First Time Teachers

The First Year of Teaching

                                    I believe the children are our are future

                                    Teach them well and let them lead the way

                                    Show them all the beauty they possess inside

                                    Give them a sense of pride to make it easier

                                    Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be

                                                                                                Whitney Houston, 1986

I am sure that every pre-service teacher has heard all of the horror stories about the teaching profession. The first year of teaching can make or break a novice teacher and determine their views and feelings of the teaching profession forever. Maintaining the idealism which inspired us to become teachers may be hard to sustain in the face of many problems that teachers face. However there are strategies which will allow first time teachers to overcome initial difficulties and make the transition from new teachers to effective teachers.

The classroom is a very busy place and new teachers should give themselves the best possible start to their first day teaching. Before school starts, new teachers should visit their first school, meeting the school staff, getting to know the school, important procedures, where to locate your classroom, facilities and equipment for students. Being prepared and organized for your first day at school is a sign of professionalism which is appreciated by principals and mentors.

Many first year teachers struggle to keep ahead of the daily paperwork as keeping records and other daily duties. As time is so precious to teachers, it is important that new teachers give their day some kind of structure to allow more efficient use of time. New teachers can structure their day through the use of diaries, folders, notes, calendars, and to-do lists. Teachers should also employ the use of technology to keep the level of paper on their desks at a minimum and use technology to maintain files as student records, grades, assignment notes

New teachers can minimize many of the negative experiences of misbehaving students by being organized and prepared before school. New teachers should visit their classroom, setting their classroom up how they see it suits their teaching needs. It also involves providing any pictures, posters and other information which may assist in student learning. For example in a mathematics class, the new teacher may want to set up posters of times tables or bring in simple objects as triangles or shapes that may assist with learning.

Being prepared and organized Is a sign of an effective teacher (Sterling 2009). New Teachers should put in place their expectations of students by establishing classroom rules. These classroom rules should be formed with the help of students which provide the basis of a safe classroom environment based on principles of mutual respect and trust. Teachers should also put in place routines and procedures which set out rules for going to toilet, lining up outside and leaving the classroom.  By being prepared, teachers will minimize many of the classroom misbehaviors which arise when student’s time is not occupied.

A factor in teacher burnout is new teachers believing that they do not receive enough support from administration, colleagues and parents. Many new teachers are afraid to ask for help, believing that asking for help is a sign of weakness or being unable to cope. However, support from fellow colleagues and parents contributed to the decline of teacher burnout (Mclain 2005).

Collaboration is the key to successful teaching. All new teachers have many questions that need to be answered. These questions range from where to find equipment to assistance with curriculum development and classroom management. All around us will be a wealth of information and resources to navigate us through our first year of teaching. Principals, assistant principals, school administration staff, librarians, experienced and veteran teachers.

There are also key support staffs that can assist us with classroom management and behavior problems or learning problems that teachers should get to know. These support staff include student counselors or welfare officers, teacher aides, the Support Teacher Learning Assistants (STLA’s). Other important support staffs that can assist new teachers are the English as Second Language teachers, reading assistants, behavior assistants, Aboriginal Education Officers.

Like our students, new teachers need to develop a sense of belonging in a new environment. Without this sense of belonging and assistance from other more experienced teachers and support staff, new teachers can develop feelings of isolation and a lack of support which contributes to teacher burnout. Mentors are important for all new teachers in providing not only support and assistance, but in providing encouragement, evaluation, feedback and guidance.

If our schools are communities of learning, then within our classroom we should form a community of learners. Our students need an environment which meets their needs of safety and encouragement. New teachers can build a community of learners by treating their students with mutual respect and providing encouragement to all students. New teachers should get to know their students names and take an interest in their student’s development, listening to their problems and finding solutions to help all students achieve their goals. 

Parents have been viewed for all teachers that are underestimated and viewed as a nuisance than and should not be underestimated for the impact that parents can have on improving the behavior and motivation of students in the classroom. New teachers should not be afraid to make contact with parents and should be proactive in speaking to parents either in person, by phone or by email. New teachers should be open to all ideas of encouraging parents to be proactive in their child’s education through newsletters and inviting parents to participate in the school activities.

Working as a team with colleagues, support staff, and parents helps new teacher’s to not only avoid feelings of isolation, but allows new teachers to feel part of a ‘community’ of individuals who have the best interests of our students in their hearts and to encourage all students to be the person that they want to be. Together we can help our students not only be successful learners, but also to be good citizens.

The key factor for a positive teaching experience is to maintain a positive attitude our attitude that we bring with us into the school impact everything that we do during the day in front of our colleagues as well as our students. With being organized, school principals are looking for new teachers who are energetic, vibrant, dynamic, positive and strong leaders in the classroom (Kono 2010).

The attitudes that we bring into school influence everything that we do inside school. It affects our views towards our profession, it influences our behavior and relationships, and it also influences our approach to teaching in the classroom. A negative attitude influences the school as a workplace and the school as a place for building positive relationships through encouragement and support.

Our attitudes toward teaching are reflected in our appearance and our manner. If teachers maintain a professional appearance by dressing neatly and using manners, this will demonstrate to both colleagues and our students that we have a high regard for teaching as a profession. In turn, our attitude also demonstrates that we believe that what we are teaching is important. If students perceive that we do not have a high regard for teaching, they will be less likely to have respect for us as teachers and this will impact student behavior in the classroom.

New teachers which display positive attitudes make a difference in the classroom. A positive attitude creates a positive classroom environment where teachers set high expectations not only for their students but for themselves. Teachers need to challenge themselves every day, to be reflective on what is working and what is not working in the classroom and adjusting strategies. Teachers who have a positive attitude are innovative and display a confidence or self-efficacy which allows them to be creative in the classroom.

The passion and enthusiasm that new teachers bring to the classroom reflects our positive attitudes to teaching. If teachers believe that what they are teaching is important, then our students will see our passion for the subject. Students who are inspired in the classroom will enjoy learning and will not find the subject boring and be distracted which allows for misbehavior in the classroom.

As role models, students look to teachers on how to behave as adults. Teachers may be frustrated with student behavior and resort to yelling or screaming and other negative behavior. If teachers are negative in dealing with student misbehavior, this will only lead to increasing teacher frustration and burnout. Teachers should avoid becoming emotional and deal with student misbehavior by reminding students of what is appropriate behavior in the classroom.

Being a teacher should bring out the best, not the worst, in teachers and students. It is important for new teachers to have a sense of humor, to display appropriate behaviors to our students, and to teach our students that we all make mistakes but we must learn from those mistakes. Changes to student behavior will not happen overnight, but by remaining positive teachers can develop resilience and will be able to develop coping strategies which will make them better teachers.

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