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How to Survive Your First Year of Teaching 
 
by Katie Eyles May 23, 2005

Nearly half of all new teachers quit after the first 5 years. Many teachers go into the classroom unprepared for what they find: crowded classrooms, disruptive students, mountains of paperwork, and high expectations for teachers relating to technology and student achievement. Feeling alone, exhausted, and unsuccessful, many new teachers simply quit. While there are no absolute answers, following these five suggestions can help you avoid becoming a statistic and actually help you enjoy your first five years.

Teaching is a demanding profession, but it can be a very rewarding one. In few professions do you actually have the power to change people’s lives. New teachers often come into the profession with a desire to help, knowledge about their specific field, but very little information about how a school really works. By following these five suggestions, you can avoid many of the new teachers' pitfalls.

Get to Know Your Students before They Are Your Students

Many new teachers make the mistake of waiting until their students walk into the classroom to get to know them. By that time, the students have the advantage. They already know three things about you: your name, the fact that you are new, and that you don’t even know their names. In many cases, that is all the information the students need to make a terrible first year for their teacher. Unfortunately, if you start on the wrong foot in the classroom, it is difficult to recover your balance before the end of the year.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you know your students. Each child has a permanent record with his/her picture in it. These records are usually housed in the main office or in the counselor’s office. Look at the pictures, take time to skim the folders, and make notes about your students. Pay special attention should to any type of handicaps, allergies, or challenging behaviors. You also may want to make note of their last standardized test scores, since this is one way you will be held accountable as a teacher. Also listed on the folder is last year’s teacher. If you have questions, go to the previous teacher. Don’t wait for the children to fill out information cards, go ahead and write down phone numbers and put them in a place you can easily access them. If you are teaching elementary school, make nameplates and stick them on the desks. With every grade, check with last year’s teachers before making out your seating chart. A seating chart helps to put you in control of your classroom. Never begin the year by letting students select where they want to sit. Later in the year, you can change the seating arrangement or give them choices as a reward for good behavior, but the seating chart is essential in maintaining control of your classroom.

Along with knowing your individual students, it is also good to be familiar with the age you are teaching. Each developmental age has its own set of interests and challenges. A kindergarten student is much different from a third grade student, even though they are both in elementary school. A 10th grade high school student is much different from a senior. If you don’t have children of your own, try volunteering at your church or at a community center. Learn the vocabulary, the fades, and the fears of the age group you will be teaching. Talk to the counselor to get ideas. Search on-line for articles about your age group. Then, include some of what you have learned in the way you decorate your room or in some of your lesson plans. If you are a teacher who takes an interest in what your students like, you will notice they respond to you much more positively. A second grade student learns verbs much better if you relate the lesson to Scooby-Doo than if you teach the lesson straight from the textbook.

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