what would make someone want to tarnish your reputation as a teacher, especially a first-year teacher like me? What is there to gain? I don’t know the reasoning behind anybody being terrible. I tried not to let it get to me and focus on just being nice and staying away from the teacher’s lounge. That’s where alliances happen, I just didn’t want to be roped into taking an active part of the gossip circle. I’m so thankful for the few nice co-workers that I was lucky enough to have with me through-out the year, or else I would’ve gone mad. (Note: this is different than #3, co-workers are not people who I share a classroom with.)
6. Make copies of Everything.
The environmentalist in me is cringing at this advice, but it’s true! I had the misfortune of having to work with a very forgetful principal this year. If there’s one thing I wish I had done is keep a copy of every single paper I had signed by parents for the district. I feel like my relationships with the parents of my students were tarnished by the fact that I’d always be after them to sign paperwork, especially when it was paperwork that they had already signed. I can feel their judgmental stares even now. If you have the time to scan and keep digital copies then that’s great, but if not, just make copies!
7. It’s okay to buy things for your students.
It’s ok to go out and buy supplies that you’re not being provided with. Don’t listen to the other teachers! It’s your life and your money! I would occasionally go out and buy the kids a new game at Lakeshore to change things up and they loved it, but the judgmental glares I would get from other teachers were horrible. It got to the point where I would hide my purchases and come in thirty minutes early to avoid people. Just be conscious of what you spend. Don’t overspend. Know your limits and budget! That brings me to number 8, which is-
8. Keep your receipts!
I didn’t know this until later, but you can claim teacher purchases when doing taxes. I’m sure most people know this and I’m just an extreme novice, but I thought I’d mention this either way.
9. Go to trainings.
Here’s the thing: they’re gonna be boring at times. They’re gonna be stuff that you know in theory but just need to know how to put into practice. They’re gonna be pointless to your teaching situation sometimes. But you’ll still learn! If you’re a teacher in Texas, the end-of-year evaluations reward extra self-imposed trainings that you’ve attended, so volunteer for a training or two that you’re not necessarily required to do.
10. The best moments will be the most unexpected ones.
Let yourself love the kids you’re teaching. Be happy and joyous when they learn something new. Talk to them like they’re your friends. You’ll always end up missing them when they leave, and yeah the last day of school was spent crying (at least half of the time). Those kids might not remember you in ten years time, but they’re sure gonna worm their way into your heart.
What I showed up to on the last day of school, Spring 2017
- Honestly, just wear tennis shoes. I’m their gym teacher too! I need to be able to move comfortable and run along with them!
- Keep an agenda! I started a bullet journal last August and it has saved me.
- It sounds like such a cliché teacher thing to say, but try and meal prep. It would’ve done wonders if I hadn’t been eating Subway every day for a year. Yikes. (I’m going to try and give this a go next year, kind of gonna try it out during summer.)
Reflecting on the year is honestly so refreshing, I might make a few more posts that are work-related before the school year begins. But if you’re not here for teaching stuff, don’t sweat it! I promise my blog won’t be entirely this sort of stuff. But a girl’s gotta vent every so often, y’know?
Thanks for reading! Are you a first year teacher too? What’re some things you’ve learned within the past year? Comment below!