The One Thing EVERY New Teacher Must-Do to be Successful

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New teachers are leaving the teaching profession at an alarming rate. According to a study by the advocacy group, Alliance for Excellent Education, 40-50% of new teachers leave teaching within the first 5 years. There are many factors that contribute to high turnover. If you ask veteran teachers why new teachers leave the profession quickly, they will tell you that many young teachers can't handle the stress of the classroom.

One thing EVERY new teacher must-do for a successful school year is prioritize self-care. Healthy boundaries, real teacher self-care, the ability to say NO, and having strong teacher-mentors are essential tools in the "survive your first few years of teaching" toolbox. 

Healthy Boundaries 

People are generally not good at setting personal and professional boundaries. They fear that boundary setting will come off rude or will hurt someone's feelings. The truth is that teachers are often causing more confusion by not setting boundaries and clearly communicating boundaries to students, parents, and colleagues. 

New Teacher Tip - As you are creating procedures at the beginning of the school year (homework, grades, classroom routines) think carefully about how you are communicating those procedures to the stakeholders in your classroom (students and parents). Communicate your expectations and the interventions you may take if those expectations are not met by a student (or even a parent). Interventions are not punishments, but they are consequences you will uphold if expectations are not met. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but your students and parents will take you more seriously if you follow through and keep your word.

Mind Your Feelings

Want to set yourself up for failure in your first few years of teaching? Set an expectation that you are going to be happy all day, every day. Teaching will bring you lots of joy and satisfaction but it will also bring you tough moments too. Be realistic about the fact that it is impossible to be happy all day every day. 

New teacher tip - Try keeping a journal or using a mood tracker to stay in close touch with your emotions and feelings. Your feelings are created by your thoughts so pay close attention to the conversations going on in your head. Stop yourself a few times a day and check-in with yourself: How are you feeling? What types of thoughts am I thinking? Is something bothering me? What is bringing me joy?

Find Good Mentors

You may think self-care is only about the way you treat yourself, but self-care is also about the people you include in your work-life. The people you spend your time with will have a major impact on how you feel about your first few years of teaching. Make it a priority to find positive and reliable mentors within your school community that will guide and support you during the tough days (and the fabulous days) of teaching. 

New Teacher Tip -  You'll most likely be assigned a formal mentor in your new role, which is a wonderful gift. As you start your teaching career, you'll find that your informal mentors, the mentors you seek out on your own, will be even more important in your early success. On the first few days of school, be on the lookout for teachers who are positive and engaged in school staff meetings and who generally seem happy to be at work. People who love teaching usually have their stuff together - so seek them out for mentorship and advice. 

Leave Work at Work 

It is tempting to take your teaching life home with you, especially on the weekends.  Taking papers or lesson plans home with you may make you feel more organized and ahead of the game, but it can also distract you from your personal time, including the important relationships in your personal life. 

New Teacher Tip - Start good habits now by building time in your calendar to stay at school and get your work done. It is totally fine to stay after school or come in early each day to get yourself prepared for the time the students are in your classroom. You may have fellow teachers judging you for being in the building so much, but leaving work at work will help you from becoming overwhelmed and stressed out at home.


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