Dear First Year Teacher,
Your first year teaching will always be a memorable one. It’s a year of triumph. It’s a year of struggle. It’s a year of growth. It’s a year of learning (but let’s be real, every year of teaching is). It’s a year of laughter. It’s a year of relationships that you will never forget. And this year, it is also a year of uncertainty.
When you started in the education program, you probably never would have guessed that you would be here--starting your first year of teaching in the midst of a global pandemic or starting when everything is constantly changing. You are trying to learn your school, set up your first classroom, get to know your new team, figure out how to build positive relationships behind a mask, all on top of trying to figure out the curriculum that you’ll be teaching. Now, you are also faced with ever-changing guidelines, probably some fear and anxiety about your safety, and I can guess that reading about teachers in the media right now might even be making you think, “What have I gotten into?”
We write to you today because we want you to know that we, as educators, see you and we are here for you. We want to help you on this journey and to remind you that there is a reason you are here. There is a reason you chose this vocation.
There is a reason why your teaching journey starts THIS YEAR!
You will rock it. You will get through it. You will overcome it. You will be an even better educator because of it.
To encourage you on this journey, as you get ready for your first year teaching, we thought we would provide you with some things to remember.
1. Everyone else is figuring it out too. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
During this time it may be easy to get trapped into thinking that you are the only person struggling--that you are the only one on your team who feels lost or maybe like you are drowning.
Remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
We can guess everyone on your team is probably struggling in some way with how things are panning out, whether they are a first year teacher or a veteran teacher. We are all embarking in unknown territory and it is crucial that we stick together and help each other through it. This is the year where the phrase “Teamwork makes that DREAM work” will be vital to everyone’s success. If you are struggling, seek someone out on your team. If you feel lost, reach out to your team or that person you can go to at school. Think of your team as your family. They are there for you to lean on, bounce ideas off of, collaborate with, celebrate with, cry with (happy and sad), dance with (we do at least), and most importantly make your WHY happen (more on this later). At our school, our principal, Lisa Burns, gave us a motto last year and it will definitely hold true this year “The Power of We at WT.” In order to be the best we can be for our students, WE all have to work together. WE have to lean on one another and we can’t go at it alone.
2. ASK. FOR. HELP.
We CANNOT stress this enough. If you have a question, ASK IT. If you need help, ASK FOR IT.
There is no shame and there are NO stupid questions.
If you’re not getting the help that you need, then ask someone else! We are blessed to work at a school where our motto is “The Power of WE at WT.” That’s what we live by. We help each other because we know we’re all a team. If you don’t have that on your “team” then find an additional team! Reach out to teachers on Social Media. Reach out to US! We’ll be your team, because you deserve it and kids deserve it!
3. It’s okay to show emotion - YOU’RE HUMAN.
We would be lying if we said that there were no tears shed our first years teaching. And we would be lying again if we said we haven’t cried at some point every year after. And we would REALLY be lying to you if we said there were zero tears shed during this global pandemic. Teaching is HARD. Teaching is EMOTIONAL. Some days you will feel like you are on Cloud Nine and everything in your lesson went perfectly and then there will be days that everything goes wrong and all you’ll want to do at the end of the day is let it all out.
We’re here to let you know that THAT’S OKAY. You are human.
You have emotions and you’re allowed to show those emotions. Find your “Trust Tree” as our friend Sarah Brasher would say and lean on each other to make it through the hard days. Then, wake up the next day knowing it’s a new day and that you can do this.
4. Take it one day at a time and be your best each day.
The greatest thing about teaching and about life in general is that you have the choice to wake up every day with the mindset, “Today is a NEW day.”
Yesterday may have been the worst day in your teaching career, but what if TODAY is the best?
Don’t let your yesterday ruin your today or your tomorrow or your whole week. Kids come to school in the mornings with a brand new attitude, regardless of what happened the day before. It’s crazy how resilient kids are! Every morning before I enter the building, I sit in my car and take a deep breath and I repeat the same five words every morning: Today. Is. A. New. Day. It is so crucial to start your day with that mindset and go at each day knowing that you’re going to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Remind yourself that each day is a “fresh start.” We both say this to our kids all the time. Each day a student walks in our door is a fresh start, a new chance to be better. As educators we often forget to give ourselves a fresh start, but you deserve them too.
5. You don’t have to have the picture perfect classroom and you don’t have to have ALL THE THINGS.
WOW. This one even hit US hard.
So often, we think to ourselves, “How can we make our classroom better?” when really, we should be thinking, “How can we make our relationships better?”
Being a first year teacher means many different things. The first thing that many first year teachers think about is how they’re going to decorate their classrooms. We ask ourselves, “What can I hang on my walls to make them prettier?” and “What theme am I going to choose for my classroom?” Please don’t get us wrong… decorations and themes are AMAZING and you certainly can ask yourself those questions. But the more important question to ask is how you’re going to build those relationships with the students that walk into your classroom. Trust me, my first year teaching (Charissa), my classroom was a HOT MESS. I found out two weeks before school started that I was going to have my own classroom and let’s be real, who can put an entire classroom together in two weeks? I did my darndest, but instead focused on sharing my heart with my students and their parents and in the end, THAT’S what mattered. Not the “prettiness” of my classroom. Don’t compare yourself to those teachers down the hall or the teachers on Instagram. Like we talked about in one of our previous blogs, YOU ARE NOT THEM. And lucky for all of us, you don’t have to be. Focus on what’s important: relationships. From there, you will find success and passion in what you do.
6. REMEMBER YOUR WHY
Why? WHY did you decide to become a teacher? WHY is teaching your calling? Understanding and remembering your why is a vital part of being successful in the classroom. It doesn’t matter if we are teaching during a pandemic or it’s a (what used to be) “normal” year, knowing your why is KEY! This simple notion is what will get you through the struggles, the tears, and most importantly makes the high moments even better. Every teacher will tell you that at some point they hit a low (maybe it was a day or it may have been a rough year), and questioned what they were doing here. Knowing your why gets you through those moments. As you grow as an educator you will “develop” your why. It will become more refined, just like you. I (Kristina) stated my why in a previous post and I think it is still pretty much the same: “My why is loving students until they truly love themselves.”
Know your why when you walk through your door to greet your kids.
Make it a mantra if you need. Post it on your wall if it helps. Just don’t forget it. It will guide you to make the best decisions for your kids, which is our ultimate goal. In return you will find so much joy in every day, even on the hard days.
We hope that these reminders are helpful to you and that you can run at this school year with an open heart, an open mind, and a ready spirit. Though it may not look like a “typical” school year, it can still be an amazing one.
Remember, you were called to this.
There is a reason your journey starts this year. Find that reason. You can do this. We see you, we’re here for you, we believe in you, and we’re all in this together.