10 Things Veteran Teachers Want First Year Teachers to Know

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Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/ktB4mj
Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/ktB4mj

Shortly after posting 10 Tough Truths About Your First Year of Teaching, friends of mine began reaching out to share their own tough truths and a bit of hope as well.

“You need to tell new teachers how it gets better,” one of them suggested. “You need to leave them with a bit of light.”

Point taken, and thanks for the feedback. I loved reopening this conversation! Veteran teacher friends: I’m wondering what you would add.

10 Things Veteran Teachers Want First Year Teachers to Know

1. Know that the days are long, but the years are short. Each year will bring you increased confidence, strategies, resources, and connections to those who will support you.

2. Know that happy veteran teachers haven’t merely made failure their friend, they’ve embraced failure publicly, allowing others to see how they are bettered by it.

3. Know that creating the learning space of your dreams requires time and money and therefore, patience. Make your wish list public. Veteran teachers like to share, hand-me-downs are a first year teacher’s blessing, and some parents make generous donations.

4. Know that for every child whose needs you fail to meet, there are dozens more who are growing and thriving because of your dedication.

5. Know that not everyone will like you, and this is okay. You don’t like everyone either, after all. Strive to be respected instead, and work hard to be respectful of others, especially those you dislike.

6. Know that eventually you will be able to distinguish between the leaders who depend on you because you empower them and the leaders who depend on you because you empower your students and your colleagues.

7. Know that if you share your needs, many of your colleagues will work hard to help you meet them. New teachers often feel that they have a lot to prove. You do. Don’t worry about this so much that it prevents you from asking for support, though.

8. Know that when you choose to care for yourself first in order to continue caring well for your students and your colleagues, you’ll find out who the most confident and compassionate teachers in your system are. They are the ones who are doing the same. Make them your mentors.

9. Know that often your hardest days are hard because you care and because you know that the work that you do matters. Even when you fail (and you will) continue doing perfectly imperfect work for the right reasons. This is what perseverance feels like. This is how  you will become great over time.

10. Know that twenty years from now you will be a veteran teacher who gets sentimental every time you meet a first year teacher. This is because you will still love what you get to do each day. You will also know that the lessons you’ve learned, even the ones that hurt, made you the teacher and the human being that you are.

I can remember my first years of teaching as some of the most stressful years of my life. Growing our confidence takes time. It also requires the support of wise and patient mentors who are willing to hold our hands, dry our tears, and cheer us on as we make gains. Making time to reflect helps as well.

If I were to give any new teacher one bit of advice, it would be this: seek role models who validate you as much as they inspire you, and when you find them, work hard to make them your friends. They will help to sustain you.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.

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