The Biggest Lesson of My First Year Teaching
The best way to describe my first year of teaching would be to use the word “overwhelming.” I wasn’t ready for the plethora of things that were placed in front of me. Every day, when I went home, I felt discouraged and fatigued because I was unable to successfully manage the classroom.
The majority of my time was spent becoming familiar with new curricula, establishing strategies for individualised learning, changing lessons, and analysing data. I was aware of the significance of the task at hand, but I also was aware that something was going wrong. I sensed a lack of connection with my students in the classroom, and I was aware that I could do better.
When I looked about, I noticed that there were some instructors who seemed to just take everything in stride and who were clearly having a great time doing their jobs. Their lessons went off without a hitch, and their pupils all appeared to be in good spirits. During my first year of teaching, I made it a point to closely observe three different instructors in order to figure out what it was that made them stand out from the rest.
I approached them with the request to attend one of their classes and take notes. Over the course of a few months, I had the opportunity to observe these educators five to seven times, each time lasting roughly twenty to thirty minutes. In most cases, I planned these observations to take place during my prep time or over lunch, but on rare occasions, I was able to create observation time by bringing in a substitute teacher for my classes.
In addition, I saw how teachers interacted with kids in settings other than the classroom, such as the playground, the lunchroom, the corridor, and assemblies. I listened carefully to what people had to say and took note of their attitudes.
After I got to know the students better, I saw that building relationships with them was the most important thing for these instructors, and everything else followed suit after that.
Every Friday during lunch, one of the teachers would play basketball with the students. Another attended several meals in the dining hall with the students over the school year. There was one instructor who enjoyed taking walks during lunchtime and would frequently invite many different groups of students to accompany her on these outings. I saw a kindergarten teacher go out of her way every day to congratulate a different parent in the carpool line for picking up their child by telling them about a positive experience their child had at school.
A few of the things that I observed required significantly more time. One of my coworkers would hold 15-minute morning meetings, and then she would conclude the day with a brief reflection, during which she would ask the students to share one thing from that day that went well, as well as maybe one objective they were working on for the rest of the week.
One instructor went to the sporting and musical activities that their pupils participated in, while another arrived at school early every day to meet with a student who is having difficulty and go over the upcoming arithmetic lesson.
I was aware that I wanted to model myself after these teachers, so I made a gradual and purposeful shift in my priorities, shifting the primary focus of my work to be on the relationships I had with my pupils. My day began with a gathering first thing in the morning. This was something that I could put into practise with little effort. The first thing that I did when the pupils arrived at school was to form a circle with them. After going around the room and greeting everyone in a variety of ways, we moved on to either a game or a talk. I took use of this time to go over the schedule for the day and offer some brief announcements.
Making this adjustment transformed not only me into a different kind of educator but also the atmosphere in my classroom. At school, I started to enjoy myself more, and I noticed that other people, including my students, were doing the same. They had more resources at their disposal to confront the day.
They trusted me, which made them feel more at ease in making inquiries and taking chances. They were more proactive than ever before in seeking assistance and clarification from others. The disciplinary issues I had been experiencing began to improve, and to tell you the truth, the school day became far more enjoyable for all of us. The pupils were aware that I was on their side and willing to assist them as we were working on developing trust and friendships within the group. The parents became more involved, and I started getting feedback that the students in my class were having a great time there. I never stopped working on the curriculum, the statistics, the differentiation, and all of the other things that are necessary in a classroom; however, I did rearrange the things that were most important to me.
HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR RELATIONSHIPS
I’ve been a teacher for more than 15 years now, hold certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, and act as a mentor to other teachers who are working toward the same certification. When I am asked by new teachers how I find the time to create relationships in the classroom, I typically respond by saying that I prioritise it. I constantly stress to them that it need to be the very first thing that they incorporate into their plans. Make it a top priority when the new year starts, and make sure you keep it up every day. Building a sense of community and getting to know one’s pupils ought to receive the same amount of attention as does the process of instructing students in proper procedure.
I made sure to let the instructors know that it is beneficial to spend some time at the beginning of the school year teaching the pupils about themselves. The educators have the option of disclosing to the kids information about their families, pets, and extracurricular activities to the extent that they feel is appropriate for them. And the same goes for teachers: it is beneficial to learn as much as possible about their students. Sending a questionnaire home with pupils gives parents the opportunity to discuss their children’s personality characteristics, as well as their own and their children’s areas of both academic and personal growth.
Having a meeting first thing in the morning every day is a fantastic approach to get to know your students better and to assess how they are feeling.
A little investment that yields a significant return is to put together a schedule of engaging activities for children to participate in as part of smaller groups, with the goal of allowing them to get to know one another and develop a sense of ease while interacting with students from other classes.
Who Is It? is one of my very favourite games to play in the classroom. On a Post-it note labelled with their own name, each student jots down between two and three interesting facts about themselves. I am in charge of collecting the notes and reading them out to the class, at which point everyone must determine who the author is.
Experimenting with just one new activity is a good way to get started. It is vitally crucial for first-time educators to avoid overcommitting themselves. Burnout is a problem that must not be ignored. The classroom can be transformed into an enjoyable environment with the help of anything as simple as a discussion, a question, a short walk, or a game.