It’s August, which means summer is winding down. For some of us, it’s already time to sharpen the pencils, line up the hand-sanitizers, and iron the dress pants.
Preparing for a new school year can be daunting, whether it’s your 1st year of teaching or your 20th. Sometimes it seems like teaching is becoming more and more complex, with new standards, rules, regulations, and methodology. However, sometimes the simple truths can really be the most important. Here are some things to remember as you head back to the classroom this fall.
1. You are impacting students even when you don’t know it. There will be so many days when you wonder if you’re doing anything at all, if anyone is hearing you. Even when you feel invisible, someone is watching you.
2. Failure is sometimes a necessary element of growth. We remind our students of this, but sometimes we forget it applies to us as well. A failed lesson does not equate to a failed teaching career.
3. Communicate with parents about the good and the bad. Some teachers forget what strong allies parents can be. Most parents want their children to be successful. Reach out when you need help with a struggling student, but also let parents know when their child is doing well. Show parents you’re also on the cheering squad for their children.
4. Your colleagues are your allies. My first year, I skipped lunch to work in my room. I’ve realized now this was such a mistake. Take time to interact with other teachers every single day. Having time to decompress and share concerns, frustrations, and triumphs with those who understand can help you fight stress.
5. There WILL be tough days, no matter how good you are. Many first-year teachers aren’t prepared for the “real” world classroom. I pictured the classroom of textbooks, where as long as I worked hard, the students would be smiling and learning. There will be days when you want to cry your eyes out, days when you want to run out of the classroom and never come back. For these days, I keep a scrapbook of positive notes, cards, and letters former students wrote for me. These remind me I’m making a difference and just need to hang in there.
6. When things go wrong, ask yourself: Does this really, truly matter? Don’t lose focus of what really matters, which is the students. Sometimes, you truly do have to pick your battles. Keep your sights focused on your overall goals in the classroom.
7. Laughter can make even Mondays bearable.
8. Sometimes a one-minute conversation can make the difference. For some children, school is the only place they get positive attention. Take time to talk to the kids whenever you can and show you really do care.
9. Every person just wants to be noticed. We all go about getting noticed in different ways, but we all want to feel special, welcome, and important. Figure out how to do that for all students, even your most disruptive.
10. Your passion is contagious... but so is your lack of passion. If you don’t love what you’re teaching, your students won’t either.
11. Technology is not the enemy. Find ways to learn new technology and use it to better your students’ learning experience.
12. Putting the lesson plans away for one night to relax is not being selfish.
13. You have about 9 months to make a difference. These 9 months could completely change a child’s life.
14. You are preparing students for the world, not for a test. Sometimes the life lessons you’re teaching outside of the tested material is more important. Time spent teaching skills for the “real world” is not wasted time.
15. Sometimes the most brilliant minds are disguised by difficulties. It takes a devoted teacher to look at the bigger, deeper picture and see potential.
16. Sometimes a student just needs someone to believe in him or her. Strive to be that person for your students.
17. Compromise is essential in all areas of life. Model compromise for your students when you can. Don’t be afraid of giving up some power in order to teach compromise in areas you can afford to give a little.
18. Helping students find their own answers is your goal. Teach your students to be their own teachers.
19. Innovation takes courage. It’s easy to do what you’ve always done, but it’s not always the best. Don’t be afraid to change, to think outside the box, to innovate in your classroom.
20. You went into teaching for a reason. Reconnect with those reasons. What did you hope to accomplish? What did you envision for your career, your classroom, your students? Sometimes just reminding yourself of why you started can help you when you are feeling lost.
I wish you the best school year of your teaching career filled with smiles, learning, fun, and the strength to persevere through the tough days.
Lindsay is a high school English teacher and a published author. To learn more about her work, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.