10 things I wish I had known before I started teaching...

10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
When I graduated in 2006 and started looking for my first teaching job, I had no real understanding of what was required of a teacher. Oh, I could rattle off a bunch of buzz words and "talk a good game", but until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching I had NO CLUE. 
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
It seemed like all the other teachers had it together, and I was the only one scrambling day after day to stay above water. I felt like everything I had learned in college had been a waste of time. Great in theory, but totally useless in the real world!
Did anyone else feel this way? 
Surely I can't be the only one...
So as I begin my 10th year of teaching,
(wow, I had to count it out on my fingers to be sure) 
I've been trying to think of all of the things I wish I had known my first year.

NUMBER 1
You can't do it all.
Period.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
You've GOT to take some time to prioritize what you can/want to accomplish. 
My first year I signed up for every volunteer event, helped on numerous committees, created most of my lessons from scratch, gave cute little gifts to my students for every national and obscure holiday, called parents daily, rearranged the seating charts every month, and NEVER SLEPT.
A person can't keep going like that.
Physically, mentally, or emotionally.

NUMBER 2
Your "planning time" isn't really yours.
It's really a time for meetings with administration, parents, and other teachers.
You're lucky if you get a few minutes to use the bathroom!
And on the rare occasion that you don't have something scheduled, something will come up making it impossible to get anything done on your to-do list.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.

NUMBER 3
Student teaching is pretty much NOTHING like having your own classroom!
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
Day one I welcomed my students into the room and felt panic rising to my chest as I realized that I had to figure out what to do with them for the entire day and had NO ONE ELSE to pick up the slack! Nobody gave me any guidelines for what to do and when. What worked in my student teaching placement didn't work with this new set of kids. 

NUMBER 4
Planning is important, but be prepared to change your your plans more often than not.
I was terrible at guessing how long an activity or lesson would take. I would end up with too much time left over or not nearly enough time to get what I needed done.
This takes practice and experience. There is no way around it. 
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
It used to take me 8-10 hours to plan my week. Sometimes more.
I STILL over plan to be sure I use each and every possible teaching minute productively, but I also realize that most of my plans will be put off to the next day/week depending on how that first day goes.

NUMBER 5
Find other teachers who you admire and ask them for advice.
Someone once told me that the best way to make a friend is to ask a person for a small favor.
It breaks the ice and lets them feel helpful.
And who knows?
You just might learn a few useful tricks!
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.


But remember, YOU have ideas and experiences to share as well. Don't be afraid to share and collaborate with others.

NUMBER 6
Students do not instinctively know how to do things. 
It is VERY important to explicitly teach and model the routines and procedures you want in your classroom. This needs to include all those little things you don't often think about because they seem obvious to an adult.
TEACH THEM EVERYTHING.
I promise that it will save you time, energy, and your sanity.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.

NUMBER 7
Talk less.
I still struggle with this one.
But kids need to express their ideas, collaborate and struggle a bit, think for themselves.
During a typical period, I try to keep my talking time to a minimum.
Yes, there are days when it's gonna be a straight lecture/take notes type of day.
But those are my least favorite lessons.
The kids are less engaged. And I get bored.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
Give your students a challenge or even the opportunity to construct knowledge on their own.
You should act as the facilitator as they work together to build their understanding during hands-on activities related to the content you want them to learn.
Let the students teach each other!

NUMBER 8
Be kind but firm.
I always wanted to make sure the students liked me. I would give chance after chance after chance until I was so frustrated that I lost my temper and started yelling.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
I really HATE being "that teacher".
I learned that setting clear expectations and having specific and consistent consequences led to much better behavior overall. And less yelling.

NUMBER 9
You'll never be able to live on a teaching salary alone.
At least independently.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
Plan to have a second source of income.
You'll need it to support your growing addiction to school supplies and classroom decorations.
I used to work at summer camps until my own kids got older.
Now I teach pottery classes and sell on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Or marry someone rich. (I'm just sayin'.)

NUMBER 10
Give yourself a break.
Nobody is perfect.
10 things I wish I had known: I really wish someone had given me these words of advice before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I actually got into my first classroom and started teaching that I realized I had NO CLUE what it meant to be a teacher.
Teaching is really hard.
You will learn, grow and improve.
But there will always be another chance.
Another lesson.
Another student.

What else do you wish YOU had known when you first started teaching?

2 comments

  1. Awesome list! These were all very true for me, too - especially number one! As an over-achiever and an accomplisher, it was devastating to me for realize that it was not physically possible to get EVERYTHING crossed off my list! :)

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