Friday, February 1, 2013

A Letter to First-Year Teachers

It's a school day, so I feel like I should be helping someone out. It's what I do. But we have a snowday today, so instead of helping out students, I'm going to attempt to help out those first-year teachers out there by offering sage advice dunked in sarcasm sauce and topped with my favorite sentence enhancers.

*ahem*

Dear New Teacher,

You are wonderful. You are amazing. You are a saint. Thank you for what you do.

You won't hear those words enough, so I thought I'd start out with that.

My first year of teaching was pretty much horrendous. I think you can probably expect that. There were many things that were simply awful that were also out of my control, but I contributed to my own mess of a year. Let me share with you some of the things I did wrong, so you can learn from my mistakes.
  • I never bothered to ask for help. I was terrified that asking for help would be a sign of weakness, a show of incompetance. I didn't realize that doing something incorrectly was ultimately much worse than asking for help.
  • I did not manage my time wisely. I waited to make copies until right before I needed them, I spent my prep period doing projects that didn't need done until later rather than the things that should have been taken care of right away.
  • I gave way too much homework, more than I could ever keep up with for grading, because I thought that was what good teachers did.
  • I created all of my own PowerPoints, worksheets, tests, etc. because I didn't want to take "the easy way out." 
  • I was very intimidated by my coworkers (who I found out too late were wonderful, intelligent, friendly people) and I never felt confident enough to strike up a conversation. It didn't help that I was only twenty-two, I lived forty miles away, I wasn't married, and I still lived in my parents' basement. They were adults. I felt like a student eating lunch with them.
  • I didn't get nearly enough sleep.
  • I planned a wedding.
  • I never really sat down and planned my year long-term. I just planned day-by-day. BIG MISTAKE.
  • I didn't plan bell to bell.
  • I didn't develop a good relationship with my students in the classroom.
That's a lot of mistakes, and I'm sure there were plenty more. The good news is that all of these have pretty simple fixes, and you can avoid a lot of heartache by doing some pretty simple things. Allow me to offer some expletives-laden advice. (There are expletives because I am a potty mouth hugely passionate about this stuff.)
  • GOLDEN RULE OF TEACHING: ASK FOR HELP. This is not a job you can do on your own without going completely insane. Most teachers share a common personality trait in that they are happy to help people. It goes with the trade. Most of your coworkers will be happy to help you out (and you'll quickly discover the ones that don't want to help, in which case you should spit in their coffee and hide their mail). Find those experienced teachers and ask for help! They've got all kinds of neat little tricks up their cardigan sleeves for making your life in the classroom bearable, or maybe even pleasant.
  • Time-management, for the love of everything good and holy. Figure out your shit before you start it! Prioritize and get stuff done. Do everything you need to complete before tomorrow, and then you can do stuff that's more long-term. If you have to (and I do, so no shame) make a To-Do list and number the items by priority. Make your copies at least the day before, because I guarantee that the morning you need to make fifty copies of an exam and first period starts in ten minutes will be the morning that every asshole out there is making nine hundred copies of the parts of a flower worksheet, front and back. Either that or the copier will be broken. You know, all that Murphy's Law shit.
  • Bad teachers ignore their students needs and focus on their own. Mediocre teachers give busy work to meet their own needs that may or may not be what the student needs. Good teachers give a lot of homework in the hopes that en masse activities will meet the students' needs. Great teachers give just enough really good homework that will successfully meet the needs of both the student and the teacher. What this boils down to is that you don't have to give a ton of homework if the work you do give has a lot of value. It's all about quality instead of quantity.
  • It is okay to use other people's PowerPoints, worksheets, tests, and downloadable templates. :) Really, though, sharing is caring. This ties into Bullet #2. You simply don't have time to make every single thing out there! My personal rule is that I like to make things when I haven't found anything else that will satisfy. As a perfectionist, this kind of happens a lot, but I also know that I can satisfy my perfectionist needs by tweaking the work of others. Example: I downloaded a PowerPoint presentation about King Arthur from the interwebs. The PowerPoint had all of the information I hoped to convey, but it wasn't interactive enough to suit my taste. So instead of making a PowerPoint completely from scratch, I just added in a couple of slides with interactive questions and activities for my students. It took ten minutes.
  • I am not good at making friends. I'm not sure why, but I'm not. It is really important, though, that you attempt to develop some sort of a positive relationship with your coworkers. Teaching is lonely business, otherwise. If you aren't willing to sit at lunch with the science teachers, at least make friends within your department and talk about non-school stuff.
  • Sleep. Seriously. Get enough sleep, especially if you're a real bitch in the mornings like I am. I realized I was being really unfairly cranky towards my first period class and it was really because I just wasn't awake enough to deal with some of them. So, I started going to bed early and waking up earlier. Nowadays I'm up two hours before I have to be at work so I can take out the crankies on my yoga mat and on my morning coffee. I can't tell you the difference this has made in how my days go.
  • I would seriously try to avoid any other major life changes during your first year of teaching. Your first year of teaching will be its own enormously huge change. You really have no idea how much this will affect your life until your go home with whiteboard marker on your fingertips and tape on your pants and you smell like freshmen. (Side note: get pet Febreeze for your classroom, especially if you share students with the P.E. teacher.)
  • Plan your school year. I mean, the whole thing. Not necessarily every single day, but you should know exactly what unit is coming up next and you should know how you're going to do it. This year was the first time I ever did this and it is un-freakin'-believable how much easier my life is. I sat down with a school calendar and a list of all of the things I wanted to do this year, and I planned my year. Keep it flexible (give yourself at least three more days than you think you'll need for each unit to account for fire drills, snowdays, and hangovers) but try to stick with it. I already know that we will begin Shakespeare notes on Friday and we will have the Romeo and Juliet test right around March 1st. I feel powerful.
  • There's a saying out there along the lines of, "Idle hands make children do evil things like stick gum under the desktop and hit each other with rulers." Something like that. There's this cute little idea called "bell-to-bell planning" floating in the education world Kool-Aid right now, but it ain't no joke. I am a true-blue believer in bell ringers, teacher time, teacher-student time, student time, and exit slips. This is close-ish to a typical day, and dependent on the subject matter. My day really runs smoothly like this and we get a lot accomplished in a class period.
    • Minutes 1-10: Bell ringer activity and vocab card
    • Minutes 11-25: Teacher time (lectures and other such teacher-dominated teaching)
    • Minutes 26-40: Teacher-student time (guided practice activities)
    • Minutes 41-45: Student time (students get a headstart on homework, etc.)
    • Minutes 46-50: Exit slips or other such end-of-class assessments
  • Teacher-student relationship is critical in a smoothly operating classroom. I've written in the past about how I take pride in this nowadays. It wasn't the case my first year of teaching. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting to know your students. This is the motto I teach by: I don't teach English. I teach kids.
If you're still reading, you deserve a cookie or something because this is the longest letter ever. Go on. Get up a get a cookie. I'll wait.

I'm only a third year teacher, so I'm not saying you should necessarily take to heart everything I've said here (like spitting in coworkers' coffee... that's probably not a good plan... that will create animosity in the workplace). I do hope, however, that there is some merit to my words and maybe this will keep you from making many of the same mistakes I made my first year.

Teaching is a challenge, and it is a challenge that nothing will prepare you for, not even subbing or student teaching. When you are a teacher, for better or for worse, those kids are yours. Even the most stubborn, bull-headed, big-mouthed kid is yours and he trusts you to take care of his needs, both as a teacher and as a positive adult role model.

You will cry some days. You will want to pull your hair out. You will take a sick day for the sake of mental health. You will write bad words on a student's paper in a fury because twenty days into the Shakespeare unit they said Queen Elizabeth wrote the play Romeo and Juliet and then you'll have to white them out.

But...

You will also laugh a lot. Kids are funny, whether they mean to be or not. I never realized how much I would laugh as a teacher. You will have really amazing days where your lesson goes perfectly. You will have good crying days because your non-reader finished the book you recommended and loved it. You will have a kid hug you one day, for seemingly no reason and it will be a kid that you would never in a million years have expected such a show of affection from. (Side note: I just ended that sentence with a preposition but I can't think of a better way to word it, so screw it. "Screw It" days will happen too.)

And best of all, you will have days where a kid or a parent thanks you for what you do. Last year there was a parent who brought me flowers because I stayed after school for an hour helping her son study for a test. This winter my drama club kids got me a dozen roses and presented them to me after our last show. Even that first year of teaching, when things were so bad, I had a group of wonderful drama club kids who made me a video telling me thank you for everything I had done for them. I still cry when I think about that video and those kids.

I wish you all of the luck in the world. I'm sending good vibes your way, I promise. Don't forget to wear your power heels or a tie to school the first day and be a real hardass, because it is so much easier to get nicer throughout the school year than to get tougher. Save every single picture, note, whatever from a student that makes you smile and hang it up near your desk so you can look at it on bad days. The bulletin board behind my desk is covered with student artwork, letters, and Christmas cards (still) because they are very uplifting on bad days.

Let me be the first to say that, even though I probably don't know you, and even though you may live very far away, and even though you may teach little runny-nosed kids (poor you), and even though you might teach a completely different subject or at a different kind of school, or in a different country, I am here to help you. All you have to do is ask.

And, because no blog post of mine would be complete without it, here is a funny GIF of a guy running from the police with a bucket on his head. I hope his teachers didn't blame themselves for this. There was obviously nothing they could do.

Source

 

77 comments:

  1. I love this entry. I echo your advice and would add "It's okay to deviate from your plan... a lesson plan is an intention, if it's not working, figure out something that will."

    I think we would be friends in real life.

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    1. Completely agree with that bit of advice. Nothing will get a teacher in trouble faster than trying to stick strictly to a lesson plan or die trying. Kudos!

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  2. Just what I needed Steph... I keep my kids pictures and letters hung up above my desk too.

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  3. I have to tell you I really appreciate the candid advice. I am a first year teacher, and I laughed reading your first list because I've done most of that, and I smiled reading your second list because I'm on my way. So much of the advice out there for first year teachers is so full of ridiculosity I feel like I'm back in a methods class with the professor shouting, "Lesson plan it and they will come!" It's a good start to my day.

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    1. I'm glad to hear my honesty didn't just frighten you off. That first year of teaching (first three years, maybe?) is quite an animal to tackle, but it's worth it.
      You must have had the very same methods professor I had. Sounds the same... :)

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  4. Your advice is spot on! I am a 20 year teacher (whom you know really, really well - See ya at Easter dinner!) and I could not have said it better. Teaching can be very lonely and building work relationships will make all the difference in your career and your sanity. Then you will realize that those work relationships turn into friendships and you have a "family" at work, too. I sure wish I had discovered planning my year when I was a third year teacher. You are wise beyond your years. And I still have notes from "my kids" from 20 years ago. They still make me smile.

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    1. Yay, Easter dinner! Can't wait! :)
      You would think seeing as many faces and talking to as many people a day as we do that teaching would never feel in the least bit solitary. It certainly can, though. Oh well... nothing like chaperoning Prom to create building relationships!

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  5. Thank you so very much...I really needed this..I will be a first year teacher in the fall..I will be teaching 1st Graders!!!!

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  6. First grade! Wow, you are braver than I am, my friend! I'm glad you found this helpful. Just remember it will be both very challenging and extremely rewarding! Keep me updated on how your year goes!

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  7. Thank you so much for a great post. I just finished my first year and you have given me so many tips that I needed for my second year! Keep em coming!

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! Glad to hear you survived the first year. :)

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  8. Hi! I just found your blog. I am a HS math teacher. I've been on a search for applicable HS related bloggers. So glad I found your site. I've just finished year 10. I should have it down by now, right? This year was by far my hardest (5 preps with new CC curriculum). This list is a great reminder for any teacher. All veteran teachers should think about these strategies and renew their spirits each year. If we aren't always trying to improve, we are out of touch with our career! Thanks for putting it out there, and thanks for a great blog!
    Jessica

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    1. Thank you for the kind words! I think the beautiful thing about teaching is that every year is so different. I think it's good for all of us to remind ourselves occasionally why we do what we do. The best teachers are learners at heart.

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  9. I read this today, after getting my first teaching job yesterday and i'm definately saving it,I am so excited about September but also having mini heart attacks when I think about the stress that comes with it! There will be days when I need to look at this so i'm not ashamed I've cried/contemplated strangling one of the kids!

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    1. You'll be a rock star! Just remember why you're there and that it's normal to feel very frustrated from time to time. Don't take yourself too seriously and make it a goal to have fun every day. You're gonna be okay. :)

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  10. Hi! I think I have commented on blog posts... never. Very rarely, at least. So glad I stumbled onto this blog. My story, in a nutshell: I have a B.A. in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, and I always intended to be a professor of English/creative writing (I laugh when I say this now). By the age of 27, I was teaching college, indeed; but, if anyone else is familiar with teaching jobs in higher ed, you might guess that I couldn't make a living off it. Not remotely.

    I loved teaching, though. I looked into other things... screwed up miserably. Then I got the bright idea to seek eligibility for high school teacher certification in my state. Now I am working towards full-fledged certification to teach high school. Today I got the official offer to teach as a long-term sub for a few months starting in August.

    I am scared, excited, and thrilled. I have taught adults and college kids, and short stints of kids under the age of 18. But mostly, I'm scared. Still, I feel this is where I belong. I'm told if it works out, this could turn into something more full-time. I dunno. I am hopeful. This blog is going to become a bookmark. Pretty sure. Thanks so much!!

    And sorry for the novel. *Blush* ... this is almost as long as my thesis! haha..

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    1. Wow, you're kind of working in the opposite direction as me. :) I would like to teach college one day (maybe?). I think it will be very important to remember that your students are kids, even if they are 18 years old. You're probably going to feel like you're holding their hands a lot early in your secondary career. You guys will find a balance. I hope you'll find a little help on this blog and through many others. It takes a community to get the job done. Good luck!

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  11. Thank you for this! I will be a first year collaborative special ed. teacher in grades K-5 this fall. I am fortunate enough to be going to a wonderful school with great administration and parents, but I am still a first year teacher. I am excited, nervous, inspired, idealistic, and scared out of my mind! But mostly, I am so grateful to be finally putting my education to use and reaching a personal goal.....Teaching is a funny goal, though.....because where we feel like we have reached the goal (I got a job!), we are really just starting the most challenging part of the journey.....It's more like reaching base camp at Mt. Everest, isn't it? I'm hoping for a successful, year with minimal conflict! Thanks again for your letter!

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    1. Reaching base camp at Mt. Everest... I love this! That's a pretty accurate description, I think. :) Good luck! You'll be awesome!

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  12. So glad to have found this letter and all the resources, ideas, and encouragement you offer!! I hope to be able to pay it forward someday. I am still making my way through your blog (seriously, I am reading and loving every post) and I'm curious if you have any advice for the first day of school. I am headed into my first year of teaching, 7th & 8th grade Reading. I am SO excited, and I want to share my enthusiasm and start the year off on a positive note, but I also want to present myself as a firm but fair teacher. I'm wondering about the best way to present that balance, all while being myself. Anyway, I'm sure I'll be inspired as I continue to read. Thanks again! :)

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    1. Wow, you're brave to be reading through everything here. I'm pretty wordy. ;) I just shared a blog post today with first-day-of-school advice from many different teachers! Check it out for some really awesome ideas! http://www.eatwriteteach.com/2013/07/little-nuggets-of-teaching-advice.html

      The best advice I can give regarding beginning your school year is to be all of the things you said: enthusiastic, positive, firm, fair. Don't be afraid to geek out in front of the kids; they love it. Make sure your expectations are always clear and never give empty threats. Also, set your expectations high for behavior, school work, attitude, everything. Hold yourself to those same expectations. You'll be great! Good luck!

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  13. Thanks for taking the time to put this together! So many excellent points! I can more fully appreciate now that I'm one month out of my first year of teaching. It was.... a miserable year. Love, love, love the kids (even when I wanted to knock their heads together for being lazy!) and love the curriculum (high school English too:), but my school is private and poor, so I teach all 4 grades and 5 different classes every day. INSANE, yes, I am. My college education program classes were fairly useless overall and my degree is actually in history; can you give me any advice/helpful websites about interactive "student time" activities? I had a lot of trouble with the 9th grade curriculum and my 12th English lit class was generally boring overall because class activity meant that I mostly talked/lead discussion. It's such marvelous material; I want to do it justice! Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Sally,
      That first year is tough and you've got quite a challenging course load! Don't beat yourself up over it too badly; it's awesome that you recognize that you can improve and that you want to do that!
      Lately, I'm really digging this website: http://www.thecreativitycore.com/. He mostly writes about the value of writer's workshop in the classroom. I'm not jumping completely on board with every single one of his ideas, but I love his view of the classroom: mini-lessons followed by student time. He tends to believe that students do their best when they lead their own learning. Very Montessori. I think many of his ideas can be applied to a traditional classroom. You'll see a lot about his mind maps and I am definitely incorporating those this year. Check out the website and see what you think! In the meantime, I'll start digging up some of my favorite student-centered learning sites/blogs and see what I can find. :)

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  14. I can relate to not being good at making friends, so it is vitally important to develop working relationships with colleagues. I love your blog, it is awesome!

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    1. Thanks! If I was only half as good at making friends IRL as I am at doing it online, I'd be in good shape! :P

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  15. I know I'm like twenty years late to this party, but I'm starting my first year of teaching this fall and I am SCARED like you wouldn't believe of just.. falling flat on my face! This is wonderful. Thanks :)

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  16. I came across this letter through a friend and as a first year teacher I say thank you. I am teaching a 2nd/3rd grade combination class for my first year and am already feeling overwhelmed because I want everything to be perfect. I know it is not going to be, but I would like it to be. Looking over all curriculum for both grades over an entire year has already started to stress me out. Your letter has helped with the fact that it is going to be OK and I will survive. Thank you again.

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  17. I'm just going into my student teaching in the fall, but this summer I've been composing an encouragement binder. Though lengthy, this is truly a steal. I'd like to add this to it if you don't mind =)

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  18. I'm so glad that I found this. School starts in two weeks, and I'm starting to have major anxiety! Do you have any advice on how, exactly, to get to know my students? Thanks for all of the great advice!

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    1. Getting to know your students does take time. Know that right away. Don't expect to know them all by the end of September. God, I usually don't even know all of their names off the top of my head by then! I usually have them fill out a little form for me to give me a jump start. Here's the form I'm using this year. http://nhhsrichardson.wufoo.com/forms/z7x4m1/ I also had my students do a 100 Things I Love worksheet that will go into their Writer's Notebooks this year. I'll likely take a look at those in the near future. The best thing you can do, honestly, is to just have an honest conversation with them! The kids I know best are the ones that come to class early or stay a few minutes after because they just want to talk to me. That's usually the highlight of my day. Don't be afraid to start a casual conversation with a student. Kids love to talk about themselves. :) Share a little of yourself with them too, but it's probably best to maintain a little mystery with them.

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  19. I'm starting my first year as an English teacher in September and I couldn't have come across this blog post at a better time. I've been lucky enough to get hired in the same school where I completed my student teaching last year so I feel a bit more prepared, but it's still terrifying to think that I'm going to be responsible for all of those students. Your advice is wonderful, and I'll be sure to use it this school year. Great blog you've got here -- I'll be visiting often :)!

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    1. Yay! Thanks for stopping by and congrats on the job! :D

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  20. What a wonderful website!! I'll be starting my twelfth year this
    Fall, and every year I learn something new about the art of education!! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, and I hope to use some of your strategies this school year! My achilles heal is keeping up with make-up work. Thank you for the absentee template idea!! Maybe this will be the year I conquer the make-up work black hole! :)

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    1. Twelfth year... you should start a blog and teach me a thing or two! There's some wisdom that only comes with experience. Hopefully the absentee templates will help you out. That has seriously been a game-changer in my classroom. Thanks for reading!

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  21. I am 24 and about to start my first year of teaching. I have 9th graders. I am terrified. This helped me so much - thank you.

    -cwags419@gmail.com

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  22. Holy bananas. This blog is my jam. First year English teacher over here! You are my hero, ladypants.

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    1. Best blog comment in the history of ever goes to you, my friend! Your comment is amazeballs and I could just cuddle you right now. :) Thanks for reading!

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  23. Thank you for the advice. Tomorrow is the first day of my first year of teaching and I have been wondering all day, "What am I going to do?" and "Can I do this?". This post has really given me hope that, yes it will be tough, but I can and will push through it. Great advice! Thanks again!! :)

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  24. Superrrr stressed about my first teaching job right now. This is just what I needed to read. Thank you! :)

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  25. As a student teacher about to take on full time student teaching, i want to truly thank you for the advice !

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  26. I hope I'll have time to read more of your blog. Today we have a snow day, which almost made me cry with relief. I'm a first-time, long-term sub who was hired during student teaching. I began the day after graduation, only to discover that the outgoing teacher had left NOTHING in the way of curriculum or plans. I'm also a traveling English teacher with a cart. I have the students with IEPs and behavior issues and they dearly loved their "old" teacher. Of course they did; she had absolutely NO classroom procedures or rules in place. Any advice for dealing with thinly veiled hate? I spend every moment creating engaging lessons, but each day feels like a minefield in enemy territory. I genuinely like teenagers; I own one at home! Is there hope? I'm here until the end of the school year, so I'll be thankful for any positive reinforcement ideas...or maybe a cattle prod website address?

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    1. Have you ever read the Ron Clark books? I just finished The Essential 55 and it is the best teaching book I have ever read.
      The movie, called The Ron Clark Story, is really inspirational as well. First thing that came to my mind when I read your comment. :) Best of luck!

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  27. I absolutely loved reading this! I'm a Montessori preschool teacher that will hopefully one day soon teach elementary school aged children. I'm so nervous about making that jump in my career but I am looking forward to it. I love everything you mentioned in this post. My first year as a lead teacher all I did was ask for help. Many of the teachers at my school did help me a lot. It's great to know that the teacher community is so helpful! I also keep those sweet gifts and cards from students and families. They definitely help when you are having a bad day. Thank you so much for this!

    Kira
    Keepingupwithkira.com

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  28. Thank you so much for sharing your advice and inspiration. I am a first year teacher working with students with emotional disturbance at a special school for students with intensive special needs. It has been incredibly challenging as well as rewarding. I have made so many mistakes but this makes me realize that I am not out there alone in them. This was quite motivating and I very much appreciate this article!

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  29. Thank you so much. I got a long term position in a middle school five days after I graduated that went from January until the end of the year. Some days I really feel like I'm drowning. I found one of your templates on Pinterest, (the yellow sheet) and I started looking around your blog and stumbled across this. It put a smile on my face. It's been one of those tougher weeks, but this really helped.

    Thank you again!

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  30. I just today got the call that I have been offered a full time position. Starting in two weeks I will be a full time 4th grade teacher. I'm only 4 days passed my 24th birthday and I am terrified, but this post made me smile and laugh - so thank you for that. I know that my year of student teaching and this past year of substituting where I could come and go as I pleased and ON TIME has nowhere near prepared me for this next step, but I am hopeful.

    Thanks for this post, especially the humor in it. It has made me a little less terrified.

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  31. Hi...I wish I would have read your wonderful post before. Last year was my first year of teaching and it just about did me in. I worked 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week. I really thought I was going to die. I love the kids and love the dream of teaching. I am taking a break...maybe someday I will return. Thanks for the positive.

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  32. Thank you so much for this post! My principal ran across this and recommended it to me, and now I have to become your friend. I just finished my first week of teaching. Even though it was very hard, it was also the most exciting stress of my life. I teach in a very high-need school and serve students who most live in poverty conditions in Washington, DC. I also teach middle school, which is most definitely the toughest age out there! I keep a blog, but it isn't about teaching. I've stopped blogging as much as I used to because of house busy I have been, but I intend to continue documenting things at least once a week or so. And now, I plan to stalk this place. Because I can tell this blog is going to be one of the keys to my success this year. I thank you.

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  33. I was searching online for a missed work solution and stumbled onto your blog. I just finished reading the first-year teacher letter, and I'm in tears. I am so overwhelmed right now for many reasons. I was hired literally the day before school started, never having had my own class before. I didn't put my "power heels" on and remain firm; now the kids walk all over me. In the midst of these first weeks of school we've had a family medical crisis as well. I'm so exhausted and weary. I'm thankful to have found your blog and know that I will glean many wonderful gems here. Thanks so much.

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  34. Thank you for your letter. I am a first year teacher teaching first grade in a Christian School in Germany....and yep...we are having snotty nose days right now. ☺

    I am glad that I have actually been doing all of these points except one.....long term planning...which I mainly need for the secondary subject. We'll try to work on that during our fall break next week.

    A teacher friend,
    Iris♥
    The Blue Birdhouse

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  35. Hi Stephanie! Like many teachers who have commented on here, I can relate to almost everything on your list and I really enjoyed reading it. I am a first year middle school teacher. I was hired a little over a month after the school year started. It was very difficult for me the first few months because I felt like I had to "catch up" with everything. To top it off, my only experience during student teaching was in elementary school settings. It is getting better now however I do have another problem. I got engaged this summer and I am trying to deal with new teacher stuff as well as plan for my wedding (as if I wasn't stressed already). My plan is to do as much planning as I can during my winter break which is 3 weeks long! Yay! I was wondering if you had any advice or tips. Thank you! =)

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  36. Dear Anonymous,
    Since Stephanie hasn't answered in a while (this is an old blog which I, too, just stumbled upon via FB) I will. Here's to hoping you had a restful winter break, although, even though we don't know each other I already know you were hard at work! It would help to know what you're teaching, although I can give you some general tips. First, as Stephanie already pointed out...a few pieces of good quality homework are better than mounds of tedious work you won't have time to grade. Second, whenever you can, incorporate self grading and/or self-evaluation. You might think this is a crazy idea, but I have taught grades 1-5 and it works for all. In a few minutes you can rattle off the answers and demonstrate/model the work to a homework assignment it would have taken you more than a few hours to grade alone. If you are an English teacher and writing is something you don't think students can handle self-evaluating, re-think it. Here's how it works for me. I train students what good and bad writing looks like. Using a rubric we practice scoring it. First together, then in partners and/or groups, then alone. They have discussions with each other and/or myself to hash out the details of their ratings, and before long you have got yourselves some astute evaluators. When grading their own work, I hold individuals and/or group conferences to determine my (or the group's) level of agreement about a score, and then we adjust things as needed. Trust me when I say, the kids are far harder scorers than I am. I have actually adjusted scores to give them points they didn't give themselves. Lastly...choose your dress, colors, the venue...and then let someone else plan your wedding. Put your mother and your mother-in-law to be in charge. They will have a blast.

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  37. First year English teacherJanuary 8, 2015 at 7:28 PM

    Today, when I completely lost it after an especially hard day, a phenomenal veteran teacher sent me this.

    Thank you for your encouragement<3

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  38. Just came across this post after seeing it on Pinterest. Great job and spot on!

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  39. I'm currently a student going through the teaching program at my college, and it's only my first year in the program, but I have teacher after teacher bombarding me with information regarding my first year. I plan on sharing this post with my classroom management class this coming week because I feel like it is extremely helpful, true, and humorous. Thank you for the encouragement even this early in the game for me.

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  40. I've just finished my first term of teaching and it was unbelievably tough. Most days lately I'm not sure I can make it through to the end of the year. I hate that I'm not great at this yet. Thanks for your lovely post.

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  41. As a first-year teacher who also had to take over a class mid-year, I thank you for this blog post. It is true in so many ways! It's difficult, but the smallest things (like students coming in for tutoring, students actually willingly greeting you at the door, a misspelled "thank you" card (I'm an English teacher also)) can mean so much!

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  42. I love this post. A friend posted it to her FB friends, and that's how I saw it. I just finished my 13th year of teaching, and I can remember my first year so well. It was pretty much just like what you described. I didn't plan a wedding, but we had recently relocated to another county 60 miles away, and we were building a house. I think that counts as a terrible combo. I can't count how many emotional meltdowns I had that year. The points that spoke to me the most in your post were to make good relationships with students, and to plan ahead. I'm a terrible planner, but when I do, things go so much better. After these past 13 years, I can say for certain that while curriculum or content definitely matters, relationships matter more. Once I realized that, around my 7th or 8th year especially, I started to love teaching so much more. I taught high school English and French for nine years, and now I teach community college, and I can say for sure, that it's pretty much the same thing--relationships are essential. You still have to be kind of a parent, not a buddy, but you can be a caring parent/teacher who sets boundaries and really cares. Thanks for this post. It was a good reminder of truth, all the way through.

    Also, here's my favorite quote, which still holds true today, although I'm not too surprised or angry about it, ha ha: "You will write bad words on a student's paper in a fury because twenty days into the Shakespeare unit they said Queen Elizabeth wrote the play Romeo and Juliet and then you'll have to white them out." I love it. I usually mark a low grade in my annoyance, then relent and feel sorry for their lame brains and change it.

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  43. I love this...this was technically my first year of teaching, even though all I did was maternity leaves. It is amazing though how much they taught me, and ALL of those mistakes (and definitely more) I have made throughout this last year. But it really is nice to know that I am not the only one in the world that looks back and says "God, that was stupid." Thank you for sharing your insight and your mess ups and your encouragement. Hopefully, I will get to put some of these things into practice this year! Thank you for sharing!

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  44. OMG I loved this! I too am a third year techer going into my fourth year and I have made some of the mistakes, had some of those same feelings and experrienced some of those rewrds. They truly do mke up for ll of those bad days. I have been lucky to have worked with some very helpful colleagues and have also gotten pretty good at tweaking things I find in other places to make them work for my students. Now I think I'll go get that cookie.

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  45. I could not read all the content in the blog but whatever I could read from the comments made me think ,teaching is a wonderful profession for those who know how to teach and a profession only for those who do not know how to manage teaching and other parts of daily life . Marriage is a part of life but teaching is a blessings for those who chose this profession . Just be a best teacher ,work day and night and you would live for ever in the heart of those who learnt from you . Teach even on weekend ,do not worry about other daily tasks as you are responsible to make life beautiful for those you are in charge of . Do not worry about money if it is not sufficient to make a luxurious living as the luxuries of having blessed life is also a great luxury . Peace and love .

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  46. I am so happy to have found this blog. I am starting year two, and my first year was a complete disaster. Somehow, as crazy as it sounds, my glee for starting a new year can't be contained. I stayed up reading your blog, then woke up to read some more. I feel so much more prepared. Thank you for EVERYTHING please never stop writing.

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  47. I was too nice! I made that mistake. Now they walk all over me. Everyone says its easy to get sweeter not tougher...that's not a solution! ahhh I already made the mistake so how do I fix it??

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  48. May I just say this was a blessing to read. I am thinking about becoming a teacher and reading this helped me out a little. It also made me smile... and laugh. Thank you.

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  49. I think I love you.
    I just stumbled upon your blog when I googled "first year teacher overwhelmed." Seriously. We have 3 weeks left of this semester and I'm so ready for it to be over I would gut anyone who tried to push for just One More Day of class time before the break. I've made all your mistakes and more (except the plan the year part--I'm at the mercy of the department and team teachers as far as what to do is concerned) and I am so feeling the pain. Well, and except the "plan a wedding part." Although I DID almost move out of my house and file for divorce. Which is kind of equally bad. And I'm not younger than my contemporaries--I'm a "2nd career" old fart at 43. One of my teammates is young enough to be my daughter. I hate her.
    Subscribing to your blog because I, too, am an English teacher (7th grade) who enjoys profanity--I mean, has a lot of passion. A LOT of passion.

    Kisses,
    Mrs. Fellow Potty-Mouth

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  50. Love your dry sense of humour and sarcasm, im an official new beginning full time teacher! I am beginning first term in 3 weeks time, and I think if anything, remembering the hilarious wit in your blog will help remind me that beginning teacher or not, we are all human. And doing our best we can do for our future generations! Cheers- im a teacher from New Zealand reading this too, so if you are on the other side of the world, know that your blog is being read by many!!!

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  51. Love your dry sense of humour and sarcasm, im an official new beginning full time teacher! I am beginning first term in 3 weeks time, and I think if anything, remembering the hilarious wit in your blog will help remind me that beginning teacher or not, we are all human. And doing our best we can do for our future generations! Cheers- im a teacher from New Zealand reading this too, so if you are on the other side of the world, know that your blog is being read by many!!!

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  52. This was so uplifting, and made me feel a lot better about things. I am currently teaching an English class as a long term substitute for the remainder of the year, and I have felt overwhelmed, anxious, and frustrated every day that I have left so far. And I really, really can't wait until the day that I start to enjoy going in to teach, because I know it will come. However, right now seems like every day is an uphill battle. I hope that it does get better, because I don't think I would ever want to do anything else with my life. I feel that the school I work in is either 'sink' or 'swim' because it is a large, urban school district with about 1,000 students per grade and each teacher has their own things to worry about, so I tend to struggle alone.

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  53. I'm just a first year primary school teacher student, but now I can't wait to become a real first year teacher! :) 3,5 years until that, but I'll print your letter now, and save it for the hard days :D I'm studying and working too, so it's not easy, but totally worth it :) (sorry for my English...greetings from Hungary :)

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  54. Stephanie,

    I was completing an assignment for grad school (I'm studying for my Masters of Arts in Teaching) and I came across this post. It stayed it my mind for several days, so I finally decided to come back and read it. It was so down-to-earth, and even though I don't know you, I feel like you wrote this out of the goodness of your heart -- not because you wanted bragging rights ("Look how great of a teacher I am!"), but because you wanted to support newbies like me. So thank you. :)

    -Courtney from Houston

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  55. Thanks for this. it's my first year, and I'm teaching an overload--five different courses, eight sections (so 200 kids). It can feel like all I do is work, but I'm still more and more behind. Tonight I was so overwhelmed and tired that I put off finishing a rubric so I could read some encouragement. Thank you for making me feel less alone. And thank you for reminding me that having a bad teaching day does not make me a bad person. It is so good to know that every teacher, at some point, has been in my shoes.
    --Allie from WI

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  56. I needed this! I am a first year teacher this year, and I am also in a co-teach. This year had been so hard and I'm glad that I am not the only first year teacher to feel this way! Thank you for this!

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  57. Thank you for your kind and honest words! I am beginning my first year as a secondary social studies teacher and needed to read something like this. Teachers need to stick together!

    You are wonderful. You are amazing. You are a saint. Thank you for what you do.

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