On Teaching: Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of Teaching

I am a second grade teacher. I just completed my first year of teaching and let me tell you, it was way harder than I thought it was going to be. I had a diverse class with lots of strong personalities and lots of behaviors. On top of that, in March, we switched to remote learning. While this year was extremely challenging, I realized that I am not the naive teacher I once was. I went into my first year of teaching thinking that it would be easy and I would be the perfect teacher. After the first day of school, that idea was gone. If I could go back in time and talk to myself on September 5th, 2019, here is what I would say about my first year of teaching! 

  1. It’s going to be very hard.

Any teacher will tell a first year teacher that it is going to be harder than it looks! Be kind to yourself and remember that this is the first time you are on your own in a classroom with a bunch of kids. 

  1. There is a learning curve.

You will not know everything you need to do. It will take time to learn how the school wants to do assessments and manage classroom behaviors. It will take time to figure out the best routines for your class. It will take time to figure out the best ways to manage time and classroom materials. 

  1. It’s okay to cry.

I think I cried almost every day for the first few months. Feel these emotions. Don’t hold them in! Sometimes a good cry was all I needed!

  1. It’s okay to feel frustrated.

Feeling frustrated is normal when you are working with many people, especially many little kids! 

  1. Some days are going to be great and some days are going to be hard. 

Take advantage of those good days and compliment every good thing! Reward the kids for the good behavior. On the hard days, talk to them about why it was hard. Be open and honest. 

  1. You will be exhausted all the time.

GO TO BED EARLY! It will be exhausting but you will build up your teacher stamina. 

  1. Don’t compare yourself.

This is easier said than done but it’s true. At the beginning of the school year, I compared myself to other teachers so much. I wondered why it looked so easy for them or why they just didn’t get upset. But that only hurt me more. Once I stopped comparing myself, I gained confidence in my own practice. 

  1. Be organized.

I thought I was an organized person before teaching but teaching made me 100% more organized. Being organized saves so much time. At the beginning of the year, spend a few afternoons organizing assessments, worksheets, lesson plans and it will be so worth it!

  1. Self care is important. 

I believe that in every job, self-care is important. Find the things that you love and do them to rejuvenate yourself. For me, it’s the little things like drinking my coffee alone (or with my dog) in the morning. I also love getting my nails done. These things make me feel better and happy. 

  1. Enjoy the small moments! 

I wish more than anything that I had done more of this! There are so many amazing small moments that happen when you are a teacher. From students growing in academics to students growing as humans (socio-emotionally), we get to see so much. When reflecting on this year, my favorite small moment was when I found a note from a student that was written to me. At first, I was like “oh jeez, what is this?” But when I read it, it gave me so much hope and strength. It said, “ Sejal, you shine like stars in the sky and you work so hard to keep track of all 28 of us. I just wanted to say that.” 

The note from my student

With these in mind, I can’t wait for school to start. I know that it is going to be different due to the pandemic. I am going to miss hugs from my students and having community talks with all of the kids but I have to look on the brightside, I will be back in the classroom prepared for my second year of second grade! 

The door to my classroom. I had the kids draw themselves and I loved how it turned out!

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