A couple of weeks ago I posed a question in the Self-Care for Teachers Facebook Support Group (now archived) asking what they wish they had known heading into their first week of their first year teaching.
I also asked what advice they would give to newbie teachers about to embark on this very journey.
Just quietly, the responses were awesome!
Queensland went back to school last week and for many other states the school year starts today, so I thought it would be timely to share the collective wisdom from the generous souls who shared their advice in the group.
For the most part I have left their advice as is, word for word but occasionally I have paraphrased or edited just for ease of reading.
Here is their wonderful advice, in no particular order:
- Get to know as many of the non-teaching staff at your school as possible. The office staff, student services and facilities team are INVALUABLE!!
- Don’t feel like you are expected to do everything perfect the first time. It’s ok to make mistakes. If you realise you have made a mistake, take steps to make it right. Everyone screws up from time to time, even those who have many years of experience.
- Make sure your internet image is clean. Google yourself to see what comes up and set EVERYTHING to private!
- Always be polite to your admin, aids and cleaning/service staff. They are people too! Plus, being polite is
- Don’t judge yourself against other teachers. No your room doesn’t look like theirs and you don’t have the resources they have, but they have been making and collecting over however many years.
- Do the best you can, leave at a reasonable hour and try to do something most days for yourself. E.g. yoga, gym, read a chapter of a book etc.
- Make friends with as many teaches as possible so you can get help when you need. You can share with each other — resources, information and shoulders to cry on!
- Learn all the names of the parents of students in your class. Get to know them — it helps for lots of things!
- Keep your peace organised and clutter free. Stick to routines from day 1 to keep it this way.
- Ask as many questions as you need to. Even if you think they are “stupid” questions. Especially if you think they are “stupid” questions!
I think this is a fantastic list, and a great reminder to new and not-so-new teachers.
It was interesting to me that two main themes cropped up: connection/community and self-compassion.
Teaching is a team sport, and there are many people that can help and support you along the way.
These include other teachers, teacher aids, administration staff, cleaning staff, facilities and maintenance staff, student services and other support staff, as well as of course the parents of our students.
Building and strengthening our connections with these people is good for us because they can support us when we need help, and vice versa. It’s also good for the students because everyone connected to the school in some way is working to support them too.
Finally, it’s good for our communities because strong connections with each other is what will help us create a better future for ourselves and those around us.
The other theme was the idea of being gentle and forgiving with oneself.
Comparing to others around us can be helpful if we use the process to inspire and encourage us, but too often we look at others and decide that in comparison we aren’t enough.
This can lead to falling back into the spiral of perfectionism and punishing ourselves for mistakes, which doesn’t actually help us improve at all.
Acknowledging that as a first-year teacher and as a human at any stage of life, we are still learning. We aren’t perfect, we are going to make mistakes and that’s ok.
Adopting this attitude, this (dare I say it!) growth mindset, is actually what will help us improve, not beating ourselves up for not being enough. Especially because it’s not actually true.
You are enough, already and always. Regardless of how and what somebody else is doing, having, being…you are you and that is enough.
It’s so important to allow yourself to be you, perfectly imperfect as you are. Treat yourself with gentleness and compassion when you behave like a human instead of a robot.
Be kind to yourself because ultimately that is what will help you carry on and get you through the day, the week, the term and the year in one piece.
And remember: you are enough, already and always.
Want more tips?
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