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Overcoming First Year Jitters

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Overcoming First Year Teaching JittersHow many days do you have left before you report back to the classroom?  For some, Professional Development and pre-service days are over and students will be filtering into the classroom this week.  For veteran teachers this time can produce anxiety, but for new teachers it can be even more overwhelming.

This fall, new teachers will be entering the classroom for the very first time. They will experience their first open house, their first day of school, and possibly, 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.

 

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!

 

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55 comments
TingTing1
TingTing1

2 pieces of advice that kept me sane through my 1st year last year:

- do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

- carve out some 'me' time each day when you are not thinking about school, the kids, lesson plans, assessments, etc...

Karen Bozeman
Karen Bozeman

Don't be afraid! If you have planned your first day, walk in your classroom with confidence. I teach high school and believe me, high school students can "smell" fear. My first day "readiness": 1) Have a seating chart. Yes, assign seats even to high school students. I print up a sheet with each period on it, put students names on the paper and tape them on top of the desks. This saves time and eliminates their own fear of "who will I sit by?" (I once had a teacher make fun of me for doing this. Don't listen to these kinds of people. Do what you are comfortable doing!) 2) Keep your "personal information" to a minimum. You are NOT there to be their BFF. They don't need to know that much about you. 3) Plan an icebreaker. There are many on the internet. Pick one to use. 4) Have your guidelines ready to go over. I am breaking this down to do a few items of "business" each day to save my voice. My students have to complete a Universal Screen, so I'm giving that the first day. (Yes, they will complain but it gets it off my checklist.) 5) Be FLEXIBLE. The first week of school is CRAZY. It will settle down. Remember, you need grades even the first week--complete lessons that can put grades in the gradebook. 6) I have my students write a letter of introduction. This serves a few purposes: they are quiet, I get a handwriting sample so I can tell what I'm up against, I get to know about them. I keep this through the year and hand them back at the end of school. It also helps to have a comparison for future papers--I've actually found PARENTS doing their student's homework by comparing handwriting to these letters. 7) Ladies--plan your wardrobe the night before. Remember to consider: heals are cute but not for standing all day the first week, short skirts will impress the young men in ways you don't want, plunging necklines are awkward when you lean over a desk to assist a student. If there is a student dress code, don't wear clothing that they are not allowed to wear. It sets up conflict right away.

Donna Grodus
Donna Grodus

My students begin each hour (6-8 minutes) with SSR or silent sustained reading. In a large basket ( accessible at the front of the room), I provide our local newspaper and magazines such as National Geographic and Newsweek. Students also bring in their favorite novels or read from Kindles. I take attendance and then model by reading from my favorite novel. This activity allows for teacher management, encourages independent reading and allows students to transition smoothly into the lessons of that day!

Gretchen
Gretchen

Organization, Organization, Organization! Label everything. You would be surprised how quickly you forget what you have or where you have it. Keep a list of materials (by subject) on your computer. So, when you want to do an activity, you can just go to the master list instead of digging around.

Tricia Pace
Tricia Pace

Never be afraid to say you need help.

Janice McKnight
Janice McKnight

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Other coworkers will gladly help you find things, show you around, and give tips. Also, take a minute or two just to breathe easy. Teaching is not as easy as everyone thinks, but if you the heart for it, you'll do an awesome job!

Connie Anderson
Connie Anderson

Develop your "teacher voice" ... it's not soft but also not yelling, firm but not whiney, caring but letting the kids know you mean business and expect them to listen.

Margie Maccario
Margie Maccario

The one thing that I always remind myself is that tomorrow is another day. After 32 years in the classroom I still every now and then have a lesson that does not turn out the way I wanted. I review the lesson, remind myself that tomorrow will be different and plan a new way to teach the material. :)

Marian
Marian

One thing that has helped me through the years are "milk" crates and hanging file folders. They are commonly sold for storage ideas for college dorm rooms. I teach middle school, so I use them for organizing folders and work for the different classes (sometimes it's difficult to remember to pass back papers to 140+ students) and for organizing make up work for absent students. They can also be stacked on their sides and used for book shelves. Another tip that I just picked up--have a set pattern for students to move around the classroom. For example, have them move around by rotating to the right. It eliminates traffic jams and keeps the kids moving to where they need to. It takes practice, so using the first couple of weeks to do this helps. It also helps to review class practices after long breaks to help the students remember what to do. Finally, post an agenda where the students can see it when they enter the room. This helps them know what to expect and helps keep you on track through the day. Enjoy the year and take care of yourself through the year.

AnnEtta Young
AnnEtta Young

I was taught and follow that fairness is not equality. You need to be fair to each student, but equal to them also. Some students may require a few more modifications than others, but that is part of being equal to all.

Nikki Hartman
Nikki Hartman

Over the years, I have learned several good tips. 1. Make sure you stay in constant contact with your parents. I call five a week and tell them what a great job their student did that day. 2. I read The Kissing Hand and we make our own kissing hands. I have the parents write "I Love You" on a little red heart at back to school night. We trace our hands on the first day and glue the little red heart to the palm. I then glue them on a piece a paper and make a quilt out of them. When my students feel sad, they go and look at their hand. This reminds them that their parents/guardians love them. 3. Ask for help when you need it. I've been teaching for 11 years, and I still ask for help. It's not about me, but my students! Enjoy and Have Fun!!

Angela Albrecht
Angela Albrecht

The best advice I can give, is be as organized as you can and don't be afraid to ask for advice. Most teachers are willing to give advice, share resources, and collaborate. Be open and willing to share your ideas, as well. Good luck in your first year!

Heather Michaels
Heather Michaels

I have learned to be flexible and roll with the punches! Every class is different and unique in its own way. You need to be comfortable with changing....and changing again...and again. Above all else, have faith in yourself! You can do this!

Magan
Magan

Be consistent, stay organized, and no matter how tired your brain is try to plan ahead. Once you fall behind it's hard to catch up.

Amanda
Amanda

The best advice for a first year teacher is organization and classroom management! The key to your success is having those two things! It will make your year go by much smoother! I also suggest to find other teachers who are willing to "help" you or give guidance! You truly learn a lot from them!

TJ
TJ

A karate instructor once told me "As long as you remember your name and to breathe, everything will be fine." Whenever I something new, I try to keep that in mind. Breathe, have a plan, and don't be afraid to change your plan or ask for help.

Courtney Vuich
Courtney Vuich

The best advice I have is to make to do lists and rank by priority. Especially at the beginning of the year it's easy to get overwhelmed. I promise, not everything has to be done today!!

Katie Bigelow
Katie Bigelow

My best advice is to be organized. As a special education teacher, organization is a must! It helps my days go by smoother and keeps me less stressed.

Reba Metclaf
Reba Metclaf

Make friends with the secretary and the custodians. They will save your sanity! Always have a back-up plan. Things will go wrong. Expect it, so be prepared for it. That lesson you think will be the best in the world? Maybe not for this bunch of students, so have an alternative. Find time for yourself every day. Use it to reflect on the day (no more than 15 minutes) but mostly use it to do something for YOU! (ex: bubble bath, read for pleasure, eat a bowl of ice cream, etc.) Most of all, be yourself. That will take you farther than anything else.

Tammy Alcalde
Tammy Alcalde

As I begin my tenth year I reflect back to some of things that have affected my teaching the most. Firstly, establish a routine and procedure for almost everything! How do the students line up? What is bathroom policy? How do they come to and sit upon the carpet? Such little things can affect the whole atmosphere of your room. Another gem I have learned in my time is in regards to setting up your room. You walk in for the first time and feel overwhelmed but before you try to hang one poster move your furniture into position. Get your room the way you want it to be, what's most functional for you, before you even try to decorate! It will save you so much time in the future! My last tidbit of advice is to get involved! The more you put into your classroom, your school, your colleagues and your career the happier you will be in the long run. Best of luck! It is the greatest of adventures!

Lisa L.
Lisa L.

Be organized, have fun and remember STAR (stop, take a deep breath, and relax) when things get a little crazy!

Emily Schiffler
Emily Schiffler

Go slow to go fast! Take the time to model EVERYTHING and practice practice practice. Things will go wrong but learning to be preventative definitely helps :)

Karin
Karin

It's normal to have "jitters" and it doesn't end when your first year ends! If you think about the students you will have and the excitement you feel for teaching them, that will make the flutters smaller. Just remember, it's all about the kids! Each child has a parent who is nervous about letting his or her hand go and allowing you to take each one! Take each hand and bring each child along on one of the most incredible journeys: that of learning! You are entering one of the most fulfilling occupations: that of teaching young minds! Enter it with joy!

Katie
Katie

Organization and learning about your students!

Susan
Susan

I have been told to remember that tomorrow is a new day and that if you say you are going to do something do it. If the students see that you are not following through with what you say your going to do they will not be as ready to do what you ask them to in other areas.

Heidi
Heidi

Routines are the best thing to do. Also make sure you get to know each of your students. And role model exactly the way you want things to be done. You would expect them to know but they don't.

Farrah
Farrah

First year jitters turn into second, third, fourth, etc. year jitters. I never sleep the night before the first day of school. Relax, enjoy, and go with the flow. As much as you can prepare each year for "day 1," you cannot control what happens. Be prepared for some activities to take longer, some to take a lot less time, and have alternates ready. My general motto for the first day is, "whatever gets done, gets done." You will have the rest of the school year to finish it all!

Angela
Angela

Smile as you greet students. Model expectations and practice with students for the first weeks of school. Allow time for movement and allow children to make decisions. (Where to sit for read to self time). State expectations in a positive way. (Use walking feet, school words etc.)

Clara Knous
Clara Knous

As a newly retired teacher of thirty-six years, I feel that I have a little advice to offer. Remember that you are well-trained and can do this. You have the energy, enthusiasm, and work ethic to do a great job. Take it one day at a time. Learn from mistakes and celebrate the successes. Don't hesitate to ask a mentor or another teacher for assistance. Remember, you are the present and future of education and you are teaching the future. If I win, I'll be giving the winnings to one very enthusiastic first year teacher whom I mentored.

Jen S.
Jen S.

I find that "the jitters" come with anything that I'm trying that is new...One way I arm myself to battle those jitters is to make sure that I'm as knowledgeable as possible about the things I'm speaking of... Don't be afraid to say, "I'm not sure, let me find out" when speaking with a parent OR "I'll get back to you" when making decisions with co-workers. Build a good working relationship with a trusted mentor teacher who can help you to learn and come into your own. You'll find that quickly enough, decisions will be easier to make and communicating confidently is smoother also. First and foremost, realize that you are making a difference in a child's life, no matter what you are able to do (knowledge or little knowledge)....kids know who they can trust and who truly loves them!

Dawn Decker
Dawn Decker

Listen, observe and learn from the other experienced teachers. There is so much in teaching that you can't learn in a college course. Choose you mentors wisely. Love and enjoy your students, but remember, you will be many things to them but you are not their pal. You are their teacher. They need consistent limits, high expectations and praise to succeed.

Cindy Q.
Cindy Q.

I have found that to be prepared with more than enough activities for the first few days of school always helps. It is better to be over prepared than under-prepared, I always say, because otherwise the kids will sense that it is their "free time" to do whatever they want. Always have things for them to complete at their desk... if they don't finish an assignment or project, move on. They will probably have time to complete it at some point in the first few days, or complete it as homework, if need be. Also, make sure you have clear expectations of behavior on the first day of class.. that sets the tone for the rest of the year! Rehearse routines with the class, so that they come to see it as a clear expectation for hallway behavior, lining up in class, going out to recess, fire drill practice, etc. Children love boundaries and routines. It gives them a feeling of safety and predictability. If you do these things, you will be well on your way to an excellent school year.

Joanne M.
Joanne M.

This is my first year in my own classroom, so I greatly appreciate reading all the words of wisdom. I definitely have the First Day Jitters.

Kit Parker
Kit Parker

I would say find your boundaries and soon! Figure out what things you absolutely will not tolerate, and make sure the kids are aware of these in the beginning. Practice makes permanent, so practice those routines as many times as needed. And the best advice I got from one of my University professors: Never be afraid to stop what you're doing and go over the rules for your classroom again. Don't keep going if they're not listening or paying attention. It's just a good reminder some time. Most of all -- first year is hard -- but it can also be really fun! Listen to other teachers in your building, but don't be afraid to branch out and try something new. Have a wonderful year! And if you need help -- just ask!

Kathy
Kathy

Great article. Organization is key.

Ronett
Ronett

Take a big relaxing breath, you will do just fine. First thing to remember for the first day of school is to get all the children fed and get them home safely. Next, you want to work on routines and procedures. Have students think about what they look, feel and sound like. Model and practice the routines and procedures, including what not to do. Finally, don't forget to take time to learn about your students. This will help you know what motivates them and help build a lifelong love of learning. Good luck!!!

CindyK
CindyK

As a teacher entering her 16th year, and in Kindergarten, I think routines are so important. How you want things done - has to be taught. Think ahead to each section of the day and organize for that section. This includes the coming in and the leaving. Bus drivers need information as well as everyone else. I always make labels with each child's name on them (at least 10), then when I need to label their agenda, their folders, their book bag hook, I'm ready. I also use the alphabetical order concept when lining up, filing papers, etc... The beauty of giving each student a letter (or number) is that your files can be labeled once - with ABC or 123 and you use them from year to year without having to change out 20+ student names each school year. When you say "line up" there is no chaos, they have a place and they know where it is. I also assign places on the rug, places at each table, etc... Knowing where to go helps avoid the feelings of confusion that you don't need on those first few days of school.

Stephanie
Stephanie

Read First Day Jitters to your class! It not only put the kids at ease but the teacher as well!

Kristin
Kristin

don't try to do it all. pick and choose, but always try your best.

Sarah Thompson
Sarah Thompson

I'm still a fairly new teacher (going on year 5) and I will always remember what my principal in my first year shared with me. Every day is a new day. As you're developing your routines and classroom management techniques with your students, you may find that what you had all thought and planned out doesn't click. You may "go back to square one" many times until you find something that works for you and your students. You may need to change things up every few months or weeks. Every day is a new day. This also pertains to lessons. A very engaging, creative, stay up late lesson might tank one day. A re-teach will be needed and for some students, many ways of presenting the lesson may be needed before understanding comes. Every day is a new day.

Ashley Pettruny
Ashley Pettruny

Always plan ahead! Go over your plans/material at least once a week so that it is familiar & you can focus more on the students than what you need to do. Also, take notes during the day of things that went right & wrong. Most importantly enjoy each day & your students. They are all special and have their own unique abilities.

Ellen Tarleton
Ellen Tarleton

Breath and appreciate the opportunity to make a difference in childrens lives. Love them and let them know it.

Angie
Angie

There will never be enough hours in the day. Do the best you can because the first year will always lend itself to learning opportunities for the future. Don't get down on yourself for things you feel weren't as successful as you thought they would be. Look at them as learning experiences and grow from them. Your first year will be difficult but not impossible.

Jennifer
Jennifer

I am going back tomorrow for the teacher in-service/prep days and I am entering my 23 year of teaching. The best way to not be nervous, although I still get nervous. is to be prepared. Have more planned for that first day then you will actually do. Being overplanned is better than the alternative. The next part is super important-routines. Teach and reinforce routines. Establish rules-students thrive on consistency and knowing what is expected of them.

Buena Kaylor
Buena Kaylor

Two thoughts come to mind: 1) For the first few days, post your schedule and activities on the board. Not for you students, these notes are for you! Nothing worse than going blank on "What am I supposed to be doing now?" 2) Over plan. Then don't forget you over planned. You don't want to run out of things to do...or panic if you don't get it all done.

Heidi
Heidi

Make sure you are organized and over-plan. Also, remember the kids are nervous, too.

Patricia Sementa
Patricia Sementa

Tips to Stay Sane: 1) Routine, Routine, Routine: Spend the first two weeks teaching and reinforcing the routine until students can navigate the classsroom routine and expectations independently. This will make your year easier! 2) Planning: Understand that there will be days where you cover everything in your plan book and days where you barely cover a thing. Breathe. 3) Behavior: Be consistent! Have a chart of green, yellow, and red. Green means good. They move to yellow after 3 warnings meaning "uh-oh!" They move to red after one more warning and it means "oh-no!" and a note or phone call goes home unless they improve their behavior to change their color. Find a checkbox for behavior to send home when the child is red that you can check the behaviors off at the end of the day rather than write a note. It is better than writing a note when you are frustrated or upset. 4) Class Meeting: If the whole class seems to be not behaving... Have a class meeting and discuss issues, problems, and have the students repeat the classroom rules in their own words. 5) If your class is restless... Put on some music for a couple minutes and let them dance or stretch. Try music by a grammar school choir, P.S. 22, they cover popular music and the kids love listening to kids singing that are their age. 6) Parents: Have a notebook or binder where you document anytime you talk, call, or send a note home to parent that is of importance. They do not prepare you in college that sometimes dealing with parents is hard! It is better to document everything. Also, start off any conference with a positive. 7) Remember, you are a miracle worker... You cannot get everything done in one day or night. It will be still be there to do tomorrow so RELAX and SLEEP. 8) Have fun: Remember to make your family and friends a priority! Do not let teaching consume you since you will be burnt out after only your first year! 9) Dollar stores are your friend!! 10) Buy durable, not decorative. Buy things that will last for years and help you assist your teaching in your classroom. Of course... Really Good Stuff has lasted me years so this place is where you should be shopping. Check the reviews for input on the product from teacher peers and always look at the outlet for bargains. My tip is buy things that help to organize you or teaching tools or products you could use all year rather than just a week. Have fun!

Stephanie
Stephanie

Organize....start out organizing everything. Put things away at the end of the day to keep organized all year. Organizing is what keeps me from feeling frazzled at the end of the day.

Emily Maxson
Emily Maxson

Advice for a first year teacher- go into the school year with the realization that things WILL go wrong. College courses cannot possibly teach you how to handle every situation as a teacher. Take each mistake as a learning experience and know that you are not the first one to make that mistake. Focus on your students and their needs but also take care of yourself. Get as much sleep even though you will want to spend every waking moment in your classroom. You are no good to your students if you're wiped out and crabby. Most of all enjoy it and embrace it....each year you will look back and realize how much you have learned and laugh at the mistakes that were made.