You can usually spot a new teacher a mile away. There is just something about the way they talk about the upcoming year, how they hold themselves, and even the very air that surrounds them. So much joy, so much enthusiasm, mixed with a certain air of fear. Right now seems to be the time where people start talking about all the mistakes new teachers make their first year and pass on advice to them whether they need it or not. Yet, every year I learn so much from the new teachers I meet. Every year they teach lessons to me.
- Be enthusiastic. The joy that comes with teaching your very first year is one we should chase after every year. We should love teaching, not take it for granted, not get caught up in the misery of all of the outside things that make teaching difficult. Let’s all be excited that we have a job and that we will get to do what we love so much for another year.
- Ask questions. New teachers know that they don’t have all of the answers so they ask a lot of questions. As a veteran teacher, I sometimes think that I should know all of the answer so I feel stupid asking many questions. Yet teaching is about learning and we stop learning when we stop asking questions. Ask away and don’t be embarresed if you don’t know something, embrace that you are learning.
- Know their students names. My first year of teaching I spent hours memorizing names with faces so that on the first day of school I knew all of my students by name. This small gesture of respect went a long way in building classroom community. As a middle school teacher, I have a lot more names to memorize – I think I am up to 136 students this year – and yet I have started looking at their pictures already. I want to know all of their names by the end of the first week, no later.
- Say”Why not?” a lot. First year teachers tend to question many things we see as established norms, and sometimes I think veteran teachers, myself included, can get a little bit offended when something we hold near and dear is questioned. Yet it is in this questioning that we start to discuss new ideas, we find inspiration, and we change the way we teach. we should all be asking “Why not?” a lot more than we are.
- Stay true to our noble intentions. I became a teacher to help students become better people, yet within my first few years, I lost sight of that. New teachers joining our profession may seem idealistic or delusional to some, yet within their dreams is something we should all be chasing; the belief that what we do matters. The belief that we can make a difference. That we can create schools that students actually want to be a part of.
- Make connections. As a new teacher you don’t know that many people so all year you are trying to find your tribe. yet, often, we settle into our patterns of who we speak to and shut ourselves off from the rest of our community when instead we should be continuing to make connections as often as possible. why can’t you know all of the people in your school? Why not reach out across your district? While it is nice to have people that know you well, make sure you make connections with new people as well. You never know who will become a part of your tribe.
If you are a new teacher reading this, welcome, this is truly the best job in the world. May you love it this much or more each year you teach. And if you are a veteran like me; I hope your year is filled with wonder, with laughs, and with joy. We are lucky to be teachers, even if the world sometimes seems to be against us.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.