While teaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession, it can also be very difficult. This is especially true for first year teachers. Many first year teachers go from being full of enthusiasm and energy to being completely overwhelmed by the tasks ahead. Also, most new teachers come to the profession with a utopian vision of what teaching should look like. They are excited about seeing that spark in their students’ eyes when they learn something new. However, new teachers face so many challenges as they prepare to teach the students they are assigned in their first position. That utopian idea quickly changes as the reality sets in.
Challenges New Teachers Face
Here are just a few of the challenges new teachers face as they adapt to the reality of teaching:
This is the number one challenge for many new teachers. The first shock from the ideal teaching environment that most have in mind will be that not all students are cooperative and kind. Also, many new teachers will simply not have experience with classroom management and discipline. Most supervising teachers already have a grip on classroom management and discipline when student-teachers arrive. Because of this, many new teachers feel completely unprepared for the task of dealing with classroom discipline.
Juggling Too Many Duties
Teachers wear so many hats. New teachers can be completely overwhelmed when they realize that they are not only the teacher, but also a counselor, nurse, resource provider, mentor, data analyst, etc. It is quite tricky to learn to juggle all of that while also trying to be the instructor, curriculum expert, and facilitator of learning.
Lack of Teamwork and Support
Unfortunately, many new teachers go into their first teaching job to find that they are completely on their own in navigating the rough waters of the first year of teaching. Many schools don’t have an effective professional learning community (PLC) or a mentoring program established. Without collaboration among teachers, it is very difficult for a new teacher to find their way. In addition, many school districts don’t provide teachers with adequate resources to teach the required curriculum. New teachers end up trying to find appropriate materials without enough support from veteran teachers or administration.
New teachers have no doubt been taught in their undergraduate programs how important differentiation is. On top of looking for their own instructional materials, these teachers must also find materials that will meet the needs of a wide variety of abilities and learning styles.
Too Much Paperwork
Lesson plans, data analysis, and maintaining documentation, for a wide variety of purposes, are just a few examples of the paperwork that new teachers have to keep up with. It is difficult enough for veteran teachers to manage. It can be nearly impossible for new teachers.
With all of the challenges listed above, new teachers can be left feeling very inadequate and as if their efforts are for nothing. It is very difficult for first year teachers to see significant learning gains while dealing with all of this. Many begin to feel that they may have chosen the wrong path.
Classroom Management for New Teachers
So, here are a few suggestions for routines and procedures that can help new teachers learn to conquer the challenges of managing their own classroom.
Reach Out to Veteran Teachers
As new teachers are tackling all these tasks, the guidance of veteran teachers can be invaluable. Reach out to some and ask for advice. They can provide many tips and tricks from all their years of experience. They can also help with resources for materials. By reaching out to other teachers, new relationships can be developed that will help novice teachers both professionally and emotionally.
For all the forms, data, records, and other daily tasks, new teachers can get organized by creating some lists to check off everyday. For me, even as a veteran teacher, I can’t keep up with all the tasks if I don’t have a list. Between progress monitoring, grade cards, marking papers and recording grades, progress reports, keeping in contact with parents, weekly class newsletters, etc., keeping a daily list is an absolute necessity.
Ask for Help
New teachers cannot be afraid to do this. They need to know that they can go to their principal, assistant principal, instructional coach, team leader, or mentor and ask for help. Most administrators know how overwhelming all the challenges are for new teachers and are willing to provide some relief from the weight of all the obstacles.
Establish Clear Expectations
New teachers must make sure that their expectations are made very clear from the beginning. It can be very helpful to have a parent meeting early on in the school year to let parents know what the rules and procedures are for the classroom. For the parents who can’t make it, teachers can give them a positive, upbeat phone call to introduce themselves and let them know how the classroom will operate. This can prevent a lot of problems and conflict later on. By establishing these expectations with both students and their families, teachers are able to be proactive.
It may sound simple and obvious, but the teacher’s presence, just by walking around the room and monitoring, can make a huge difference in preventing misbehavior and disruption. It can also help students to stay on task. Another great idea is to greet students at the door at the beginning of every day or class period. This conveys a message to students that the teacher is excited and enthusiastic about the day ahead, which can be contagious!
Whatever the rule or procedure, teachers must be sure to be consistent in enforcing them. Students find comfort and security in consistency.
Develop Relationships with Students
I believe this is one of the most important tips for new teachers and veteran teachers alike. As discipline can be the most overwhelming and discouraging part of teaching, developing sincere and genuine relationships with students can make a huge difference in how the classroom operates and the overall classroom environment. As teachers invest in these relationships, students quickly learn that the teacher genuinely cares for them. It is much harder for a student to disregard instructions or lack effort when there is a strong connection between student and teacher.
Schedule Some Downtime
For new teachers, this is essential. So many that are brand new to the profession burn out very quickly. This is the reason that we lose so many young teachers early on in their careers. The new teacher cannot spend all of their time on their job, even though there is easily enough work to fill up every minute of your day and still not get everything done.
But to prevent this, the novice teachers must take some time to walk away from those tasks. They must learn to sometimes put down the stack of papers or the plan book and watch a favorite show, curl up with a good book, or spend time with friends and family. This can be like a reset button for us as teachers. Walk away and get renewed, rested, and ready for the rewarding experiences ahead.