Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Advice for New Teachers, education, upper grade, 5th grade, 4th grade

I saw this post earlier today and decided this was another linky I needed to participate in.  It's crazy for me to think about how I'm getting ready to start my sixth (YES SIXTH!) year of teaching in just a couple weeks.  I really don't feel like it's been that long, but then again, my first group of adorable third graders are going into eighth grade this year!   (And the ones I student taught are starting high school!)  

My first year was my most challenging year overall, but I'd say my second year was probably my most challenging class as a whole.  

Let me start by telling you about my first year...

I was 22 and fresh out of college.  The mentor that was assigned to me was a fellow third grade teacher, but was told by a couple other staff members that he wouldn't be any help to me.  I set my standards low and decided I'd just have to be on my own for the most part.  At our open house the night before school started I had a parent tell me that if her son wasn't at school the next day, it was because he'd been driving her nuts and she was going to "string him up."  Wow, way to introduce me to your kid!  I was blessed to have a really good class overall.  I had a lot of girls in my class that year and they were a really sweet bunch that I bonded with very quickly.  My boys were overall a nice bunch as well...  Except for that one...  (Let's call him T.)  

T was probably the worst case of ADHD that I have ever and probably will ever encounter.  This child could not be still or quiet to save his life, but he was cute and likable, which I presume was what had kept him alive up to that point.  T's mom didn't believe in medicating him for his ADHD.  I didn't understand that belief, but I tried to respect it and we worked together to figure out alternative solutions to his problems.  Let's just say her solutions were very non-traditional and one time involved magical rocks to "calm his spirits."  As the year went by, the situation in the classroom got worse and worse.  Let's just say there were days he was crawling around under my desk roaring like a dinosaur, jumping on tables, and having random meltdowns.  (There were a lot of reasons for these things...  I'll just leave it at that.)  I was pretty much told by everyone in the building that this would probably be my worst student ever.  Yup, after five classes of third graders, he still holds that title.  Thankfully, the other 21 kids in my class were wonderful and barely paid any attention to his escapades.  I'm pretty sure that's the single factor that helped me survive that first year!  

In the midst of that craziness of my first year, there are quite a few things I learned that I'd like to share with the rest of you newbies out there.

  1. You won't have a life outside of school until about Thanksgiving break.  I told that to my old roommate after she started teaching a couple years ago and she later remarked that I was totally right!  I felt like it was around the end of the first semester that I started feeling like a real person again.  Try to make time for yourself, however little it may be.  You'll be totally consumed with school for the first few months, but just remember, this too shall pass.
  2. Form your own opinions of others.  I was told my mentor wouldn't be helpful to me.  I honestly believe I was told this out of concern for my well being and that others were looking out for me.  I set my expectations pretty low, but was pleasantly surprised with how much help he gave me.  (My former mentor is now our principal.)  I learned who to go to for different situations, but in that process I learned to form my own opinions of those around me.
  3. You will most likely not be the super teacher that you want to be during your first year.  Accept that and get over it.  Figure out your priorities and focus on those things.  Don't try to do everything at once otherwise you'll end up completely overwhelmed.
  4. Don't worry about comparing yourself to others.  I really struggled with this my first year and still do to an extent today.  I constantly compared myself to the other first and second year teachers around me. I finally learned that we each had a unique background, education, and experiences that gave us each our own strengths.  Teaching isn't a competition, it's a team event.
  5. Remember that in teaching you get a fresh start each year.  That's probably one of my favorite things about this career.  If I don't like the way I did things last year, I don't always have to do it the same this year.  This is also a particularly nice thing to remember on those horribly crumby days...  There's an end in sight and it's called summer vacation!
Click the picture above to link up over at Teaching in Room 6 and read about how to survive your first year (or any year of teaching)!


  1. I get so frustrated with parents like that. Sometimes I think they believe that medication is the ONLY option. I told one parent that I understood their reticence to medicate, but he still had a disorder preventing him from learning. If you choose not to treat with medicine, fine- but your child could still benefit from SOME sort of treatment. There are therapies, diets, and other options that a doctor can discuss with them, and it's important for parents to know that.

    I think your #3 tip is so huge. I was one of those teachers that dove in headfirst, with huge expectations of myself that just weren't fair.

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

    1. Yeah, I try to be very careful about the whole medicine subject. I try to be respectful of those who don't want to put their kids on anything, but at the same time I know it's a process and that it's totally worth at least trying. (My younger brother is a prime example of this.) I think so many people think that Ritalin is the only option and there are so many choices now that it's a matter of finding what medicine and what dose brings out the potential in the child. It's not just about drugging a kid up to get them to sit in a desk.

  2. What great tips. I agree with the previous poster. #3 is so important to remember. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and thank you for linking up!

    Teaching in Room 6

    1. Yes, #3 was a hard one for me to accept. I'm a perfectionist in many things and was always a good student. It was difficult to realize I wasn't going to be amazing from the start, but once I accepted it, my stress level went down a lot!


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