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)
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!