10 Important Tips for the First-Year Teacher Part 2

Are you still excited about being a new teacher?  The Department of Education states that up to 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.  Don’t be a first-year teacher who becomes a statistic! Read the rest of my new teacher tips to get some insight into what to expect if you want to make this your career and not just a job. Here are some more tips to get you going in the right direction as a first-year teacher.

First-Year or New Teacher Tips

NEW TEACHER TIP #6 – DON’T BURN YOURSELF OUT

The Commision on Teacher Credentialing granted me Credentialing granted as a first-year teacher.  That meant, I had to take classes to obtain my credential.  I taught full-time while going to classes twice a week from 4 pm to 10 pm.  I did that for two years until I received a clear credential.  It was exhausting as a first-year teacher and then some!

After a year break, I went back to get my Masters in Education and another credential.  I also went back about five years later to obtain another certificate.  Thankfully, I did all this before I had children.  This is not something I could have accomplished as a single dad while being a first-year teacher.

The lesson here is to not burn yourself out by doing it all.  You can’t.  A first-year teacher should prioritize what needs to be done on a daily basis, weekly basis, or monthly basis…and even yearly basis.

First year teacher tip don't burn yourself out

No first-year teacher goes home right after school.  In fact, all teachers stay late.  We take work home with us.  We work on the weekends.  Even during the summer, we plan for the new year.  It seems we never catch up or it is hard to get ahead of the game.  So as a first-year teacher, you’re going to get burnt out if you don’t pace yourself and develop routines to make you more efficient.

As a first-year teacher, please avoid burn out

  • have a set time of the day when you grade (this is something that can be done at school or at home)
  • fill in your lesson plan book for an entire unit or even month and adjust weekly and daily
  • work with your grade level as a team to distribute the work (copying, developing resources, sharing resources, etc.)
  • clean up your desk or work area every day before you leave so you come back to a ready to go environment
  • get your students involved with some of the routines like stuffing folders or filing or recording
  • prepare all your materials and resources ready for the following week on Thursday.  Why Thursday? It’s one of the few days in which there is never a meeting after school!
  • if you are required to give homework, see what you’re grade level already does or gives out and just copy it!
  • use the time after school to prep for the next day — make this a habit — there’s nothing worse than teaching unprepared!
  • when you’re using ClassDojo or Remind, set office hours for those Apps so parents know that they can’t contact you at 10 pm at night to ask about homework!
  • if you’re going to miss a deadline, let your administrator know!  They will understand if you need more time.
  • record grades once you finish grading a set of assignments or tests (papers get lost!)
  • take pictures of everything you do so you can remember what you did and how to do it!

If you develop a set of routines, habits and learn to prioritize your work, you will avoid burn out!

NEW TEACHER TIP #7 – DON’T VOLUNTEER FOR EVERYTHING

This tip goes hand in hand with the earlier tip about not burning out in your first years of teaching.  As an eager first year teacher, you’ll be tempted to volunteer for every committee, festival, training, etc., that comes your way.  I suggest you DON’T!

Your first years will be very busy learning to set up routines and habits to keep you from burning out.  All that will go out the window if you’re busy attending meetings after school or training on weekends.  You may be required by your school to be on at least one committee, but most principals understand that first-year teachers have a lot on their plate so will usually assign you to a committee that meets infrequently.

First-year teacher tip don't volunteer for everything

HERE’S A SECRET…SSHHH…BUT I’M TELLING YOU ANYWAY!

Here’s something you should know as a first-year teacher.  If you’re young and single and have no children, you will get VOLUNTOLD often.  Yes, you get volunteered without your consent!  Why?  The staff will think you have nothing to do after school because you do not have the responsibilities of a spouse or children.  Learn to say NO politely.  Just explain that you are a first-year teacher and you want to make sure that you can do the best job possible to secure tenure.

Yes, first-year teachers and second-year teachers do NOT have tenure (this may vary by state, county or even district so check your contracts!).  A district can and will dismiss a first teacher who does not pass the teacher evaluation.  If you want to gain tenure and secure a spot on the staff, it behooves you to focus on effective teaching, effective classroom management and being organized.  That is what an administrator is going to put in your evaluation.

If you are volunteering for everything, you will not be focused on your students.  You will not have time to prepare lessons or materials.  Your room will be a mess.  You’ll end up taking so much work home that you will start to resent your job!

Remember Tip 3?

Find a mentor?  This is why you need a mentor.  A mentor can help you politely decline being VOLUNTOLD.

Here’s what to do when asked to volunteer. Say no politely. Then say it again.  Repeat it again.  Say it one more time.  One more time, smile and say it again.

You might have to say NO many times before they get the message.  Once you feel comfortable with routines, teaching, classroom management, communicating with parents and everything else that involves your students, then volunteer as many times as you want!

NEW TEACHER TIP #8 – WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER

As a first-year teacher over 30 years ago, there were no copy machines for teachers to use.  We had to use a duplicator machine (check out this funny video).  If we saw something that we wanted to use in our classroom, we had to make our own handwritten carbon copy to use on that machine.  Or we bought ditto books.

We kept attendance by recording attendance on an official State Register.  Everything was handwritten. We had phones in the classroom, but they were internal use only, no dial out. Did you want to dial out and phone a parent?  You went to the teacher’s lounge and used the rotary phone there.

First-year teacher tip work smarter, not harder

Thirty years later, I’m creating my own resources to use in my classroom using a desktop computer, laptop, iPad, and iPhone.  In my class, I use my MacBook Pro, my iPad Pro, and my iPhone.  I take attendance on my phone using the PowerTeacher App.  I keep grades on my iPad using the Grade Book Pro App.  I do my lesson plans online at www.planbookedu.com.  I communicate with parents using the ClassDojo App.

Even more changes in the way I work

If I need to talk to one of my team members, I text.  I share resources with my team on Google Drive.  I assign work to my students using Google Classroom. Teachers share data digitally.  When I make copies on the copier, I can have it double sided, stapled and hole-punched.  I can combine several worksheets onto one page using the copier.  The copy machine is also a scanner and a printer and I can send an email from it.  I have a fancy phone in my classroom that I can dial out, make announcements over the PA system while also acting as an answering machine.

All this new technology has helped me work more efficiently to save me time.

As a first-year teacher, you should work smarter, not harder!

  • keep grades on an electronic grade book
  • take attendance on a device
  • communicate with parents via ClassDojo or Remind
  • text message to communicate with colleagues (no going to the classroom phone to call another colleague and watch your class go bonkers while you’re talking)
  • plan with an online lesson plan book so you can collaborate with colleagues (also you can look back and see what you did the previous years)
  • jot down notes or reminders on your phone (if you use Siri, tell Siri to remind you!)
  • use your phone or tablet to take pictures of your class to share with parents via ClassDojo or Remind
  • on Pinterest, find ideas and tips and suggestions (why reinvent the wheel!)
  • back up all your files regularly to an external drive or to the Cloud (I use Dropbox).
  • use Google Classroom, NearPod, EdPuzzle, etc. with your class.

In five years, digital will be king or queen.  Those who can use it efficiently will be working smarter, not harder.

NEW TEACHER TIP #9  – FIND YOUR STYLE!

My teaching style?  I use hands-on learning (manipulatives) a lot.  Also, I use technology a lot.  I regularly use children’s books a lot for reading aloud and shared reading.  Sounds like fun?  But I’m also a disciplinarian, too.  I don’t take any talking back, attitude, slacking off or excuses.  Sometimes I feel more like a parent than a teacher in my classroom.  So my teaching style is a product of my training and my comfort zone.

First-year teacher tip find your teaching style

I started teaching in the 80s so a lot of my training involved bringing in children’s literature into the classroom.  Making math hands-on learning (I was trained in Math Their Way).  Doing science and not just reading about it.  My first district trained me to use Lee Canter’s Assertive Discipline. What you will find out as you develop lessons, is that your training, other teachers, district mandates, your creativity, and even Pinterest influence your teaching!  Within the first five years, you will cement your style and your preferences (and grade level).

If you’re in a Common Core state like I am, everyone teaches the same Common Core State Standards. You’re entire team will be teaching the same standard.  Does it mean you have to teach it the same way?  NO!  You can add your own style, your own ideas.

BE CREATIVE, BE YOURSELF, STAY TRUE TO YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

As long as you are teaching the standards, the curriculum and your students are learning, then you can be as creative as you want.

  • don’t be afraid to try new things
  • incorporate what excites you as a teacher (your enthusiasm will carry over to your students)
  • if you’re not comfortable with doing something, then don’t!  Better to get comfortable first, then incorporate it into your lessons
  • when you try something for the first time, know it will get better then next time
  • district mandates may change, but you’re teaching style shouldn’t…adapt!
  • part of your teaching style should include adaptability…things happen, be ready and adapt!
  • adaptability needs to be part of any teaching style…I could not teach my current students the same way I taught 30 years ago…students are different today!

You’ll also find that you prefer teaching primary or upper grades or middle school or even high school. Over the 30 years, I’ve preferred teaching third grade.  I did teach first grade for seven years, but I know I couldn’t do that now. I know that I couldn’t teach middle or high school because my teaching style would not fit those age levels.

NEW TEACHER TIP #10 –  PLAN FOR RETIREMENT NOW!

I am within five years of retirement.  I am so glad I started planning for retirement within my first five years of teaching.  By doing that, I know that financially I will be ok and I won’t run out of money and have to depend on my children (while also leaving them an inheritance).

DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT a tax specialist nor a CPA nor a financial planner. The advice offered here is from my own life and may be different for you! Please speak with a certified tax specialist, CPA or financial planner about your situation.

First-year teacher tip plan for retirement now

How did I do it?  In my fifth year of teaching, I started saving into a Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA).  I started with just $50 a month taken out of my paycheck before deductions.  Eventually, over time I upped the amount put into the TSA to the most allowed yearly.  TSAs function like IRAs.  The TSA lowers your tax liability because a TSA puts the money in before it’s taxed.  When you start withdrawing that money in retirement, that is when you pay taxes on it.

START YOUR FINANCIAL PLANNING NOW, NOT LATER!

As a first-year teacher, talk with a financial advisor that specializes in teachers.  We are a special lot. California guarantees my pension because it is written into the California State Constitution.  I give to the pension monthly while my district matches my contribution.  The pension is known as the California State Teachers Retirement System (CALSTRS).  They offer financial planning workshops for new teachers, mid-career teachers and those close to retirement.

Every state is different when it comes to offering pensions to teachers.  With the California system, you can expect to receive about 70% of your salary after retiring with 30 years of teaching experience.  That means you have to come up with the other 30% if you want to maintain your current lifestyle!

Every pension has a formula for figuring out the pension you will receive.  Find out from your district or teacher’s union how it works.  In California, my pension is based on a formula that takes into account my age at retirement, years of service, and my salary.  You also have to be at least 55 years old and be vested in the system (five years of service) to collect a pension.  Every pension is different.  Find out how yours works!

As a first-year teacher, start saving for retirement now!  Yes, it’s 30 or more years away.  But remember you will have to come up with that 30% or more gap to keep up your current lifestyle!  Your savings or contributions will multiply substantially through compound interest.  It’s amazing to watch your money grow to know it will be there when you retire.

SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT FOR YOUR RETIREMENT

By the way, those of you that have worked at other jobs and have qualified for Social Security will find out that Congress has passed regulations that do NOT allow us to collect the entire Social Security Benefit. It’s called the Windfall Elimination Provision.  I am one of those affected.  So don’t count on Social Security.

Also, think about health care!  Yes, at 65 you can apply for Medicare.  But Medicare does NOT cover all your medical expenses.  What if you pass away before your spouse or vice versa?  Do you have life insurance?  You will need that, too! I’ve also purchased disability insurance through my district as well.  If I become disabled, I know that I will not lose income because of it.

California adds unused sick days to your years of service.  So if you don’t use them, they will still be valuable for retirement!

I hope that my tips have helped you in some way.  I have been a master teacher, mentor teacher, and new teacher advisor many times during my 30 years of teaching.  If you need advice or have any questions, please ask in the comment section!

Did you miss Part 1? Click here to view it!

Don’t Go Yet!

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