Dear First-Year Teacher: I'm Sorry!

TeacherVision Advisory Board member and veteran teacher, Olivia, offers a sympathetic, yet positive message as first-year teachers embark on the second half of their first year in 2021.

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first-year teacher stressed

Dear First-Years:

First off, I am so sorry! This has been one of the most difficult years in teaching, let alone for a first-year teacher. I totally get it—this is most definitely not what you had envisioned when you went down this path. Images of freshly sharpened pencils, “first day of school” outfits, and bright, happy smiles greeting you in the doorway have been replaced with spotty wifi connections, mute buttons, and unprompted pet or baby sibling “show and tell”! While this may be overwhelming, draining, and even making you consider a career change already, there are a few things you should know.

You are incredible.

Imagine any one of your friends or relatives getting their first job only to show up on the first day to be told they need to learn how to do it in a new, barely even imagined way! Do you think they could completely rewrite the manual of how to do their job overnight and see success? Better yet, would their success hinge on the actions of children from 3 to 18 years old? For most, the answer to this is a resounding “NO”! However, that is exactly what you have done! Whether you are fully remote, hybrid, or completely in person, your day-to-day job is nothing like what you learned in school. But that’s the amazing thing about teachers—you have a nearly infinite level of flexibility, and an innate ability to drop everything and start over in a matter of seconds, and you do both very well. So, while you may have doubts about whether you are doing enough, too much, or if you are doing it remotely right, it’s extremely important to remember that what you are doing is incredible because you are incredible.

You are a pioneer.

When you think of the word “pioneer”, you picture the discovery of modern medicine, electricity, or air travel. While these are all excellent examples, the fact of the matter is, a pioneer is anyone who is the first to use, apply, or create something. That is exactly what you are doing in your first year of teaching in 2020-2021. You are experiencing, creating, and living a reality that has never before been experienced, and are doing so in your very first year! You will make mistakes—such is the reality of doing great things—learning from your successes and your failures. So while you may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and stressed, remember that this is because you are in the process of becoming a pioneer in your field.

It gets better.

Pandemic or not, your first year of teaching is hard. You will constantly be making lists of things you want to do or implement, you will work 12-hour days and have a to-do list longer than when you started, and you will carry home bags of work to do over the weekends that you may or may not get to until Sunday night, if at all! The truth is that you can work every spare second of the day (and more) and you will always feel as though there is more you could be doing. That is what makes you a phenomenal teacher, and regardless of these seemingly endless tasks, it will get better.

Give yourself grace.

It is okay to need a break. It is okay to go home and think about family, friends, or anything other than school. You may be the anchor and beacon of light or hope for many of your students, but you need to take care of yourself as well. You cannot share your passion and energy if you never refuel. Allow yourself time to relax and recharge, and dismiss the feelings of guilt when you do something for yourself. You are allowed to be human, and you are no less of a teacher for wanting or needing those things. Mistakes will be made this year just as it will any other year. Just like you expect of your students, continue to learn and grow and work towards a better you every day.

Your initial purpose remains the same.

No matter how this year goes, whether your students gain 10 reading levels or 1, your initial purpose for becoming a teacher remains the same. Make sure your students know they are cared for, make sure your students know you believe in them, and above all, make sure your ultimate goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of your students. Because no matter what method of teaching you are leading or delivering, if you focus on those three sentiments, you are exactly what your students need right now.

So don’t ever forget that you are inspiring and unstoppable because you are a teacher who undeniably helps change the world! And for more resources, please download TeacherVision's comprehensive New Teacher Toolkit here.

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