3 Lessons to Take Away from Your First Year of Teaching

You did it—you’ve experienced all the joys and tribulations that come with your first year of teaching. There is no doubt that you’ve learned a plethora of lessons this past school year, such as how to schedule your time and how to successfully work with others in your school. Now, take time to acknowledge these lessons and to find ways to learn from them as you go into your next year of teaching. Here are three lessons to take away from your first year of teaching:

Teaching lesson #1: how to manage your time

As you well know, there is a seemingly infinite amount of time that you spend on schoolwork. The list of tasks includes, but is not limited to:

  • Lesson planning

  • Grading papers and tests

  • Sending emails to parents

  • Professional development opportunities

  • Finding new technology to incorporate into your classroom.

During your first year, it can seem like everything needs to be done in that moment and that everything takes a long time. This summer, take stock of what’s most important to get done—in other words, what needs immediate attention—and plan your weeks accordingly.

You can also try scheduling time to complete specific tasks. Lastly, decide on an approximate end-time in your day or week where you stop schoolwork and relax or focus on other tasks. This doesn’t need to be a strict time, but it’s important to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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Teaching lesson #2: understanding your school’s culture

By now you’ve figured out that your school is one in a million; your administration, staff, students, and even the location of your school add up to something distinctive and unique—which, of course, has both positives and negatives. Getting to know the cultural norms of your school and your administration is helpful for figuring out how to merge your vision of your classroom with your principal’s. Where do your values overlap? What can you offer your classroom and your school that is unique to your abilities? Additionally, learn about what your administration offers in terms of funding and professional development opportunities. These may not be advertised outright. Ask your principal directly, or connect with a veteran teacher in your school. Your administration will be happy to know you are taking initiative to improve both your teaching and your school.

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Teaching lesson #3: how to invest in your community

Schools are huge parts of the community-at-large, as you likely know. With that said, let your community be a part of your classroom. First, think in terms of your school itself. What are some ways you can develop and deepen relationships with fellow teachers and your administration? This can be as simple as prioritizing positive interactions with them on a daily basis, or as elaborate as collaborating together on integrated units or asking a veteran teacher to be your mentor. Secondly, think about how you can involve the community in your classroom teaching and vice versa. What kind of field trips might help you and your class network with relevant organizations and important issues? Are there any community members that you’d like to bring in to your classroom (with your administration’s approval, of course) to do an interactive lesson or job talk? Activities like this will help build your students’ sense of being part of a larger community, and will help you take advantage of the skills and knowledge of others.

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The summer after your first year of teaching is a great time to destress and to reflect on what you’ve learned. Considering what went well and what didn’t will help you improve as an educator and help you serve your students’ needs more effectively. This is a great time to communicate with other first-year teachers and swap experiences, too!

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