6 Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a Teacher

No matter how well prepared you are academically, your first year teaching is very likely to be overwhelming. But thrilling. And definitely survivable.

The first year in any new job is an interesting time: excitement mixed with fear, joy at finally getting to do what you want to do and anxiety about messing it all up.

For brand-new teachers, add to that the fact that judgment of your job performance comes largely via the faces, voices, and grades of your students. Whether this thought exhilarates or terrifies you depends on how well prepared you are to enter the classroom as a teacher for the first time.

No matter how well prepared you are academically, the first year is very likely to be overwhelming. But it is survivable, for sure. Follow these six suggestions for making it through your first year as a teacher.

1. Get to know your colleagues

You are surrounded by experts; why not seek their wisdom? The teachers, administrators, and other staff at your new school may have years or even decades on you at school or in the profession. They know the ins and outs of the process of teaching, the school, and the district. Other teachers can act as mentors, either officially or unofficially, as can administrators. These colleagues can help with things such as advice about lesson planning and discipline, managing how you relate to students, and participating in after school activities. 

2. Get to know your students

To be most effective as a teacher, you’ll need to build relationships with your students. That means learning about their lives and supporting them in their academic journey. Attending after-school events like plays and athletic games can be a great way to get to know your students and demonstrate your interest in their lives. But be careful about how to you do so. You can’t attend every event for every student, and you don’t want to send the wrong message.

Remember too as you build these relationships that your role is not be their friend. You need to be mindful about personal details you share with students. This includes not connecting with students on social media platforms. In fact, it’s best to make your social media profiles private so students cannot follow you or track your activities.

3. Plan, plan, plan

To harken back to your student-teaching days: plan your lessons, your classroom routine, and how you will discipline your students. Even if you are using a prepared curriculum, you need to be familiar with what you are going to teach and how you will present your lessons. In your first year, this will take longer than probably any other time in your career, because you won’t know yet what works well and what doesn’t. So make sure to have a backup plan, with extra activities in the event you finish something faster than expected or a particular lesson just really isn’t resonating with your students.

When it comes to disciplining students, think about your approach and make your expectations and intentions clear to students from the start. What activities will prompt a consequence and what is the consequence? What activities will be rewarded and how? What types of behavior will cause you to send a student to the principal’s office? And so on.

4. Prepare for ups and downs

There are different stages of the school year, and this will prompt a range of emotions, especially during your first year. Early on you may feel excited and challenged by the new environment. But it is typical for new teachers to start to feel overwhelmed a couple of months into the school year. In addition to teaching, lesson planning, and grading assignments, there will be school activities, parent conferences, faculty meetings, training sessions, and other activities that you are expected to prepare for and participate in.

As you approach the first winter break, don’t be surprised if you find yourself questioning your decision to teach. It’s part of the adjustment period. By the time you reach the second half of the school year, you will feel more settled, you’ll know better what to expect, and you’ll remember why you wanted to become a teacher in the first place.

5. Take care of yourself

As you deal with the ups and downs of your new career, learn school policies and procedures, and deal with students who challenge you in ways you never anticipated, do not forget to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. You need to stay healthy for your own sake, as well as that of your students.

So eat right, get a good night’s sleep each night, and exercise to keep yourself in shape. To keep yourself in good shape emotionally, find a hobby or activity outside of school and look to friends and family for emotional support. Also, pace yourself at work. You don’t have to volunteer for every activity or work late every night.

6. Remember it’s a learning experience

You will fail at something, no doubt. Because everyone fails at something when they start a new job (and sometimes even after they’ve been there for a while). There will be a student you don’t reach but feel like you should have been able to. There will be days that, despite your planning, you run out of activities and you have to deal with bored and suddenly very energetic students. There will be days you bring too much of your personal life into the classroom. Expect that you will fail. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn from the mistake and move on.

On the flip side, remember that celebrating success is part of learning too. So don’t only pay attention when you make a mistake. Celebrate when you do something well, like when you make it through a particularly difficult lesson, find a way to reach a student with emotional problems, or actually get home by dinnertime for a whole week.

Lastly, remember that no matter how much you plan your lessons and classroom time, how late you stay at school, how perfectly you build relationships with students and colleagues, or how many student activities you attend every week, you can’t do it all. Even the teachers who look like they can aren’t really doing it all.

So follow these steps, be open to the highs and lows of the experience, and remember to relax every once in a while. And you can expect to end your first year of teaching excited about starting your second year.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Hannah Nelsen

Hannah Nelsen

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me look at colleges that fit my interests by taking my profile and matching it to colleges that have the programs I'm looking for. It has the ability to connect me to colleges so I can be contacted by them and look at them more in-depth to find what's right for me. Additionally, the scholarship database is super beneficial for getting scholarships for college. Not only does it help lift the financial burden of college but it shows all the opportunities available. Overall, CollegeXpress has been very helpful to me.

Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

Lorena Bacallao

Lorena Bacallao

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress was the foundation of my college search process. Because of CollegeXpress, I was able to make a more informed and confident decision as to where it was best to pursue my higher education. I have recommended this website to fellow peers and for first-generation students like me. It’s a website I will continue to promote because of how simple it was to use and how many opportunities were offered to me at my fingertips!

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Bell College Consulting

The college lists on CollegeXpress are indispensable for sussing out creative additions to a student’s list, and the college-specific pages provide terrific commentary and suggestions for related schools. CollegeXpress is among the most trusted sources I use for information for my students.

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

St. Bonaventure University

St. Bonaventure, NY

High Point University

High Point, NC

High Point University

High Point, NC