I cried every day for 3 months during my first year of teaching. I was incredibly unprepared for how difficult and demoralizing being a teacher could be. But I survived—even thrived eventually—and want to help other new teachers get through.
I was so excited for my first classroom—setting up my room and planning lessons. I had so many great ideas and couldn’t wait to share them with my students. I wanted to be fully prepared.
Enter a job offer on a Thursday. Enter a start date the following Monday. Within 5 days, I had to move and get ready to start the school year. Not a lot of prep time. The tears began.
Teaching is emotionally draining. You care about your students. You want to do it right. You put so much thought and effort into all parts of the lesson, that when it doesn’t go as planned it’s absolutely devastating.
My boyfriend couldn’t understand why I stayed at school until 5 pm after getting there at 6:30 am, and then worked until bedtime when I got home (Dear teacher staying at school and working all hours at home, I know why you do it, but I urge you to take some time off.) I was trying to keep up with everything expected of me, as I learned on the job.
In my first year, I had one of the toughest kids in the school. Behaviors from this kid ranged from running across the top of the desks and using headphones to place around other student’s necks and try to strangle them to some of the most colorful language I’ve ever heard and sniffing petrol in the toilets.
I pulled out all the tricks I had learned at Uni to try and help him with his learning. I had the best behavior and educational plans, I used all the low-key responses and went through the various stages. We used different contracts and had reward systems that he chose, but all to no avail. I would send him to the office so that the students and I could have a break, but 5 minutes in the office for a talk and he was back again. Study can only prepare you for so much. There’s a learning curve—especially with new teachers often given the toughest class with the most problems—and it would help to have a mentor or experienced support in your pocket.
Recent reports show more than 40% of teachers leave within the first year. And it’s usually due to lack of support, such as placing new teachers in tough situations with little to no support. Maybe this is telling us that how we treat our graduate teachers is not really working. To this day I’m surprised that I stayed past that first term. The first year of teaching shouldn’t be so hard.
I tried so hard to make the first few weeks of school fun and engaging. I acted like I was totally together and had it completely under control. But you know what, I was only fooling myself. Around week 5, I finally got up the courage to approach my principal to ask for help. Asking for help was a big step …I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t handle it. The response was totally demoralizing.
I was told, with a pat on the shoulder, “Don’t worry about it, you’re doing a great job!” The one thing that kept me going was the friends that I made in that first year—other new teachers who became close friends. We helped support each other through that first year of teaching.
Towards the end of the term, the other new teacher that I started with decided that he couldn’t hack being a teacher and quit. I took this opportunity to take over his classroom (instead of the isolated room in an outbuilding I had been in). It was in the main part of the school and right next door to one of the other teachers I had become good friends with. That’s when things started to turn around.
So did the tears stop in Term 2…. Well not completely, but having my teaching buddy next door helped. Having a tiny bit of experience helped. I still wished I had more support, but I got through.
I know just how much support counts in your first year of teaching. Imagine having planning resources and printable activities at your fingertips. Better yet, imagine having a place to share ideas, ask questions, vent about a tough day. I wish I had had that kind of support off the bat. That’s why I created the First Year Thrive New Teacher Support Program. If you’re just starting out as a teaching, you don’t have to cry every day. There is help.
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