First, let me begin by saying, "Congrats!" I know from experience that landing your job is a major accomplishment. Maybe your hiring process was simple, maybe it took months, or even years, for you to get your position. Regardless, congratulations!
Before the inevitable panic fully sets in, let me remind you of a few things. First, you are capable of hard things. I won't sugarcoat this first year, but I also want to remind you that you are tough! Second, remember "your why" to teaching. I know it's super cliche, but it is 100% true. If you can reclaim the reason you chose this profession, your job will become both easier and more enjoyable.
Here are just a few pieces of advice. Some of these are from personal experience, and some of these are pieces of advice given to me by seasoned teachers.
1. Don't decorate your room a ton.
Ok, I'm the first person to admit how hard this is. I'm in love with Joanna Gaines just as much as the next person. You've got all those Pinterest boards, with your dream room. You've been collecting ideas from your field experience/student teaching, and you finally have your own space. However, you don't fully know what you need.
A few general decorative ideas are safe to assume: supply area, your desk (obviously), classroom jobs, sign-out/in area, and an inspirational/motivational area (maybe a bulletin board, posters, or decorative pieces). Other than that, keep it simple. I promise you will quickly know what you truly need.
For example, once I knew my students, I created a way to motivate them/track their individual credit. You need to wait it out, learn your students, and THEN you can decorate more. Halfway through the year, you'll know more about what you need.
2. Phone your fellow, seasoned teachers.
I reached out to three close friends, who are also high school ELA teachers. They were gracious enough to give me ALL of their resources. Yes, you read that right--ALL! I was blown away by their kindness. We're talking 15+ years of ideas, resources, etc. just handed over to me.
I was not able to use all of their resources for my students, but I do use many of them. Most teachers want to cheer others on because they've all been in your shoes. So find a friend, take them to coffee, and gather any ideas you can from them.
3. Meet your coworkers/department team.
Our school had a luncheon before school started, which allowed me to meet the two gals I would be working the closest with. It was encouraging to meet them before school, and get a feel for our dynamics. Maybe even a simple group text, or a quick meetup, would help you feel more prepared for the first year.
Not every person you work with will be your BFF, but maybe you'll get lucky and find some friends along the way.
4. Try to map out the first month.
It can be extremely daunting to know where to begin, especially when you may not know your student population well. I found a few "get to know you/personal" activities that helped me the first few weeks.
Your main focus during the beginning is to establish routines, structure, and learn your students. Don't plan a three-page argumentative essay with them in the first month. Ease into the year, and establish a rhythm with your students.
I also have a post entitled, Curriculum Mapping 10 Tips, which might be helpful. I explain how I mapped out an entire school year in three days.
5. Create a get-to-know your teacher activity.
My personal favorite is by Write on With Miss G (linked here). It's entitled, "First Day of School Investigate the Teacher Activity" and could be used for grades 5-12. It's only $1.25 and allows students to make inferences about you in an engaging way.
Students want to get a feel for who you are, so why not make them practice a skill in the process of learning about you.
6. Create some type of class syllabus/guidelines/rules.
I'm all about letting students brainstorm what rules they want to establish, and that works for some teachers. But I knew that wouldn't work for my classes. I wanted them to know this is not a democracy. That might seem harsh, but the population I work with needs boundaries and structure.
One of my first-day activities is this Language Arts Student Survey.
Here's a little about this resource:
Use data to structure lessons
Allow students to share their learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities in reading/writing
Questions could easily be made into a Google Form, to collect data digitally
Another first-day activity for me is this "Back to School: About Me" resource I created. This resource allows you to get to know your students better. You can use this for remote learning or in your physical classroom. Students complete seven Google slides by filling in the information based on the questions asked. You could even make a copy of each students' first slide, combine them into one, and let the entire class have access to get to know each other.
Whatever you chose to do, make sure there are expectations set the very first day. Then comes the tricky part, stick to them! For more lesson ideas, visit my back-to-school section on my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and don't forget to follow me so you do not miss any updates.
7. Find a mentor in the school, if one isn't given to you already.
There is no shame in not knowing. How could you possibly know how to do something you've never done? The first year of teaching is unlike anything you've ever experienced. There will be people in your building who have been in your shoes, know what you're feeling, and want to help you.
Ask for help. Share your concerns, questions, and struggles. Find a mentor (if your school doesn't provide you one already) and go to them. Most, I repeat most, educators want to build each other up. Find your community, and lean into them.
I promise you, you can do hard things. Your first year will be hard. You'll look back and laugh hysterically at yourself one day. Be quick to admit when you messed up. Reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. Be open to feedback and suggestions. Invite people to observe you (I know, ick..who wants that?). I am a word of affirmation girl, so I have a hard time hearing anything but the positive. But I promise it will all make you stronger and better at what you do.
You are a tough cookie, and I believe in you! Remember "your why" and maybe post it someplace you can see it. If all else fails, treat yourself to some coffee (or your beverage of choice) and remind yourself, "I am capable. I am strong. I can do this!"
To all of my seasoned teachers, what is one piece of advice you would give a first-year teacher? Please, leave your comments below!