New Teacher, New Pressure
As a new teacher, you will have what some days may seem an unending source of stress in your life. There will be the pressures of managing your classroom solo for the first time. This pressure is coupled with being in a new school, surrounded by faculty you don’t know. If you want to survive, and thrive, you need to build a support system for yourself within your school.
Building Your Emotional Support System
As a teacher, we are trying to meet the demands of our students and families emotionally all day long. Depending on what level you teach, the emotional demands of the day may range from comforting students who fall on the playground to working with students who are struggling with bullying. Being emotionally supportive can leave you emotionally drained at the end of the day. So it’s important to build a support system to help you develop a well-rounded set of social, emotional skills at your school.
In your support system at school, avoid including the teachers and staff who play the blame game. In other words, the people who blame the parents, students, or even society when they have a bad day with students. Although sometimes there is some truth to this, it still isn’t productive. Instead, you want to find people in your school who can help you nurture your social-emotional skills. Learning this skill set will reduce your stress in the classroom and improve your classroom management. When you have a strong set of social-emotional skills, you are better equipped to deal with students with a variety of issues from anger management to depression.
Learn to Practice Self-Compassion
You will also feel less drained at the end of the day because you will learn how to show compassion to yourself, just like you do for the students in your classroom. On the days when you are being uber-critical of yourself, or have an observation that doesn’t go well, you want someone to talk to who can nurture self-compassion. This person could be a teacher who serves as your mentor, or even a guidance counselor. In either case, you need at least one person in your support network.
Build Your Curriculum Support System
The another area where you want to build your support system in your school is the curriculum. As a first year teacher, it is likely that you haven’t taught much of the subject matter required before. Though you may have studied it in college, actually teaching it in the classroom is very different. You want to find colleagues for your support network who can support you as you develop lessons for your classroom.
Build Relationships with Colleagues
If you have colleagues who teach the same grade level and content as you do, that is the best place to start. You want to be proactive and build relationships with your colleagues. Being proactive means deliberately sitting with different groups of teachers at faculty meetings or events to get to know them. If your school has a designated time for teachers in the same content area to work together each week or month, make it a priority to be at those meetings. Odds are, your colleagues are more than willing to help once they get to know you.
Even if you are the only teacher in your building teaching your class, there will be teachers who can help you. For example, if you are teaching a co-curricular or elective class, talk to the other teachers in this department. They will have helpful hints to share about your unique teaching situation. If you are teaching 7th-grade science, build a relationship with the other teachers in your grade level. Your English teacher may have ideas for how to incorporate writing and reading into your lessons, while the Social Studies teacher may be able to support you in classroom management.
Include Your Administrator in Your Support System
Especially as a first-year teacher, it is easy to be intimidated by your administrator. The reality is that they are a critical portion of your support system as a new teacher. Just like with your students and colleagues, you want to deliberately build a relationship with your administrator.
To build this relationship, you want to start identifying what they do and do not appreciate in teachers. In general, administrators appreciate teachers who are focused on growth both in themselves and their students. Administrators are not usually enthusiastic about teachers who obsess about points and grades, rather than what students know and need to be able to do.
For example, having a battle with your administrator over a failing student who has gotten all A’s on your tests and quizzes isn’t usually a way to build this relationship. Instead, trying have a conversation with your administrator about the unique situation with the student and ask him for his opinion about the most productive way to handle it. He may have knowledge about the student’s history you are not away of.
If you are struggling with classroom management, don’t avoid your administrator and just start writing referrals. Rather, talk to your administrator about the challenges you are experiencing and explain you need some help growing strategies in yourself to deal with the students challenging behavior. Remember, they were once a teacher too and will have ideas that you can put into practice in your classroom. They will also appreciate you being proactive, which will strengthen your relationship when you find yourself in difficult situations with students and parents.