Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Dear New Grad Teacher,
I remember my first day as a new teacher as if it were YESTERDAY! I remember thinking, “Who on earth would leave me in charge of all these kids?” But before I knew it, my new job became second nature. 12 years down the track I still LOVE my job but have learnt that teaching can be a tough game. In this letter, I have recorded my top ten tips for surviving your first year (or any year) of teaching. I still need to remind myself of these constantly so hopefully you find them useful too.
1. Look at your program as if it were a ‘wish list’.
We all over plan and schools are busy places, so you probably won’t get through everything you want to. That is OK! Just do what you can. I live by the rule: do reading groups, a math lesson and something to make you and the students smile every day and everything else will fall into place around interruptions and special days.
2. Flexibility is the KEY to teaching and staying sane.
It is one of the things I found the hardest when I first started out. It links in with Tip Number1 because your teaching time will be constantly interrupted. Try to not let it worry you, there is always tomorrow to finish that awesome lesson you planned for hours or to get through that assessment task.
3. Be strategic in what you laminate (it takes TIME).
In saying that, laminate ALL your displays. At the end of each unit or when you take them down, store them carefully. P.S. Here is a tip if you didn’t already know it, you can laminate 2 sheets at the same time! Cut your laminating down by half right there!
4. Parents – their job is to be the number one advocate for their child.
There is nothing in the world they love more than that little person in your classroom. A parent’s love can be fierce and sometimes they take it out on you... don’t take it to heart. See it as a reminder of how important each little person is in your classroom.
5. Get organised from the beginning.
Get out that teacher planner and write EVERYTHING down. I couldn’t believe when I first started how many things I was expected to remember throughout the day. I always write important events in red at the top of each day and deadlines in green the week BEFORE they are due in my diary.
6. Keep on top of your attendance roll every day.
This one may seem obvious but it is a legal document and not entering in absences can build up into a massive job. I always start the day in years 2-6 with the kids silent reading at their desks, this gives me time to do the roll and sort out notes, money, complaints, worries etc. Initial your notes as you enter them and I always record the kids that are absent in my diary. That way you can follow up notes more easily and refer to them whenever you need to.
7. You can’t do EVERYTHING!
Other (perhaps more experienced) teachers may be running reading groups amazingly, have maths groups set up to international standards, be integrating technology in the classroom better than anyone else in the universe, but they had to start somewhere too (and believe me it wasn’t at the point where you are seeing them now). Choose an area to focus on and build from there. Rome wasn’t built in a day and developing into an effective teacher who has everything under control isn’t easily done either. A truly inspirational and talented teacher understands that we are all continuously growing and always have something to learn from others to get better.
8. Make time to go to the staffroom to have lunch when you can.
Sit in different spots and listen. That teacher who has been there for 50 years and seems negative and stale ALWAYS has some pearls of wisdom to offer. On the topic of staff, make the “office ladies” your best friends because they are SO important when it comes to running a school and they can help make your life soooooo much easier. Treat them like royalty – it will be worth it, I promise!
9. Make one day a week about YOU!
It is so easy in your first year of teaching to get carried away with planning, displays, professional development, keeping up with Instagram ideas etc and before you know it, you are at school until 6 pm every night and Sunday is just another workday for you. Put aside a day (I would suggest one day on the weekend and at least one afternoon after school) that is dedicated to you. Do no planning, organising or marking on this day outside school hours, instead, do something you enjoy. Teachers have the highest burnout rate and you need to look after yourself. Speaking of looking after you, if you need a sick day, please TAKE IT! Everyone will survive without you there and you are not doing the kids any favours by coming to school unwell.
10. Most importantly have FUN and live in the moment!
You will remember this group of kids with such fondness for the rest of your life. You will teach them every day but they are going to teach YOU so much more than you could have ever learnt at university!
Teaching is like no other job: it is tough, it is rewarding and it can be so much fun!!!! Remember if you are dedicated and doing your best then the kids are lucky to have you. We hope you have a truly magical year.
Best of luck,
Ashleigh & Alisha
(Team Rainbow Sky Creations)
Are you a new grad teacher looking for help to survive your first year of teaching? Check out our First Year Teacher Survival Kit. It is full of useful checklists, printables for planning and lessons, reflection proformas, information about communicating with parents, report writing and more!
Also, we have a free Facebook group dedicated to helping new teachers. We are a supportive community that shares teacher tips, hacks, resources and more. Join us HERE!
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