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Dear new teacher, first-year teacher, education major, and everyone in between,
Welcome to the world of teaching. We are excited you have chosen our profession. You must have had an amazing or several amazing teachers that inspired you to join our world. Make sure you tell them. We all need to hear that we made a difference in your life. You will soon find out how important it is for students to tell you how much you helped them. While education is the most rewarding career you can possibly go into, there are some things you really should be aware of, things that no education class could prepare you for so, I am going to.
1. Finances. I know you did not go into education for the money, but you really need to find out how you are paid. Is it once or twice a month? Are extra checks sent out during the year? Are you sent a check every month or just the nine months school is in session? These are all questions you need to know. You have to learn to budget because you will be spending part of your check for classroom supplies, it is just a reality. You will eventually learn self-control, but you first start teaching, you don’t have any supplies so you will buy. You also need to find out about your state’s teacher retirement program, health insurance (including vision and dental, which is usually not included in health insurance), and your district’s sick day policy.
a. You need to find a mentor teacher if you are not assigned one. She is the most important person on the school grounds. She will push you to be better. Teach you the ins and outs of your school, and will help you grow in ways you didn’t even know possible. She will tell you thinks you do not want to hear, but it is because she loves you and wants the best for you.
b. You need a teaching BFF (best friend forever). This person may or may not be your mentor teacher. You need someone to make you laugh, bring your coffee, and bring you the copies you left in the teacher’s lounge. You need someone who will keep things light, even on your darkest days.
c. You need a person that is teaching or has taught your content. Beg, borrow, and steal from them. It is really important because your first few years will be spent trying to develop your teaching style and learn to manage a classroom. While content is important, trying to reinvent the wheel while you are still learning to swim is overwhelming and frankly, unnecessary.
d. You also need to make friends with the custodians and school secretaries because these are the people who make things happen.
3. A teacher to be aware of in the building. Education is hard and over the years, education sometimes changes people. I know you have heard about negative teachers, and they will drain you. They are tired, and many of them have had enough. Do not let them pull you down. Stay away. Run toward your tribe. But, you need to be aware of another type of teacher. The teacher that thinks she knows it all and will put down any idea, new concept, or change because she thinks she knows best. While you can see her way of doing things, there is NO reason you have to do everything the way she does. We are all different, and the way she teaches does NOT have to be the way you teach. Do NOT let anyone tell you otherwise. Always be open to new ideas and ways of doing things, but never let anyone tell you that there is only one way to do something. These people will stifle you. Listen politely, take notes, but do what works for you. If it is her way, great, if not, that is okay too.
4. You may not teach what you thought. We all have big dreams of teaching British Literature or Physics, but the reality is you may not. You may teach remedial English or repeaters environmental science. Sometimes you just have to pay your dues. You never know, those difficult classes may be the most rewarding ones you ever teach, who knows you may never say what to leave freshman world geography after you have taught it. You may have three different preps. You may not know what you are teaching until August. Expect the unexpected. Education is ALWAYS in flux and nothing every stays the same. Expect the unexpected. Education is ALWAYS in flux and nothing every stays the same. Click To Tweet 5. Keeping your certification. What do you have to do to keep your certification? Take classes? Earn your masters? Pass evaluations? Ask and find out. Do not wait for anyone to tell you what to do. While you are at it, see if there is a way for you to get certified in more than one subject or grade level. It may be as simple as a test. There is nothing wrong with making yourself indispensable to your administration.
6. Organize and save everything. Twice. Invest in dropbox or cloud and save everything. Even with education standards changing, you will be able to use something again with tweaks. Organize your lesson plans and attach all handouts to them.
7. Lesson plans. Do them. You will feel more organized and prepared. Make them detailed and you will be able to reuse them. Work hard now, and later it will pay off.
8. It is okay to switch. There is only one person you owe your loyalty to and that is yourself. If you are unhappy, switch schools, grade levels, whatever you need for YOU. If you are not happy, those kids will not be able to learn like they need or deserve. You need to be happy and deserve to be, do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
9. Kids come first. One of the best lessons to learn is to love the kids. Love them because you may be the only one that does. It is not always about passing a test or understanding the play, “Macbeth”. It is about being there for our future generation of adults. Love those babies like they are your own because they really are yours.
While education is difficult, there is no career more rewarding. One of the most important rules of education is doing what is best for our kids. No matter what standards change, what new test arrives, or what “new” teaching technique arrives, only one thing stays the same, and that is the love teachers have for our kids. Love them and your career will be extraordinary.