Photo by wetsun (flickr.com)
This fall, new teachers will be entering the classroom for the very first time. They will experience their first open house, their first first day of school, and their first moments of panic when they realize the responsibility that has been given to them. Overcoming those first year teaching jitters can be tough. However, those who have taught for more than a year know that a lot of stress can be alleviated by planning ahead and being flexible. If you are a first year teacher, check out the tips below to help ease your anxiety. If you have been teaching for longer than a year, leave your words of wisdom and encouragement below.
It’s All About Systems
According to Amy, a 13-year teaching veteran and current 3rd Grade Teacher in Roanoke, Virginia, the key to success during your first year is being prepared with systems for your classroom. Below are the systems she recommends setting up right away.
- Lining Up: Teach your students to line up in ABC order. It takes practice, but after the first week, students will know exactly where their line spot is. This method eliminates running and shoving to get to the front of the line. Once the line is assembled, you can always rearrange it to allow different students to enjoy the coveted leader role.
- Pencils: Have each child sharpen three pencils either at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day. This idea eliminates distracting trips to the sharpener, which are quite common among 2nd and 3rd graders who may sharpen pencils as an excuse to move about. Remember, while kids will now have sharp pencils, they still need to move, so be sure to provide plenty of fun and creative movement breaks throughout the day.
- Bathroom Trips: In my class, students are allowed to use the bathroom first thing in the morning, mid-morning, after lunch, and mid-afternoon. Most students seem to catch onto this schedule quite easily. Of course, I still allow children who need to use the bathroom to do so anytime they need to. And if many children are asking to use the bathroom, I remember to include some more movement activities.
- Sending Papers Home: In my classroom, I have a class set of hanging folders, with each folder labeled with a student’s name. As papers are graded I place them in each designated folder. I designate one day for students to take all of their papers and grades home. That way, parents always know when to look for them.
- Classroom Jobs: I have a job chart on one of my classroom walls. Each week, the students rotate their assigned jobs. Some of the jobs include taking attendance, passing out test dividers, filing papers to go home, neatening the classroom library, and making sure the floor is clean at the end of the day. The job chart is a fun way for the kids to feel as though they’re a part of the classroom community.
Photo by Joi
Taking Care of Yourself
You can have the best lesson plans in the school and the greatest ideas for teaching your students, but if you do not take care of yourself outside of the classroom, you will be no use to anyone inside the classroom.
- Sleep. A tired, over-stressed, cranky teacher often has a tired, cranky, over-stressed classroom of children; that is definitely something you want to avoid. Get plenty of sleep, 8-10 hours each night is ideal. If that means recording your favorite shows on television so that you can wake up refreshed at 5:30am, then tape your shows.
- Exercise. Being physically active is also very important. You will definitely burn calories as you walk and move around your classroom, but having another outlet for stress-relief is crucial. Plan a daily walk, even if it just around the neighborhood after dinner or on the treadmill while your favorite sitcom is on. You will feel better mentally and physically for having done some sort of physical activity.
- Healthy Eating. It may be tempting to skip packing a lunch, but chances are that you will eat healthier if you pack your lunch than if you stop by the vending machine on the way to the teachers’ lounge. Soda and cookies do not constitute a healthy lunch, nor does it give your body the energy and nutrients that it needs to cope with the daily stress of teaching.
Overcoming your nervousness during the first year has a lot to do with actually getting into the routine of teaching, but it also has a lot to do with your physical and mental well-being. Do not sacrifice your own health by worrying so much about the educational needs of your students that you forget that you are more than just a teacher. Never before has teaching been so complex and so inundated with testing and regulations, but never before have you had access to the wealth of resources and the support network that has blossomed on The Teachers’ Lounge. If you feel overwhelmed, come leave a message. If you need support, let us know. Many of us were new teachers at one time or another and all of us want to help. Congratulations on your new teaching position! You’re going to do great!