I’ve thought quite a bit about what teaching is going to be like as a first-year teacher, finally freed from the proverbial shackles – okay, that’s a little bit hyperbolic – of another teacher’s strictures and style. (Of course, the flip side of that is that the teachers you work with generally have worked to get those sorts of things lined out and know to a degree what does and doesn’t work.)
I want to invite more seasoned teachers to comment on their own first-year experiences, but let me hypothesize for a moment about what I think I need to keep at the forefront of my preparation for this year.
I think that one of the biggest things that I need to try and establish right off the bat is credibility. Part of that is showing that I am competent in English language arts, first with spoken language (because that’s always evident to students) and then with written language and with literary study. I’m hoping that won’t be a problem (I like to think that I’m good at all those areas), but the students also have to believe that I’m not just capable of understanding language and literature but that I also know effective ways to teach it.
Authority is also another issue for me that plays into discipline. Yes, the students have to understand me as an authority in the subject matter, but they also have to acknowledge my authority for running the classroom effectively and that I understand what their non-academic needs are in the classroom (e.g. social, expressive, creative) and can attend to them. Walking that fine line between having relationships with students and becoming too friendly but not authoritative enough is a tricky one that I’ve always struggled with because I do like talking with my students and being empathetic about what’s happening in their lives. Obviously, that boundary can be navigated; lots of teachers manage to have good relationships with students while keeping an appropriate distance.
I also know that organization is something I have to keep in mind – for everything I do as a professional. It matters in the classroom, where I’ve already started to organize my own thoughts about organization (how will I organize homework? late work? assignments? etc.), and it matters outside, for whatever data collection will be required of me – perfectly possible since I have non-tracked classes and could have students who haven’t been identified for services (although I would hope not at that point in high school) – and also for the obligations I’ll have as a part of the professional community (faculty meetings, etc.). I hope my Palm TX will help with that.
Perhaps a little thing for me is wondering how I’ll get along with my coworkers. I’ve had pretty decent relationships with coworkers up to this point, and I know that teaching can be sort of a tight community, so I hope that I can build bonds and find mentors (well, at least one).
So, seasoned educators, tell me how your first year went. I’ve had teachers tell me that the first few years are tough, but share with me the kinds of things you had to deal with and perhaps even how you dealt with some of the concerns I’ve expressed here. I’d love to hear suggestions for traversing the rough waters of being a new teacher.