For every teacher, the first year of teaching is quite overwhelming. There is so much in the field of education that college just cannot prepare you for until you are on the job; so imagine undertaking a first-year teaching position this school year, in a post-COVID world. Of course, depending on where you live and the current health conditions, many may feel like they are still in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Others’ lives may feel almost back to normal. No matter which position you find yourself in — masks or no masks? Distancing or not? — there is one thing we all understand…we will always be more aware and probably more concerned about the spread of disease as a result of the COVID pandemic. This concern, on top of all the other adjustments that a new teacher has to make, can seem almost impossible to cope with. The following are some ideas for new teachers to consider as they begin their careers post-COVID.
First of all, precautions are still a good idea.
Regardless of what your state or district guidelines are, it is still a good idea to take precautions such as wearing a mask, social distancing, extra hand-sanitizer, more hand-washing, disinfectant wipes for surfaces, etc. in order to limit the spread of illnesses. These extra precautions should still be utilized on a daily basis when it is possible. The important thing is to know current health conditions and what is going on in your area. Know the rules and guidelines. Don’t set rules that you can’t actually enforce when pressed. Do what you can do to keep your room as germ free as possible.
Talk to your teammates and veteran teachers in your building. Veteran teachers, mentors, teammates, and administrators are all great resources for guidance about these post-COVID issues as well as typical issues that go along with a teacher’s first year of teaching. Reaching out to others with more experience can really lighten the load and provide necessary guidance in a multitude of areas.
Staying organized is so important for first year teachers. For all the forms, data, records, and other daily tasks, new teachers can get organized by creating some lists with tasks to complete daily. This might include cleaning routines to keep your classroom as germ-free as possible. In a post-COVID classroom, new teachers can also help their students by recording seating arrangements and keeping those arrangements consistent throughout the school day. Seating charts are very important for contact-tracing in the event that there is another outbreak of COVID or a variant.
Whatever the rule or procedure, whether it is something that has been implemented as a result of COVID or not, teachers must be sure to be consistent in enforcing them. Students find comfort and security in consistency.
With every increase in the challenges that teachers face, developing meaningful relationships becomes even more important. We know that having relationships with and truly knowing our students makes a huge difference in the social, emotional, and academic well-being of our students. In a post-COVID classroom, there will be children who have been in emotional and mental turmoil as a result of being isolated or in difficult domestic situations for so long. There will be students that struggle with anxiety related to the virus. There will be students that have fallen behind significantly. You will only be aware of these needs if you have meaningful conversations with your students. The relationships must be developed first in order for those conversations to be made possible. Students must know that you truly care about their mental and emotional state, as well as their academics. Also, it is important for new teachers to develop relationships with colleagues. Teaching can be stressful on the best of days. With COVID concerns thrown into the mix, new teachers will need even more support from their coworkers. Lastly, with ever-changing rules and regulations related to COVID, it is important to seek to develop relationships with the parents. If parents understand your commitment to their child, they are far more likely to be understanding and supportive regarding necessary changes to procedures and policies.
Take care of yourself
For new teachers, this is essential. So many that are brand new to the profession burnout very quickly. With the added concerns that a post-COVID classroom will bring, it will be even harder to retain new teachers. First of all, for many new teachers, illnesses can be a real struggle. My first year of teaching I was bombarded with one illness right after another. It seems that new teachers tend to be very susceptible to common illnesses. Therefore, there is even more incentive for new teachers to strive for the kind of protected environment that goes along with cleaning, sanitizing, masking, and social distancing. The new teacher suffers if he/she is ill, but the students suffer from the inconsistency that goes along with teacher absences.
Teachers must also be vigilant when it comes to caring for their own mental and emotional well-being. Novice teachers must take some time to walk away from 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 teachers. Walk away and get renewed, rested, and ready for the rewarding experiences ahead.
As all of us in education have struggled through the last 18 months, trying to figure things out as we go along during this unprecedented time, I do not envy brand new teachers. A post-COVID classroom is a lot to contend with. However, with help and support from others, the first year teacher can make a successful transition while also making a positive impact on the children they serve.