A Teacher's Survival Guide: Making It Through the First Year

TeachersYour first year in your own classroom will be the most difficult year of your career. Not only do you need to get a feel for administration and your fellow teachers, but you'll begin to develop your own teaching style. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, newly graduated teachers are simply not prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead. With that in mind, here are tips from teachers who have been in your shoes that will help you survive your first year in the classroom:

1. Have a Discipline Plan

You shouldn't assume that every student will make poor choices, but you should assume that some will. Kids who spend their days bouncing off of the walls are distracting to you and the other students in your classroom. Before you walk into your room for the first time, you should have a plan of rewards and consequences drawn up. Make copies, send one home with each child, and ask that parents review the plan with their children. Instruct students to have their parents sign the plan and return it to you the following day.

2. Stay Busy

Bored students are misbehaved students. You don't have the luxury of taking your time figuring out what to do next. Have at least two week's worth of activities planned for your first week. Not only will this keep the kids busy, but you'll have something else to pull out of your hat if the first activity is a dud. Also have a plan in place for what children should do when they finish tasks early. A good idea is to have the children select three library books for the week, put them in their desks and pull one out to read when they have finished their task.

3. Find a Mentor

If your school doesn't automatically provide you with a mentor, ask for one. An experienced teacher will be an invaluable resource to you during your first year. Whether you need to bounce a lesson plan off of someone else or need to vent your frustrations out loud, a mentor can help you make it through your first year unscathed.

4. Show and Tell

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If you have specific requirements for the way you want your students to behave or to complete their assignments, tell them and show them. Never assume that the young minds in your classroom know what you expect. Help your students to get and stay organized. Utilize binders or folders to send home work and communicate with parents.

5. Keep a Journal

You had at least one class in college that required you to complete reflections. Use this idea and keep a work journal. At the end of every day, reflect, in writing, about what went right, what went wrong and what you would like to improve upon. Your journal will serve as a sort of diary and growth chart in one. At the end of the school year, read what you've written and make the necessary changes for the following year.

Although your first year of teaching will be a hectic one, try to enjoy the ride. The more that you can relax and have fun, the better your year will be. You're bound to make mistakes; ride them out and learn from them. After all, that's what you would expect of your students, isn't it?

Writer Brett Harris is an avid blogger for education sites where you can read more about ways to earn an online masters in education.

Photo credits: Flickr@iwannt, Flickr@ISKME

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