Back to school: five ways for new teachers to thrive
As a new teacher, you are probably getting advice from lots of places—whether you want it or not. You may be hearing and reading a lot about time management, classroom management, and school culture. Teachers work with lots of different people each day. This is part of what makes teaching so exciting. And now you need to work out how you fit in.
In the early days of your career, tending to your own professional and personal needs is just as important as supporting others in doing the same. You are likely to find that by the end of your first week, you are ready to fall asleep before the sun goes down. So, here here are some ideas to keep you feeling more relaxed and better connected so you can take on the challenges of your new career.
Whenever possible, leave work at work
No doubt teachers have to do some planning and grading at home. If you notice that these tasks are taking over other important parts of your life, though, try doing these things at school instead. You may see others leaving to go home or join in social activities as a pile of papers sit on your desk, but an extra hour spent at school may be worth what you gain back in your own personal space and time.
Plan your own recess
Recess is necessary for students and teachers alike. Rest and recreation are critical in helping you refresh and refocus. If you are able to leave your building during the day, take a walk or bike ride. Schedule some workout or social time for yourself after work. You plan your professional responsibilities in order to be successful. Do this for your own emotional well-being also.
The notion of sitting down and having a full meal may seem like a foreign concept during the school day. Simply grabbing a snack may be a challenge on many days. Commit yourself to having an uninterrupted, balanced meal after work. Power down your digital devices at least an hour before you retire for the evening. Give your brain a break. It’s been working hard all day.
Honor your own rituals or create new ones
Keep the habits that make your home a happy one. If you need uninterrupted time to relax or connect spiritually before starting your busy day, wake up fifteen minutes early. Continue to have story time with your own children, even when you have had a long day. If you call your dad every Wednesday night, keep doing that. If you play softball once a week, show up for your teammates. If you don’t have any rituals, create one or two of your own. Think about the small things that make you smile or feel grounded. Our personal time is precious. It keeps us centered.
Check in with your mentor
There is probably someone whose advice means a lot to you. Take some time to check in with this person once a month or as needed. Share your concerns and be willing to listen. Sometimes another person can see and hear things we cannot. Regular reality checks from a trusted source help us keep things in perspective. If you don’t have a mentor, ask someone whose work or mindset you admire.
Allow your colleagues to observe you and review your work whether this is common practice at your school or not. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Everyone makes mistakes. Reacting positively to our mistakes helps us grow. You may not be able to fix everything, but making a few changes can put you on a path to a more effective and fulfilling teaching practice.
Most importantly, as you start your first year, be kind to yourself and remember that every expert was once a beginner.
Joy C. Dingle is an independent K–16 education consultant in the Washington, DC, area.