What better way to help new teachers prepare for their first year in the classroom than tapping into the lessons learned by professional educators who just went through the experience? Now heading into the second year of their teaching careers, Laura Greenwood of Koelsch Elementary and Jon Parrott of Horizon Elementary in Boise agreed to share some of their notable experiences from year one. No longer rookies, these IEA members offer advice and suggestions for first year teachers.
Laura Greenwood–The first few days of school passed and I quickly discovered the most difficult part about teaching; there simply is not enough time in the day to accomplish the exponential number of tasks that teachers are responsible for on a daily basis. Since there are too few hours in the day, I had to figure out strategies to be successful. There were many helpful ideas that I took away from my first year of teaching.
- Your teaching partner is your biggest resource. Putting my trust in her at the beginning of the year was a lifesaver. As the year progressed I began to have more time to tweak my planning to make it my own, all the while working from a solid foundation.
- Let your students teach you their ways. This one took me a while to appreciate. I began the year thinking that I would be the one teaching my students everything they would need to know, but in reality, my students helped me quickly grasp the culture of the school and useful methods for learning.
- Try new things! Teachers are constantly learning about new ideas and activities. I found that some of my favorite days of teaching were when I would step out of my comfort zone to experiment with new lessons and strategies.
- Lastly, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions! I eventually understood that if I were hesitant with what I was doing, I needed to ask someone to clarify my uncertainty. It was a great way to get to know my staff and to save myself from re-doing plans and projects.
Jon Parrott– Last year was both an exhilarating and exhausting journey of many uncertainties. I have to admit the profession of a sixth grade teacher, boys and girls basketball coach, boys and girls track coach, along with playing a role in a student leadership committee was a bit more than I bargained for. Nevertheless, I discovered it was through all the challenges and moments of adversity that I grew as an educator, peer, coach, friend, husband, father, grandfather, and possibly most of all, a gracious and love- filled human being.
My advice to incoming first year teachers is to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. After all, it’s difficult to take care of others’ deficiency needs when we haven’t taken care of our own. Another recommendation I have for first year teachers is to develop reciprocal relationships with admired and accomplished veteran teachers to share ideas with and gain their discernment.
A first year teacher should know there will be an enormous amount of peripheral processes, procedures, and situations that seem urgent and require your utmost consideration. However, I discovered when I made the students within my classroom the center of my attention, I was better able to prioritize the importance of everything else today’s educator needs to do to be successful.
I offer the same advice I offer my students, “mistakes are going to be made, so forgive yourself for the mistakes and then learn from them”. Lastly and maybe most importantly, remember your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself every once in a while. Best wishes from me to you and have a marvelous first year. After all, you’ll only be a first year teacher once in your career, so enjoy it!