What Does the First Year Teaching Look Like?
Some surprising statistics show that a large number of teachers leave the profession during the first year. The trend drops off significantly through year five. Many first-year teachers experience a cycle that begins with great anticipation, moves into a survival mode, and for some goes into a period of feeling disillusioned. After that, things seem to improve as the first-year progresses; a spirit of rejuvenation takes hold as the teacher moves to complete the first year. Near the end of the first year, many new teachers begin to reflect on the events of the school term. They see the challenges and the steps taken to overcome them.
The first year of teaching involves professional development. Some schools use consulting teachers to monitor teacher performance, and such systems can add to the pressures on a first-year teacher. New teachers can appreciate professional growth and expand their level of teaching skills over the course of the year. The first school year typically ends with a sense of accomplishment and bright anticipation for the next school year. The first-year approach must involve recognizing, managing, and preventing issues. There will also be bright spots and days that exceed expectations. Teachers at all stages should record the successes that their work produces. These can be the basis of a portfolio that can document the teacher ’s effectiveness.
What to Expect & Help Survive a Career as a Teacher
After obtaining your early childhood education teaching diploma, certifications and landing a new position at a school, you will face new challenges. New teachers face many challenges, and they can be daunting for a young professional in the process of adjusting to life as a teacher. They will also have many remarkable successes and moments when they clearly reach and engage their students.
1. Teaching Challenge: Never Leaving the School
The eagerness to succeed drives many teachers to put in excessive hours at the school. Some new teachers feel that they must put in many hours after the school day to prepare and develop unique and creative ideas. The quantity of effort does not equate to the quality of the results. Efficiency and use of existing resources may be a better short-term and long-term strategy. Teachers must learn to conserve hours at the job and realize the benefits of efficiency over the quantity of effort.
- Potential Solution 1 – Learn to be Efficient
The most important thing in time management is the efficient use of time. Working as hard as possible every day is a path to fast burnout. The better approach for the teacher and the teaching outcome is to use time efficiently. Many teachers set short goals and achieve them by breaking tasks into manageable segments and not making tasks too big to achieve.
- Potential Solution 2 – Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Teachers can partner and brainstorm with other professionals. New teachers can look for example lesson plans, models for successful activities, and approaches for classroom management. It is not necessary to establish a unique method for doing common tasks.
2. Teaching Challenge: Effective Communication
Many teachers spend a lot of time in communications. These can be reports to parents, co-workers, and other types of messages and information. For many busy teachers, the task of keeping up with writing needs can be overwhelming, particularly during busier times like exams and grading. Teachers should ration their communications and try for short emails rather than lengthy letters, and phone calls instead of emails where possible. While technology offers some opportunities to reduce time and effort, the teacher may prefer a personal touch when engaging students and families.
- Potential Solution 1 – Make Calls Rather Than Write Letters or Emails
Composing written communications can be efficient and effective for some teachers; teachers can always consider using a phone call instead. The personal contact has benefits of adding a personal touch. Personal contact can also avoid misunderstandings that can creep into written communications.
- Potential Solution 2 – Face-to-Face Conversations
For most teachers, the best way to communicate is through a face-to-face conversation. This is not only time-saving, but it is personal and direct. Face-to-face discussions can strengthen and reinforce relationships with students, parents, and other professionals. Face-to-face conversations can minimize chances for errors in the message and also maximize opportunities for questions and answers.
3. Teaching Challenge: Classroom Over-Management
Many first-year teachers put too much emphasis on classroom order. Perhaps the cause is the freshness of their recent college classes on classroom management. Many first-year teachers put an excessive amount of time and emphasis on getting and keeping a perfectly orderly classroom. The use of time and effort to enforce a strict standard of conduct can reduce the time available for teaching and learning. The over-management of a class can interfere with the level of enthusiasm and attention that is optimal for learning.
- Potential Solution 1 – Try for Student Engagement
The overall setting of the classroom is ultimately less important than student engagement. A strictly ordered class setting is not as effective for learning as one that captures the student’s interests and holds it. When students actively participate and join in the lessons and activities, teachers can promote excellent outcomes.
- Potential Solution 2 – Make Use of a High-Attention Environment
A strictly ordered class may lack the level of activity that creates high levels of attention. Classroom activity can be a balance of activity and discussion and instruction. Rather than a strict ordering of activity, students may have higher levels of interest with a variety of activities in the classroom. The test is high commitment and high attention rather than strict classroom conduct.
4. Teaching Challenge: Making Best use of Assessments
Assessments can measure retention and help the teacher and student work towards the class’s educational goals. Assessment can also steal the student and teacher attention and focus away from learning. Test performance may reflect some level of learning, but it does not represent the student’s overall progress. Assessments can be summative or formative, and the learning outcomes can vary significantly depending on the emphasis on summative type testing or assessment.
- Potential Solution 1 – Reduce the Number of Summative Assessments
Summative assessment can spill over to the period before and after the assessment, when students must focus on preparing for it and then considering the results. While some level of summative assessment may be required, the teacher can often learn as much through an in-process assessment like formative assessment.
- Potential Solution 2 – Increase the Use of Formative Assessments
The best use of assessment is to inform the teacher’s approach to content and pace of instruction. Formative assessments focus on retention and learning rather than the mechanics of test-taking. They can reveal particular and general needs to reinforce the lessons.
5. Teaching Challenge: Assigning too Much Homework
Many first-year teachers work hard to develop challenging homework assignments. They often confuse homework achievement with learning. Many students learn but do not perform well when given an extensive amount of time-consuming home assignments. First-year teachers can conflate homework achievement with learning progress.
- Potential Solution 1 – Make Purposeful Use of Homework
Homework should not be part of the challenge of a course but something to supplement the lesson plan. Homework can be thought exercises and low time-demand activities. This approach might use fewer assignments and less stressful work than the high demand structure.
- Potential Solution 2 – Short and Specific Homework Assignments
Homework can be a way of bolstering the lesson plan and strengthening areas of possible weakness. Formative assessment may be a good tool for developing homework assignments by producing short and specific assignments meant to yields particular results.
6. Teaching Challenge: Missing Extra-Curricular Activities
Teaching and learning exist in the classroom, but also exist outside of the class setting. An important part of the student’s growth and maturation comes from extra-curricular activities like sports, social events, academic competitions, and similar events.
- Potential Solution 1 – Get Involved in Extracurricular Activities
Teachers can get to know students and students can get to see another side of the teacher through extracurricular activities. Things like advising the school newspaper or coaching an intramural sports team help the teacher and student gain an appreciation of the other as well-rounded people.
- Potential Solution 2 – Engage the Community
A class is part of the school organization, and the school organization is in turn part of a larger community. Teachers can learn about the area, its cultures, and the overall situation by engaging with the community. This can take the form of volunteering at a civic organization or event. Understanding the community can be a valuable teaching resource.
Ways to Survive Your First Year
The first year of teaching is an exciting time; teachers must adapt to many new challenges and situations. Teaching represents a career goal, and first-year teachers are often eager to succeed. Amidst the excitement and enthusiasm, first-year teachers can benefit from some basic things. Asking for help when needed is paramount. First-year teachers should request and receive professional development support from the school or other organization.
Many first-year teachers quickly locate role models within the organization or school. Observing other effective teachers is a great way to learn and grow. Young teachers can pick certain attributes and patterns that seem particularly useful. They can get tips on the pace of presentation, and the ways that teachers find to reach students and engage them.
A Strong Support Network
The first year of teaching can be stressful and a test of the new teacher’s determination. A support system can be the key to success; advice and emotional support will help the new teacher survive and thrive in a teaching environment filled with challenges. One step covered above is to make time for yourself. The first-year teacher can put so much time and effort into planning, preparation, and teaching that they can neglect their need for rest and relaxation. Taking care of one’s self is an important part of a support system. The first-year teacher must incorporate family friends, colleagues, and mentors into the routines of teaching.
As in other parts of life, the teaching professional can benefit from a network of people that can provide advice and emotional support. The first-year teacher’s support network can consist of other teachers, mentors, school administrators, family, and friends.
The community must be part of building a support system. Schools and their teachers do not exist in a vacuum. The school is part of a larger community including families, business, government agencies, and community-based organizations. Many first-year teachers benefit by creating contacts with student families. Visiting student families and holding meetings with them can add insight into the mission of educating their children.
Many people rely upon their talents, skill, and knowledge to the exclusion of better and more efficient methods. For example, a first-year teacher might spend many hours developing a concept and a lesson plans for a particular subject area. The result may be very good and the lesson plan quite workable. However, if that teacher could have accomplished something similar or better by talking to the experienced teacher in the next classroom, then the individual effort was misplaced. First-year teachers will often find success by reaching out to others and accepting advice and the benefits of experience.
Planning is an essential part of teaching, and in the first-year, planning is a challenge. The process begins by determining the educational goals for the class. Once the goals are clear, the teacher can dive into planning lessons in a sequence that moves from the existing state of knowledge to achieve the educational objectives. The planning job is not something that ends with a final file folder. The teacher must consistently review the teaching plan against the actual progress and results of assessments. Organizational aides can be of great assistance particularly in early childhood and early elementary grades.
While excellent lesson planning is an important trait, teachers must be flexible. The things that they plan to teach can differ substantially from the actual lessons. The teacher may have to make decisions on the use of available resources. Many teachers find that the needs of the students force them to make priorities and focus resources on a particular subject or study area. For example, a school program that emphasizes a lot of reading for a first-grade class may cause the teacher to revise plans and focus on having a large number of texts be read.
Technology is Your Friend
Technology can ease some of the work requirements for teachers. Teachers can use technology for lesson planning, research, and reducing the time needed for communications with students, parents, and other parts of the school or organization. Technology can save time. Teachers can email to families of the entire class, then follow-up with specific communications tailored to each child’s situation. The teacher can use conference calling and video calling to accomplish meetings at times convenient for teacher and family.
Many teachers try using technology in the classroom and incorporating technological tools into teaching and assessment. When using technology, it is important to inform students of the purpose. Technology in the classroom is more than applications and devices. Technology serves a purpose in the learning environment, and that information is essential to the student’s understanding. Understanding why we use technology is essential to learning how to use it.
Many observers note that young people and students have access to a wide range of remarkable technology and the Internet but that they do not make use of it for things that can have an impact; they don’t use it for things that matter. To the extent that that’s true, part of the equation relates to technology in the classroom. Too often teachers assign the use of technology without a meaningful purpose. For example, they might assign the class to collaborate on a video presentation or a short video about themselves. By using non-specific or non-goal-oriented objectives, the student may learn to use the technology but will not tend to learn to use it with a purpose. The same assignment, if focused on poverty in the community, could launch or inspire efforts to improve the community. The students can learn to apply the technology in a way that has some meaning for them.
Written communications skills are a vital building block for educational and longer-term success. Students can learn to write and read critically at the same time using tools like Google Docs and the latest version of Microsoft Word. Writers can write and edit online and then compare their work with comments, proposals, and ideas from a class or other group of students. Students can write and compose, review comments, and rate suggestions. Students can review the information and decide whether to accept or incorporate the advice. Using writing and editing technology, students can learn lifelong lessons in performing research and composition. They will show remarkable improvement by learning to edit and revise their work and the work of others. These skills can enhance every part of a student’s performance and provide a foundation for further education and careers.
Useful Classroom Technologies to Utilize
- Real-Time Collaboration with apps like Microsoft One note and Google docs offers students opportunities to write, edit, and collaborate with working groups
- Online blogging using Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Draft
- iMovie is a technology that permits online publication of short film presentations – The technology offers an expansive platform for expression, information, and creative projects
- Digital Portfolios provide a student record of achievement and a useful tool for college applications, grad school admissions, and employment or job pitches. Creating digital portfolios is a skill that can serve many purposes both academic, business, and social over the foreseeable future.
- interactive parent/student/teacher communications can keep open the lines of communication and involve the parents in their child’s learning on a day-to-day basis
Caring for Yourself
Teaching is an active and demanding profession. Teaching profession tends to attract people that want to work hard and achieve goals. These professionals typically demonstrate dedication to the well-being and progress of their students. The effort needed to manage class content, promote student achievement, and maintain an optimal learning environment is rewarding, but it can also be stressful and draining. When feeling fatigue or illness, teachers must be certain to take time for themselves.
Rest and recovery can take the form of a sick day or a day at the spa. The demands of teaching require rest and relaxation, and it is important to take time to recover from illness and avoid burn-out. Many first-year teachers help relieve the stress and break the routines of teaching by doing unrelated activities. Yoga, jogging, biking, and Latin dance may all be great ways to break away from the work routines and add fun and interest.
Successful teaching depends on learning and continuing education by learning about different teaching methods. The classroom lessons during college and training can take on new meaning when considered in the light of the first years of teaching responsibility. Classroom management may be a subject of particular interest to new teachers. The teaching license requires continuing education; the education units can focus on classroom management and the latest technology to assist classroom management.
The lessons of the first year of teaching can point out areas in which a teacher may be less confident than others. Continuing education is a requirement, but it is also an opportunity to develop professional skills and increase confidence.
Many teachers find new ideas and inspiration while networking and participating in workshop groups at education conferences. Teachers should take advantage of opportunities to observe best practices and novel approaches. Discussions and exchanges with professionals at similar or more advanced career stages can provide a content-rich experience.
Master teachers and successful teachers are an important resource and an ideal source of learning. These accomplished professionals work in the classroom and have long records of successfully adapting their skills and abilities to the needs of students. First-year teachers will find continuing education and learning opportunities in formal and informal educational settings. Learning from successful and master teachers is an excellent way to gain skills, knowledge, and insights into effective teaching.
You’ll Have Bad Days
Teaching is an involving profession, and teacher occupations tend to attract people that are passionate about helping students develop through successful learning experiences. In the early stages, teachers can rely upon advice, tips, and techniques gained from classroom work and other teaching professionals. The first year can be difficult and occasionally deflating as teachers encounter difficulties and must adapt and develop strategies to overcome them. While some teachers do not successfully complete the first year, those that enter their second-year report higher levels of job satisfaction than during the initial year.
In the second year, the experience of the past provides a sense of assurance. While every teacher had good and bad days, their passion for teaching and the rewards of student achievement matter far more. The bad days are not failures; they can create action that can improve skills and add knowledge. Teachers grow in capacity, gain teaching tools, and increase confidence. So, while the second year will still have bad days, new teachers need to understand that this is part of the profession and that the enduring value is in the rewards of teaching.