Note: If you’re interested in learning more from Julia Thompson, register for her free webinar, How to Survive and Thrive as a New Teacher.
Accepting that first teaching position is a moment any teacher will always remember. As you start your new career, it is exciting to realize that the years of study and the long hours devoted to filling out applications were all worth the effort.
While this memorable moment is a joyful one, like so many other significant times in our lives, there are other emotions involved as well. Many new teachers almost immediately begin to worry about what lies ahead. Will they be prepared for the responsibilities of their own classrooms? How will they fit in? What if their students are unmanageable? The complicated emotions at the start of a teacher’s career can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, with thoughtful planning and a bit of focused effort, you can conquer those troublesome doubts beginning the day you are hired. Here are a few tips to help you get your career off to a great start.
Organize your professional paperwork.
Once you accept a teaching position, you will probably meet with representatives from the human resources department who will guide you through some important professional paperwork. In addition to signing your contract, you will have to make thoughtful decisions about personnel matters such as retirement plans, payroll deductions, health insurance and other benefits that you now qualify for as a new employee. Whether your district maintains digital files or paper copies or a combination of the two, keeping these documents organized and easily accessible is a sensible idea. You should set up a digital folder on your home computer to store any electronic documents. (It is never a good idea to keep your personal information on a school computer because of the lack of privacy and because that computer is designated for school use only.) If you do not have a file cabinet at home, a large expandable file folder should provide you with enough space to keep your paperwork organized. Promptly file your professional paperwork so that you can access it easily in the future.
Become familiar with the structure and expectations of your district.
As a new employee, you should learn as much as you can about the organization you work for as soon as possible. School districts, even small ones, are composed of various departments designed to work together for the benefit of the students they serve. One way to find out more about your new employer is to spend some time online learning about the key positions in your district such as the office of the superintendent, the school board, and other positions such as content-area specialists, program managers and resource administrators. In addition to learning about the structure of the organization, be sure to investigate your district’s policies and expectations for employees. Almost every school district will provide links to various documents related to employment concerns such as evaluation procedures, computer use policies, professional conduct, licensure requirements, data management, and classroom management expectations. It is well worth your time to become familiar with these policies and procedures as soon as you can.
Make an appointment to meet with your department head, grade level leader, or team leader to discuss curriculum issues.
Because many of your new co-workers may still be on vacation, be respectful of their time and schedules, but do try to meet with the staff member in your school who can help you obtain the books and other resources you need to start planning instruction. Ask about obtaining textbooks, materials, timelines, planning guides, pacing guides and the other school-based resources that will help you prepare appropriate lessons in the year ahead.
Start exploring the online resources about your grade level, content or curriculum.
The more you know about the subject matter you will be expected to cover, the easier it will be to plan instruction that will meet the needs of all your students. A good place to begin to learn more about the material you will be expected to teach is with an online search. Each state’s department of education maintains a website where you can access information about the standards of learning, various assessments and other resources to help you plan instruction. Even if you will not be teaching in a public school, the comprehensive online resources available at the state level can be helpful. Your district may also provide links to useful resources. In addition, with just a simple internet search, you can find a lot of valuable information about the topics you will be teaching . Professional organizations such as Share My Lesson also offer a wealth of valuable information and lesson plan ideas for teachers who take the time to investigate.
The real benefit of acting now is that the more prepared you are for the start of school, the easier it will be for you to focus on instruction and your students. This sharp focus will, in turn, increase your confidence and allow you to extend the joy that you felt at being offered a teaching position into the year ahead.