Letter to a 1st Year Teacher

Dear First-Year Teacher,

Congratulations on finishing school and getting your first teaching placement! I know that right now you are probably feeling waves of excitement, panic, more excitement, and more panic. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes! How well I remember those feelings (and, if I’m honest…I still have some of those same feelings a few years later!)

This next year is not going to be easy. You are going to be challenged in ways that you can’t imagine. There will probably be times that you wonder what on earth you just spent four years and thousands of dollars learning…because all of a sudden, you feel like you don’t know anything!

And there will be times of great joy. Joy when you get to witness a student finally understanding a difficult concept; joy when a student accepts Christ as their Savior; joy when you see all that God is going to accomplish this year.

As you prepare for your first year, can I give you some advice? Advice that I am still learning to take myself?

Don’t expect to be perfect

You will make mistakes this year. You will forget to call a parent when you were supposed to. You will probably lose a paper. You will unfairly punish a student. You will have a lesson (or two…or twenty) that you will feel like you bombed. You will not be perfect.

And can I tell you something? Mistakes are okay! You are learning. Nobody expects you to be perfect except you! When your students make mistakes in class, do you tell them that they just aren’t cut out for Math and are failures as students? No! You encourage them that their mistakes are helping them learn. They might not be there yet, but with some more practice, they are going to get it!

But as teachers, we sometimes don’t make very good learners. When we make mistakes, we berate ourselves and convince ourselves that we just are not any good at teaching. We’re failures.

You’re not a failure…you’re learning!

When you do make a mistake, be willing to admit it. Don’t get defensive, don’t shift the blame -just admit that you messed up. Apologize to the child, parent, fellow staff member, or administrator and keep serving the Lord through it all!


Be Ready to Learn

You are coming out of school and you have learned so much over the past few years! Add the extra educational books you read “just for fun”, the teacher blogs, and Pinterest…your brain is full! You may feel ready to take on the world with your technology and current best practices in education.


With all of your newly acquired knowledge, still ensure that you are willing to listen and learn from those around you.

  • Other Teachers – especially those long-standing veterans! Their 30 years of experience will often trump your college textbooks! Pick their brains for ideas. What has worked for them when they faced different issues? How would they deal with this behavioral problem? How would they phrase this issue when talking with a parent? Just because they may not be on the cutting edge of educational technology doesn’t mean that they don’t have an abundance of wisdom! (I personally wish I could trade some of my technological “expertise” for about 15 year of wisdom and experience!)
  • Your students & parents – be open to their feedback! It doesn’t mean that you have to “give in”, but be willing to listen and consider. Have a humble and open attitude. If a parent complains about a situation, be willing to take a step back and look at it. Go and ask for feedback from an unbiased person. If after listening and examining the situation, you believe that you are in the right, humbly explain your reasoning and see if there is a compromise that can be reached. You don’t need to be a pushover, but you do need to listen.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance (Proverbs 1:5)

Practice Gratitude

Keep a gratitude journal. Write down those “little” pockets of joy that come your way throughout the days. When you go to pray, use your gratitude journal to specifically praise the Lord for these instances.

  •  Johnny learned his multiplication tables after he was struggling with them for weeks.
  • Cindy got a B on her History test after you helped her study.
  • Matt’s sparkling grin with his two missing front teeth made you smile.
  • The scribbled “Best teacher ever!” on the back of Hannah’s Spelling test.

Keep record of it all, no matter how small and faithfully thank the Lord for each and every moment of grace.

Satan would love to get you down in the dumps by focusing on the things that go wrong in your class – the F that Jeannie got, the disgruntled parent, the loads of paperwork. He would love to keep you right there. Don’t give him the satisfaction! Those “wrong” moments are also blessings in disguise. Your Heavenly Father is trying to help you learn something! He loves you so much that He is always going to be working to conform you to His image (Romans 8:28-29). God is working His perfect plan throughout it all!

Focus on the blessings that God is lavishing on you and your students…even if those blessings come in untidy packages.

Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20, emphasis mine)

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians. 5:18, emphasis mine)


Keep Your Perspective


As you juggle the lesson plans, grading, and meetings, don’t forget why you are doing this.

It’s not for the money (I’m pretty sure you already knew that.)

It’s not for the summer break.

It’s not about your own glory (i.e. being a kid’s favorite teacher)

It’s all about Christ.

It’s about how He has loved you so much that you have chosen a profession that will daily give you the opportunity to share that love with your students. It’s about how patient He has been to you so that you can show that patience to your kiddos. It’s about how great God is and getting to show your kids glimpses of Him through the subjects that you teach and the way you relate to them.

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done (Psalm 78:4).

Rely on the Lord

This year will be a roller coaster.  You will be exhausted. There will be tears and there will be laughter. There will be moments of defeat and moments of victory. There will be students that you might not reach but ever so many that you will!

Through the ups and downs, remember that you are not alone. Your Father who has called you to this is faithful to help you through it (I Thessalonians. 5:24).

When you feel overwhelmed, run to Christ for help and trust in what He is doing.

When you feel like things are going great, run to Christ in praise for what He is doing.

The best way to face this upcoming year is not getting a jump start on lesson planning, spending hours on Pinterest, or reading the latest educational articles and books.

The best way you can start this year is on your knees.

The best way you can survive this year is on your knees – pray for your students, their parents, your fellow staff and administration, and pray for yourself, especially for wisdom from the Lord (James 1:5).

In all of the busyness, don’t neglect your relationship with the Lord. You need Him more than anything else this year and every year of your life!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (I Cor. 15:58)

I am thinking of you as you take on this exciting new year! Love God and love your kids, and you will do great!

In Christ,



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Finding Peace in the Chaos

Don’t you love stock photos of teachers?

The teacher with every hair perfectly in place…her beautiful unwrinkled button-down shirt. Her glistening white smile. The beautiful chalkboard behind her. Her students sitting in spotless desks with their hands eagerly outstretched, waiting patiently for their turn to talk.

It always looks so calm and peaceful. It doesn’t look like me or my classroom.

My hair is thrown back in a messy bun because I just don’t feel like dealing with it anymore. My shirt is covered in pen marks and fruit cocktail juice (from tearing off those plastic coverings on fruit cups at lunch). I choose to not look at the desks because they give me nightmares. My whiteboard is covered with marker residue, and I have forgotten to change the date at the top again. And the kid with the eagerly outstretched hand…he is already talking and just about falling out of his seat from waving it.

Some days, it’s just a little bit of chaos.

Maybe your classroom is never chaotic – you and your students really do look like those stock photos (you are my hero! Come help me, please!). But the chaos in your life comes from elsewhere – a diagnosis, a failing relationship, financial stress, a breaking heart over a wandering child.

God’s Word has so many examples of people whose lives are in chaos – men and women just like us who feel like they are spinning out of control. Yet many of these men and women still found joy and peace amidst the storms raging around them.

One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is the story of the disciples being tossed around in a boat during a great storm. They are probably struggling to hold on as the winds whip them around. The waves keep pounding their little boat, and soon the water is pouring in and filling up. They are panicked. They are freaking out as they bail water. They are doing everything they know how to do to try and save themselves.

And through it all, Jesus is right there with them…asleep.

The disciples rush over to wake Him up and the accusations fly out of their mouths before they can stop them.

Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing?

Oh, the cry of the overwhelmed soul! My heart knows it so well!

Lord, don’t you care that I just lost my teaching position and have to find a new one within a few months?

Lord, don’t you care that I am trying to juggle the demands of teaching with caring for a failing parent?

Lord, don’t you care that I am serving you but struggling to pay the bills?

Lord, don’t you care that I love children but can’t seem to have any of my own?

Lord, don’t you care that a loved one was just diagnosed with cancer?

Lord, don’t you care about the loneliness I feel?

Lord, don’t you care?

And as my heart cries out, the storm keeps raging around me…the water level keeps growing, and the wind threatens to knock me over.

Then, His voice slices through the storm.

Peace, be still.

Instantly the storm ceases.

Imagine the relief of the disciples – one minute they are bailing out water and saying their last prayers, and the next moment the sea is perfectly calm.

Jesus turns to them and lovingly confronts them,

“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

You see, the circumstances had changed for the disciples…but one thing had not changed, and that was their Savior. Christ cut right to the heart of the matter – His disciples were panicking because of a lack of faith. Their gaze was on the storm…not their Savior.

Lack of peace stems from a lack of  faith and focus.

They were never going through that storm alone. Through it all, Christ was right there with His disciples. Yes, for awhile, He was silent…but He was still right there, and He knew exactly what was going on. He brought the disciples to the end of themselves so that He could direct their focus to where it should have been the entire time.

The disciples forgot (or did not truly know, based on their later response) who was in the boat with them.

The secret to peace in the midst of storms is remembering who is in the boat with you. 

God lovingly and ever so carefully brings us through storms to grow us closer to Him. No gust of wind or wave can break over your ship without Him knowing and allowing it. No storm is faced on your own. In fact, He has already successfully faced every storm that you will ever come up against and is waiting to help you to do the same.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Dear friend, whatever you are facing…you are facing it with Christ right by your side. He is growing your faith by bringing you to the point where you can do nothing else but turn to Him. He wants you to get to know who He is.

If the disciples truly had realized who was in the boat with them, they would have realized that He was…

  • The Creator of all (Ps. 136:5-9, Ps. 95:4-6, Ps. 100:3)
  • Sovereign (Is. 55:8-9, Ps. 115:3, Ps. 138:8)
  • All-powerful (Jer. 32:17, Ps. 147:5)
  • Loving (Ps. 94:18-19,Is. 54:7-10, Rom. 8:35, Jer. 31:3, Ps. 117:2)

In your storm, turn your gaze to whom your God is. Remind yourself of His promises. Cling to His character. Your chaos is not too much for Him to handle.

Peace, just like joy, is not a feeling that depends on circumstances. It’s a fruit that the Spirit grows in our lives as we get to know our God more and more.  Run to Him – knowing Him is the true and only source of lasting peace!

A few of my favorite resources if you are facing your own storm…

*Please note that I do not necessarily endorse every aspect of the above resources, but they are ones that I have personally found to be helpful for me!

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