The Reason Behind “12 Ways to Survive Your First Year of Teaching”

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Walking around my house at the very end of the summer I could not find rest for my hands or my thoughts as it hit me that teachers would be returning to work very soon.  I was not ready and I could not wrap my head around why I was reluctant to return then immediately it was revealed to my psyche that the start of a new school year is always rough.  New rules, new administrators, new colleagues, new initiatives, and new students. In 180 days we all are supposed to work miracles and pat ourselves on the back at the end of the school year and say, “Job well done”.

See when I entered the field of education I had a five year plan which was quickly exceeded due to my determination and commitment to teaching.  I entered into the classroom not having the slightest clue about what to expect from my students but I learned very quickly.

I was certified through the Georgia Teacher Alternative Preparation Program (GATAPP) and I was taken aback by the amount of work that I had to do in order to gain my certification.  Let’s just be clear, there is a major difference in being traditionally trained through brick and mortar colleges of education and alternative programs.

I have developed a sense of humor about teaching and I just want to be real and say it louder for the people in the back that, “There is nothing easy about the first year of teaching”.  I have been through enough first days of school to know that as an educator we walk in hoping for the best then find ourselves overwhelmed and maintaining the status around mid-year. So yes, I learned to march to beat of my own drum and do what works for me.  

My first year of teaching almost broke me in half emotionally and mentally.  Emotionally because I was no longer behind the security of a military base and cypher locked door.  I was now a civilian facing a world I had no idea how to maneuver in comfortably. Mentally I was not prepared to teach while learning how to be a teacher through my teacher alternative preparation program, so at the first thought of hostility, I was ready to say goodbye to the profession.  It was a tough first year for me which is what prompted me to write this book. The simple fact is, that rookie teachers need support and not be ridiculed. They need true mentorship and guidance, not to be picked on for what they do not understand.  

My first three months into teaching looked vastly different from my third year of teaching.  And even now here in my eleventh year of teaching I’m still learning things but coping with the copious changes and trends in education by the day.

As a new teacher it is very easy to become overwhelmed with lesson plans, professional development, additional duties such as being a club sponsor or coaching, but I had to take care of my mental stability at the same time.  No one told me that in the beginning there are long hours and none of those hours are paid overtime. No one told me that I would be in a meeting almost daily. And lastly no one told me that I had to learn how to separate my home life from my work life and focus on them one at a time.

Needless to say in my second year of teaching I grappled with separation and divorce and my two young sons were on an insane schedule that shifted them to daycare by 6:30 a.m. while I had to be to school by 7:15 a.m. daily.  I cried so much this particular year of teaching but I had to find balance.

I had a job to do and I had to do it despite my emotions being all over the place.  My family was a priority and so was my career. I found my balance in letting go of the things out of my control and let all of the work I was doing speak for itself.  My school obstacles became the backdrop to my career which led me to want to help new teachers.

People think teaching is about holidays and summers off.  But a lot of times we become second parents to the children we teach and have to fight off jealousy from other teachers in order to be effective.  My students always showed up for me because I never not showed up for them.

I walk in and stand by my truth that though my method is questionable for those outside of my classroom, and the least liked; people will have to respect what I do. I am guilty of telling new teachers not to follow my example when I’m marching because my teaching style is different but yield results. I laugh a lot at myself because the things that I took so seriously my first year are miniscule in terms as I reflect on my years of teaching.  Perhaps I should take everything seriously but that would make teaching boring and being in my district is far from boring.

By year ten of being a traditional classroom teacher, I had seen enough to know that as long as I followed the rules and did not color too much out of the lines, I was safe.  I spent nine years between two middle schools, five different principals, and a lot of misunderstandings before deciding to move up to high school. Moving up to high school was the best decision I could have made, I felt more at ease in my classroom and besides I knew the student population well.  I did not leave my zone. I pretty much looped with them.

Now after a decade of teaching, I feel that it is time to reinvent my identity.  Yes I have multiple degrees, all the way up to my doctorate, but I will not hide behind my degrees and be defined by the titles.  I would rather display my hard work by doing what I love doing. I love to write so I’m channeling my energy into being an educator, author, and entrepreneur.  Just call me an “edupreneur” or a “bookpreneur” because I’m not a one dimensional person.  

It is good to find your voice when you know who you are as a teacher.  I know that my first book, My Fourth Year in Middle School: The Truth About Teaching made a splash, but I’m sure that the 12 Ways to Survive Your First Year of Teaching will enlighten my readers in a completely different way.  I’m not out of colorful stories to tell. My approach this time is to offer tips to make that first year a little more manageable. 

Realistically, a bad first year contributes to teacher turnover rates.  As veteran teachers, we are responsible for helping our new colleagues adjust just like we are responsible for teaching our students.  

I feel strongly about mentoring new teachers because even though I was blessed with an awesome mentor teacher, everyone is not fortunate enough to have what I had.  Sure, things have changed as far as brick and mortar training, and even alternative preparation programs but teachers come into the profession to become stable. Surviving the first year lies heavily on the professional development new teachers receive and the support they have as they are learning their true duties and responsibilities.

I want to help new teachers acclimate to teaching and not be overwhelmed by the daily tasks and responsibilities and it is my hope that the lessons I’ve learned along the way will be helpful. Teaching is a great career to have and I want to tell you how to survive.

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