Dear First Year Teachers,
The first year of teaching is a lot of things: exciting, overwhelming, disheartening, fulfilling. But it wasn’t supposed to be this—whatever this is. Don’t get me wrong. It’s hard, but it’s nothing like what you’re facing when your first year of teaching is 2020.
No one prepared you for this
We experienced teachers complain about things our teacher education programs didn’t prepare us for—from becoming anti-racist to dealing with behavior issues. Some programs do better than others. But I’m 100% sure virtual teaching and teaching with social distancing weren’t on the syllabus, not to mention how to help students cope with pandemic-related trauma.
In a typical year, you’d be doing your first back to school shopping as a teacher, designing bulletin boards, and setting up your classroom. This fall, none of that is a given. When everything is up in the air, how do you prepare? Do you put all your eggs in the virtual basket? Plan as if you were going back in person but be ready for a switch? That’s enough to paralyze even the most senior of teachers.
This year is going to look a lot different than you had imagined
On top of getting a handle on all your curriculum, you’ll also have to master a number of virtual platforms. Your finances will likely take a hit if you have to buy your own PPE and cleaning supplies in addition to everything you need to set up a new classroom. You may also be putting your health and well-being at risk. When you become a teacher, you sign up for a handful of colds and flus a year, but this? This is different.
I’ll never forget my first Teacher Appreciation Week as a brand new teacher—the sweet notes from parents and kids, the special lunches. There are so many firsts like that during that first year of teaching: your first open house, parent-teacher conference, staff holiday party, field day. Those are the things that memories are made of, and at the very least, you’re going to have to wait for yours.
You’ll find your way, and it’s not all on you
Here’s what I know about you, though. Your generation is pretty freaking amazing. You inspire me with your creativity and enthusiasm. If anyone can figure out how to reach students through a mask or a computer screen, it’s you. Just remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect (and, even in the best of circumstances, it wasn’t going to be perfect anyway).
As capable as you are of making this work, remember that the responsibility isn’t solely on your shoulders. I know you want to make a good impression, but hold your administration’s feet to the fire. They should be providing direction and guidance … lean on them to do so.
And lean on us, the experienced teachers in your school. We know this is going to be tough, we’re in the same boat … and we’ve got your back.
A Veteran Teacher
Looking for more support as a first year teacher? Join our WeAreTeacher—First Years group on Facebook.
Plus, Your First Year Teaching Means Grieving Your Former Self.