First Year Teacher Travails
Jan 6, 2009 Career Development 1900 Views
Maybe the word "travail" is a bit exaggerated, but the task at hand for a first-year teacher is nevertheless one that requires a special effort. Not everybody is cut to be a teacher, to guide the destiny of 25 or 150 students every year (from elementary to high school). You are like a doctor performing his/her first surgery; no matter how much you studied, you still realize that what you are doing may affect a human life and you may have problems controlling your nerves.
Once you have taken the "plunge", your concerns will and must evaporate; you become the master, taking the word in its original meaning in Latin which is "magnus" or great, the one who knows and has the authority based on his/her superior knowledge. A surgeon should not show any hesitancy when opening up a patient and neither should a new teacher; you have prepared long and hard for this day. Your students must feel the confidence emanating from your demeanor and voice. Remind yourself that you are a role model, an expert in your field.
The first week is usually occupied with getting to know each student; you must memorize all names as quickly as possible, and one week is sufficient for elementary teachers. High school teachers may need up to a month since they have six different groups of 25 students each. Greet each student by name (with a smile) as they enter the classroom; they will feel welcome and grateful that you bothered to learn their first name. As time progresses, study their file and learn all you can about their family and personal environment.
A new teacher may well feel frustrated and ready to quit after the first few days. Perhaps the students do not respond to his/her efforts to keep them quiet and on task. Or it could be the administrative work required from every teacher. If it is classroom management, ask for help from your mentor. That experienced teacher will sit in your class and observe the students' behavior. His/her advice will be invaluable, so make sure you apply the techniques he/she recommends. With patience and care, your classroom management technique will bear fruit very quickly. "Do not despair," said my mentor when I first started, "everything will fall into place eventually." And it did.
If the administrative requirements wear you down, remember that they are necessary to analyze students' progress. Bureaucracy is as inevitable as taxes, and whatever your field may be, you will discover that paperwork is an essential part of your position. On the other hand, console yourself with the knowledge that you are working for the benefit of the students; that makes any sacrifice worthwhile.
The first year is critical for any new teacher, just as it is for a newly married couple. But once you understand what's at stake (in both cases the stakes are very important), the second year will be much more satisfactory. You will receive feedback from colleagues, from supervisors, and from students. With that wealth of information, you'll have an excellent chance of becoming a very effective teacher for many years to come.