Here we are on the cusp of the true New Year again, at least for those of us whose calendars revolve around the school year. I have been thinking about what advice I might give to those preparing for their first year in the classroom. In reflecting, I realized that the advice was just as relevant to me, in my 23rd year of teaching, or to those taking on a new grade, or at a new school, or in a non-classroom setting for the first time. So, here goes:
The overarching idea I came up with was that of balance. I know that seems trite, but the things I thought about all kept circling back to that main idea.
So, where do we need balance?
In our interactions with each other; trying to find that balance between being a careful, thoughtful, engaged listener, and not being afraid to share our ideas and contribute to the conversation. Especially as young teachers, it can sometimes be intimidating to throw an idea into the mix – after all, all these other teachers have tons of experience, right? Don’t lose sight of the fact that you bring your unique gifts and experience to the table. Always be willing to listen and learn, but don’t be willing to disappear – strive for balance.
In our time management; I know this is a huge one for me, and has been throughout my teaching career. I have had to learn, in some cases the hard way, to find a balance between my professional and personal life. Most of us are utterly passionate about what we do for a living, and that can become all-consuming. Remembering that there is a world beyond planning, assessing and giving feedback can be a challenge, but it is incredibly important. If you’re in a new community in particular, find things to engage you outside of the school building – an ultimate Frisbee team, a community choir, tickets to a film series. Having a life outside the school building (especially if you’re a singleton) can, without exaggeration, be the thing that keeps your head in the game inside the building. As you progress through your career, try and keep this one going. Remember, when they come along, that your own kids deserve as much patience and understanding as the ones in your classrooms.
In the line between doing too much, and doing enough; don’t take on every volunteer commitment in the building, but please, take on at least one – coach a team, be a union steward, play piano for the choir. If you have any musical skills at all, please consider using them to help your students – it’s an area that’s disappearing in many schools. Get to know your students in a non-classroom context. It can be a gift to all of you.
There’s more, but you’ll figure it out along the way. Strive for balance. Enjoy the ride. Have a great first day, everyday.