What Should You Expect? Advice for New Teachers

What will teaching be like? What will it require of you? Doug and Erikson describe the surprises new teachers sometimes encounter, and their suggestions for navigating the first years successfully.

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Doug: As you get started as a first-year teacher, it does feel overwhelming.

Erikson: I’ve had training from the end of high school to when I started teaching, and that helped a lot, but there was still a lot that I was not prepared for when I began teaching.

Prepare to Deal with People Problems.

Doug: My first year teaching, the thing that struck me very early on, that took me by surprise, was how much emotionally vested I became in my students’ success or failure. One of the heads-ups that I would give a first year teacher is teaching ends up being a lot more about addressing and dealing with people, little people, students and their issues or problems.

It can end up really being draining to a first year teacher if they kind of get blindsided by that, and were anticipating putting most of their energies into the classic “stand in front of the class,” or “do the projects and really engage with their students,” and weren’t expecting a lot of the learning struggles with this student or the struggles that pop up with this young person. If you’re not prepared for that or didn’t have kind of a heads-up about it, you can feel kind of blindsided. Sometimes you need to take a step back from that a little bit, and not let it drain you so much.

Don’t take some of the things too personally because some things are just out of your control. They really are.

Prepare to Ask for Input.

Doug: If at all possible, if there are any questions at all be able to go to your administrator or be able to go to someone. Have a mentor or someone that you can, that you know their door’s open and you can knock on the door at the end of the day and step on in and say, “Hey, I’ve got this issue. How would you deal with it?” That’s important.

My first year teaching, I was down in the office half a dozen times a day or something like that it felt like. I had a lot of questions. “How do we handle this?” “How do we address this?” Don’t be afraid to ask those questions.

Erikson: Finding experienced teachers to, in a sense, mentor me, even though it wasn’t an official mentoring relationship, I experienced teachers that I got to know that I lived life with, and just kind of picked up on the habits and the disciplines and the skills that a teacher needs. Then it did take me a year or two to really figure out how I apply those types of things to my own teaching experience.

Doug: That’s one thing about teaching: no student’s the same and almost no situation is the same, and it does take a lot of wisdom and grace of God to address each situation.

Prepare to Stand on Your Strengths.

Doug: Handle the things that you are good at, handle your strengths well. Don’t negate… those things that you struggle with, pay attention to them. As a first year teacher, you’re still getting a lot of your footing under you. Don’t be afraid to stand on your strengths. If you’re a good organizer, be well organized with things. If you’re a passionate and energetic person, go ahead and be that person. You’re not going to have everything nailed down in your first year, but go ahead and use those strengths that you have. Every year you grow, and every year some things get a little bit easier.

Prepare to Live by Grace.

Erikson: I would say that the most helpful thing that helped me prepare for teaching was something I did at a time in my life when I didn’t even know for sure if I was going to be teaching, and that was putting my energy and effort and being motivated towards school when I was in high school. And I would not have realized it at the time, but now that I look back when I realized that that was actually when a lot of my thoughts and ideas and loves were being developed towards teaching as a profession.

Doug: Another thing I would tell to a first year teacher is there are a lot of intangible rewards and blessings, and things that just bring a smile to your face, that there’s no way you can put a price tag on, or put an expectation on. There are a lot of things that come your way by experience or by encouragement from parents and blessings from parents that you never saw coming, and that are very encouraging and enjoyable. The blessings that God gives as you serve him, I say on the front lines of Christian ministry really, as you serve Him there, the strength and grace that God gives is very real and very rewarding.

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