Dear New Teacher,
This is it. All things have been leading up to this very moment. You are days away from walking into your first classroom and meeting your first set of students. You are at the top of the world and your mind is swirling with possibilities. I am over-the-moon excited for you, but I think there are a few things you should know.
You matter more than your classroom décor. Admit it. You’ve peeked into nearby classrooms and marveled at the expansive library or clever bulletin boards. Or perhaps Pinterest led you to classroom reveals with elaborate themes designed by actual classroom stylists. Meanwhile, you have been scraping together pennies to DIY everything, are still sorting through the junk the previous teacher left stashed in your cabinets, and are feeling a little defeated. I get it. We all want our classrooms to be lovely and inviting, to inspire learning and help students feel safe. But do you know what makes students feel truly welcome and safe? YOU. Greeting them at the door with a smile, telling them, “I am so glad you were picked to be in my class. We are going to have an amazing year!” When your students see how much you love them, they won’t even notice if your classroom colors don’t coordinate. I promise.
You are one of a kind. Think about it. Teaching is a highly competitive field. This job didn’t just fall in your lap. You may have been competing against hundreds of applicants for this one position. The interviewing team analyzed every candidate and said, “We want YOU.” They believe in you. They know that you have what it takes to help the kids in their school reach new levels of achievement. So stop comparing yourself. Be inspired by others. Be challenged to grow. But don’t ever entertain the notion for one second that another’s success makes you less. You. Are. Enough.
You are just getting started. You will see teachers that seem like they have it all together. And maybe they really do. You will see teachers doing something effortlessly that you struggle to do even a fraction as well. Don’t let that discourage you. You are your own harshest critic. Would you speak to your students the way you talk to yourself in your own head? I know you wouldn’t. So when you are tempted to think you are the worst teacher ever, give yourself the same grace and patience you give to your students. You’re new at this. Teaching is one big trial and error experiment. Even the best teachers make mistakes all the time. It’s about learning from our mistakes and finding a better way next time. Commit to a growth mindset where mistakes aren’t signs of failure, but catalysts for growth.
You are meant to thrive. I know right now everything is exciting and the school year is full of possibilities. But the time will come when the challenges you face start to take their toll on your energy and enthusiasm. Trying to manage everything you need to do with the time and resources you currently have is enough to send you into Survival Mode. If you find yourself at some point this year feeling disillusioned about teaching, I want you to know that you are completely normal. Seriously, check out this research.
What is the cure for disillusionment? Connection! Connect with your colleagues that “get” you. Sometimes you will be blessed to find that person right next door, but other times, you will have to reach out a little further to other schools or even online. The important thing is that you surround yourself with friends who will celebrate your successes and lift you up when you are feeling down.
You are a visionary. There are many paths that may have led you here, but one thing is certain. You have a vision with the power to change lives, and the passion to follow through. You have imagined exactly the type of teacher you want to be, the quality of relationships you hope to build with students, how you want your classroom to look and feel, and the strategies you want to use. If you haven’t done so, it’s time to make that vision tangible. Write it down, make a collage, or design a Vision Board. Collect words, phrases, inspirational quotes, and pictures that represent the teacher you envision yourself to be at your very best. Revisit your vision when things feel overwhelming. It will sustain you through the difficult moments and reignite the flame when it starts to flicker. Never forget why you are here. Your why is everything.
You have what it takes. There’s no doubt about it – teaching is HARD. Plan for everything you can, but be creative and flexible when things don’t go according to the schedule. You will face many obstacles this year and for years down the road. But you are up to the challenge.
You are going to be a phenomenal teacher!
A Not-So-New Teacher
Beth Frueh is an educator and curriculum author with more than 12 years of experience as an intervention specialist and elementary classroom teacher. She currently has the privilege of mentoring new teachers in her district full-time. She misses having her own classroom and students, but loves being able to encourage teachers, support them in creating sustainable work habits, and provide a listening ear. She is dedicated to creating engaging resources for grades 3-5 that are truly differentiated to meet the needs of all learners, which can be found in her TpT store. She also loves to share ideas and strategies on her blog, Adventures of a Schoolmarm, including a series specifically for new teachers. You can also follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.