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Reflections on Being a First-Year Teacher

Hello fellow cool kids! 👴🛹

At 24, I wasn't allowed to rent a car and my brain's frontal lobe wasn't fully mature. Yet, I was handed the keys to my first classroom. This was a time I remember as both the most exhilarating and the most exhausting of my career.

The first year is infamously tough, and I'll tell you why. It’s like being handed the keys to a car when you’ve barely mastered the art of driving. There's a classroom full of expectant faces and a curriculum to deliver, but no one quite prepares you for the balancing act that awaits.

The Struggle:

In those initial months, the school becomes your second home, not by choice but by necessity. Evenings blur into night as the classroom empties and the halls echo with the sounds of your footsteps and the custodian's mop. The reason is simple: there's an overwhelming desire to do it all—to perfect every lesson plan, to reach every student, and to set the tone for your teaching career.

This drive often comes at a cost. For me, it was long hours and a constant sense of chasing an unreachable standard. The time spent decorating the classroom and creating the perfect bulletin boards was driven by an earnest, albeit naive, belief that aesthetics were as crucial as academics.

Photos circa 2017, when I did not have an iPhone yet. 🤢

The Learning Curve:

But here’s what experience teaches you: prioritize. You begin to discern the significant from the superficial. Assigning homework? Not always impactful (at least for me). Providing targeted in-class assignments? Much more so. Those endless hours spent crafting at school become a carefully guarded personal time, and slowly, you build a repository of resources that you can rely on year after year.

The Revelation:

First-year teaching is tough because it's full of first times—the first lesson, the first parent-teacher conference, the first realization that not every battle is worth fighting. Yet, it’s in these firsts that you find your footing, learn the rhythms of the classroom, and understand that not every paper needs a red pen mark, and not every moment requires your presence.

Thinking about my first year from where I stand now, I see burnout differently. It's not a given, not something that every teacher must endure. Rather, it's a sign—like a bright, flashing light—reminding us that finding a healthy work-life balance is key. It's a tough lesson in the importance of self-care and setting boundaries early on.

For the new teachers tuning in: those long hours and the feeling of being overwhelmed, they don't have to be your norm. Each day is a fresh opportunity to not just teach, but to learn—about your students, the subject, and how to manage your time and energy. You'll discover ways to be efficient and effective, and that's how you refine the art of teaching. With time, you'll find a rhythm that works for you, and teaching will feel less like a marathon and more like a rewarding journey.

In sharing these reflections, I hope to shed light on the often untold struggles of first-year teaching, but also to illuminate the path of growth and the understanding that comes with time. Here's to all the educators navigating their first year, may you find your rhythm and remember that every seasoned teacher once stood where you do—eager, determined, and ready to learn. 

Take care, polar bears. 🐻‍❄️


Reflections on Being a First-Year Teacher Reflections on Being a First-Year Teacher Reviewed by Daniela on March 07, 2024 Rating: 5

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