Join our diverse force of leaders shaping the course of our nation.
5 Pieces of Advice a New Teacher Will Take to the Classroom
Last month, I was inducted into Teach For America's 2015 New York Corps, and now I start my new career in the classroom. Since I'm spending this month in Philadelphia at TFA’s institute, where I'll be working with and training under seasoned educators, I have a thousand questions running through my head. “Will I be a good teacher?” “What will my kids be like?” “How will I know if I've done a good job?”
I keep thinking back to the educators and community leaders my peers and I heard from during our induction ceremony welcoming us to the Corps. Teach For America-New York’s executive director Charissa Fernández got real with us. She discussed the recent tragedy in Charleston, focusing on how this event, and others like it, will impact the teachers, kids, and families we'll each be working with. “We care too much about you to hide this reality from you,” she said.
Charissa’s words and those of the TFA alumni teachers and principals who spoke that day opened my eyes to some of the challenges our kids and schools face, and the opportunities we'll have as educators to help make a positive difference. I’ve written down the top five pieces of advice I took away from that day, and I intend to visit these ideas frequently throughout this school year.
- Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the kids. Believe in your own greatness every day, and hold yourself responsible to be great and give your all for your kids.
- Reach out to a mentor. Learn from veteran teachers who have been in the classroom for years, and get to know others who were recently new to the teaching field, too. Ask them for advice when you encounter challenges and learn from their experiences.
- Have humility. Ask questions about decisions being made, seek out others’ perspectives, and advocate for what you believe is right. At the same time, be smart and respectful about listening to others as well as in picking your battles. You can’t change everything all at once. Prioritize one or two things that will have the best impact for kids, and work with others to advocate if necessary.
- Recognize that your first year is going to be really, really tough. This is one of the hardest and most important jobs in the country. You’re not going to be Teacher of the Year right away. Take the initiative to seek out professional development and be prepared to learn as much as you can every day. Know that the next two years will be an intense process of turning yourself into an excellent teacher.
- Smile. Though the first year is going to be overwhelming, make sure you make time to keep yourself healthy and happy. Protect time to have a personal life and relax on your days off—even if just for an hour here and there. Your kids will feed off your energy so do whatever you need to put your best face forward in the classroom.