Yesterday, I had a conversation with a first year teacher who has made amazing growth so far this year. Now, it’s true that she has a lot more growing to do but she knows it and I hope that our conversation helped her understand that it is okay. During our conversation, I was completely honest with her about where she is and where she needs to be. We discussed the areas that she needs to work on and growth she needs to make. I did not hold back when explaining my expectations. We looked at her two evaluations from this year and compared them side-by-side. Together we celebrated the growth she made and had a very clear conversation about the next steps she needs to take in her journey. She said something to me with tears in her eyes that I’ve heard from new teachers many times, “You make it sound so easy! I want to know what to do, like you do.” I hope my reply gave her comfort when I said that I don’t have all the answers and neither do our coaches and other veteran teachers. I went on to let her in on an important secret--we’ve just tried lots of things that didn’t work and found a few things that do.
Luckily for this teacher and for all of the first year teachers out there, it’s just about time for them to be entering the “rejuvenation” stage.
- One day you’ll look back on your first year and say, “I can’t believe I did that”. But, at the same time, you’ll be happy you did because you will have learned so much.
- You never have all of the answers and if you think you do then it’s time to find a new career.
- Keep asking questions. Don’t plan alone. Share your thinking with people you respect. Each time you talk to someone about a lesson you’ll pick up some tricks of the trade to try out in your classroom.
- Don’t plan for tomorrow until you see what your students do today. (When I learned this it changed the game for me.) Should you have an idea of where you’re headed? YES! But, don’t waste time planning every detail weeks ahead of time, let your students be your guide.
- You are not alone. Every teacher has been a first year teacher. We feel your pain.
- Ask your principal if you can observe some of the amazing teachers in your building. Listen carefully to their language, watch how they interact with students, then try it in your classroom. Just remember that you have lots of new ideas to bring to the table, too!
- If something isn’t working in your classroom, it’s never to late to change it. If you don’t know how to change it, ASK!
- Give yourself a break. No one expects you to be perfect.
- Take time to reflect on how far you’ve come. (Actually, you can wait until you enter the “reflection” stage for this. It’s next!)
- And, most importantly, remember that you’ve impacted the lives of kids. They won’t ever forget you.
To all of my first year teacher friends, welcome to the rejuvenation stage.
You've earned it.