I remember the day I got my offer letter to teach ELA on the secondary level. I was happy and so relieved to have a job. I was also nervous as hell to be a first year teacher.
August rolled around and back to school season was in full force. My happy quickly turned into “Oh shit, I’m about to be a whole teacher, with my own classroom !.” The imposter syndrome set in with a healthy dose of extreme overwhelm.
I was going to have my own classroom. Just me. No mentor teacher to back me up or handle things that I didn’t know how to. I would have to figure things out by myself and for myself. I was in a constant state of:
During that first back to school season there were many times I felt lost. My checklist of things to get done had never been so long. I had so many tasks, but no clue where to start. Reflecting on that time after five years of teaching allowed me to think about what I wish I did differently as a first-year teacher.
It also motivated me to create this FREE 50+ page Ultimate Back to School Guide, so that I could help lessen the extreme overwhelm first year teachers feel during the back to school season.
This comprehensive guide covers classroom management, classroom set-up (teacher desk and work station as well as student desks), decor, classroom organization, syllabus breakdown, back to school night, sample first day powerpoint slide, sample ice breakers, and teacher discounts!
If you are feeling even a small amount of what I did when I was a first year teacher, then download your FREE copy of The Ultimate Back to School Guide for Secondary Teachers before we get into the 4 things I wish I did differently as a first year teacher!
1. UTILIZE VETERAN TEACHERS
Because they used to be in your exact position! Veteran teachers know what it means to be a first-year teacher. They understand the myriad of emotions you are feeling and trying to work through!
During my first back to school season in 2014, I utilized my veteran teachers, but I didn’t do it enough!
I was so focused on the curriculum that I never stopped to ask them about how to handle things like:
- classroom management
- techniques on remaining consistent with my core rules and consequences,
- how to handle cell phone usage in the classroom,
- or even best practices for teacher and classroom organization.
Here are some questions you can ask the veteran teachers in your building:
1. Are you willing to share your lessons plans with me?
I had colleagues putting their lessons for the entire school year on a flash drive because they understood how tackling an unfamiliar curriculum can be for the first-year teacher.
2. Can you share your strategies on backwards mapping?
Unfamiliar with backwards mapping? Don’t worry, I’ll break it down for you!
This method can be used to map out a lesson or an entire unit, but you start with the end goal in mind and work backwards to figure out what is needed to reach that end goal. So basically, the goal of backwards mapping is to focus on the output(s) of the instruction first.
Here’s an example for backwards mapping a lesson:
1. Start with end goal.
Ask yourself: What am I expecting students to be able to do (skills) OR to know (big ideas) by the end of the lesson? Also be aware of the standards related to your lesson!
2. Body of Evidence.
Ask yourself: What will you use as evidence that your students have either learned the big idea or mastered the skill/standard?
3. Work backwards to map out lesson
- What skills or knowledge do students need to know to reach the end goal?
- What skills or knowledge do students already have related to the end goal?
- What activities must I prepare to help students reach the end goal?
2. GOOGLE IS YOR FRIEND!
Your school district may or may not give you a curriculum to work with for each unit. You may find yourself in a position where the curriculum that you are given just doesn’t feel and complete and comprehensive as it should.
I have been through this. I taught ELA on the secondary level for five years and Google became my friend when I needed lesson plans or activities for certain books. This is how I discovered TeachersPayTeachers (TPT)! Here you can find lesson plans and resources made by teachers for teachers!
One thing I wish I did differently is use Google to help make my lessons more creative! There are so many ideas out there waiting to be discovered!
3. UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA
There are so many teachers using social media to showcase what they are doing in their classrooms! More importantly, there are so many groups, especially on Facebook specifically made for teachers to support other teachers. I wish I had researched more about this during my first couple of years teaching!
- Write a post asking current teachers for advice.
- Search for and join Facebook groups based on your content area and ones specifically for helping new teachers.
- Research hashtags related to teaching and your content area.
- Follow any teachers you find that you like.
- See if those teachers have their own blog that you can check out.
- Research ideas for classroom management and organization, teacher organization, cell phone policies, lesson plans for your content area etc.
4. TOUR CLASSROOMS
The purpose of this is two-fold:
- To get inspiration on how to set up your room and to introduce yourself to other teachers.
I am not good at decorations. I’m equally as bad with being colorful with decorations. I just don’t have that eye for design, but oh did I get inspiration from other teachers who did excel in this area!
So, wait a couple days if you can to see how other teachers decorate their classroom and then go back to decorate your own! One thing I do wish I did differently is touring classrooms all-round the school instead of just in my hallway.
2. Introduce yourself to other teachers in the building
I am an introvert. One thing I wish I did when I was a teacher was getting to know other teachers that weren’t just in my hallway. It wasn’t until my final year as a teacher that I got to know more teachers that weren’t just in my department and I wish I had made friends with them sooner!
Back to school season can be rough for both veteran and first year teachers. The checklist of items to be done is long and it just never feels like there is enough time in the day. Just remember to breathe and prioritize what needs to be done and utilize as many resources as you can to make back to school and your first year of teaching run more smoothly.