Five Easy Tips for Surviving the Toughest Years of Teaching
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Teaching is one of those careers in which you need to find an ally, a like-minded colleague or two, in order to survive your first couple of years in the industry. Several years ago I had the good fortune of finding colleagues who made sure I was well-read, supported, and laughing when I should have been crying. Read on for five things you and your co-workers can do to thrive during those dreaded first years of teaching.
1. Get honest feedback (before) your yearly review.
A grade-team member who can provide honest, non-threatening feedback is invaluable. If you have a smart phone or a video recorder, have them record your lesson and review it together. Not only will you and your co-worker have an easier time dissecting and discussing the lesson, but you'll find small things about your teaching that you never would have imagined. (I was surprised by my tone, the number of interruptions I allowed from aggressive student speakers, and the discovery that I called on more boys than girls in a particular lesson.) Once you've left the safety of student teaching, video may be one of your most trusted resources.
2. Feed your professional spirit.
Have you and a co-teacher(s) sculpted an amazing plan to educate yourself and in turn empower students? Join a group or write a grant to get funding to carry out your mission. Groups like Fund for Teachers will respect your dreams, treat you like professionals, and actually award funding for numerous winning ideas. Take a look below at what some Fund for Teacher teams are doing this summer.
*Two teachers will...
--"explore zen meditation and philosophy as practiced in Japan by participating in workshops and interviewing experts at temples, meditation centers, and Zen gardens to help students reduce anxiety and increase social/emotional competence."
--"investigate in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Salvador, Brazil, female participation in Capoeira to equip young women with tools to feel powerful and worthy of respect and challenge young men to rethink their conceptions of masculinity and femininity."
--"utilize Finnish schools as a lab to research best practices for maximinzing secondary math learning to align teaching with Common Core Standards and close the achievement gap without over-relying on high-stakes standardized tests."
(Grant applications have ended for this summer but start brain storming for the next round of FFT professional development.)
3. Start a lunch club.
Whenever I see beautifully-plated, delicious-smelling lunches in a teacher's hands at my school I ask two words. "Lunch club?" And the response is always a joyful, "Yes!" One member provides lunch (often crock pot creations with a great-looking side salad) for the other four members once a week. These teachers ditched local fast food stands for home-cooked meals and unintentionally shed a couple of pounds. With just a few minutes to gobble their food before the next lesson, they make sure they have nutritious food to keep them moving.
4. Heed the call of nature.
Find a bathroom buddy (a staff member you can call, the teacher across the hall) and make plans to go regularly! Holding in urine for extended periods can cause bacteria growth and in turn, painful urinary tract infections and other kidney problems. Your buddy will force you to make time to take care of yourself in order to care for your students.
5. Stay fresh.
Is there an avid reader in your building who has bookmarked the best sites for education news, trends, freebies, or grants? Put them to work for everybody! Ask them to create an e-mail blast of their favorites articles or posts once or twice a month. They may even be willing to create a Pinterest site just for your school or your grade team.
In return, chip in to buy them a fabulous lunch or dinner on a monthly basis. Debate or discuss points or items in their posts over dessert. It's worth it — their weekly or monthly excerpts could keep you current and save you cash.