About Katie Lynch

Katie Lynch is the music specialist at a small elementary school in western Arkansas, where she teaches K-6 general music and assists in dyslexia intervention. In her personal time, Katie loves to travel, crochet, and spend time with her dog, Ruby.

As a fresh-out-of-college, first year teacher, I had a mind full of ideas and expectations and a heart full of passion. Now, beginning my second year, I have the same enthusiasm on top of a year’s worth of lessons learned.  I know that there are still plenty of lessons to be learned, but there are a few things I would go back and tell myself before delving into year one. Here are 6 lessons I learned as a first year teacher that might be helpful to new teachers:

  1. There is no such thing as “too organized.” In the classroom and in planning, it can get really difficult to stay on top of organization. Being an elementary activity teacher means that you see every student in the school throughout the week, which does not leave for much transitional time. As kindergarteners are leaving, sixth graders are walking in. I learned the hard way on multiple occasions that EVERYTHING—every instrument, dry erase marker, stack of student work, the box of tissues—must have a specific home in the classroom. Before I started teaching, I considered myself to be someone who kept a workspace tidy. If you think you are organized, get more organized. You will never regret it.It is easy to fall behind on lesson planning and prepping materials when life starts to get hectic. I like to take one hour on Friday afternoon to finish tying off the loose ends for the upcoming week. If I can’t get it done in that hour, I get to school early on Monday to finish up. The incentive of not waking up extra early on Monday morning is usually enough to keep me on task
There is no such thing as “too organized.” Click To Tweet
  1. You are learning just as much as they are. Around the second week of my first year of teaching, my mentor teacher asked me how I was feeling about everything so far. With the dreadful sting of tears forming in my eyes, I told her that I felt like I had no idea what I was doing (see point #3). She told me something that has stuck with me since that day. She explained that sometimes, the students will not understand or remember what was taught. Instead of having a pity party, I needed to go home, figure out what went wrong, and try again. I can almost guarantee that I learned more in my first year than each of my students combined. Obviously, the goal is for your students to learn as much as possible, but it’s okay to accept fault, take a deep breath, learn from it, and move on.
  1. Sometimes, you are going to be way more into your content area than they are. I love opera. Opera is my favorite. Opera is incredible. Opera plays a large part in why I pursued a degree in music. Everyone loves opera, right? Wrong. That four-week opera unit for fifth and sixth grade seemed like a great idea at first. A few kids got really into it, but it probably wasn’t the best choice. As the year progressed, I began to get a feel for how to teach my students to love what I love before bombarding them with out of context information about it. Sharing personal experiences and interesting examples can give insight to why something is important for them to learn.
  1. The other teachers are your friends. As a single, childless, super awkward person who can’t cook, I spent the first few months of teaching feeling like someone who didn’t fit in with the other teachers. My happiness and success certainly made a turn for the better when I let my guard down and got to know the other teachers. I began to create relationships with my peers, and I found that we had plenty in common. Along with a few new strong friendships, I gained several sources of knowledge, ideas, and support. The funny thing about seasoned teachers is that they were all once a scared and clueless inexperienced teacher!
  1. Treat yourself! I cannot tell you how many days I went home feeling alone and defeated during my first year. I discovered the beauty in taking care of myself. The counselor at my school (one of the aforementioned strong friendships) explained to me that keeping your emotional “tank” full is just as important as keeping your gas tank full. If you’re running on empty, you will inevitably find yourself stuck in one place. Go to dinner with a friend. Watch the sunset with your dog. Buy some new makeup that makes you feel great. Go for a long drive on a pretty day. Splurge on string cheese and get the name brand. I am constantly finding new ways to fill my tank and keep myself going. When I am energized and feeling well, I am able to be my best self for the students.
  1. It gets better. It truly does. I am four days into year two and can already say that the upcoming academic year is going to be great. I am sure to have my fair share of hard days, but with each heartbreak and frustration I am becoming a more experienced teacher.   


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