- You’re no longer the eager beaver.
I remember my husband showing up for the first workday of his first year of teaching in a full suit. How adorable, right?! But seasoned teachers know the first day back is a long one of sitting in the library, looking at slides and probably doing some sort of nonsensical team building activity. Jeans and a tee, please. Same goes for Fridays, the days before break and any teacher workday.
- You no longer try every single thing.
As a first year, you try to do what the district says, your admin says, what the professors told you would work and whatever Pinterest ideas you can fit in. You’ll quickly learn that there just isn’t room for it all–and that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil a meal. You find your groove, hone your teaching philosophy, and stick to what works for you and your students. The rest become mere suggestions.
- You finally give in and eat the cafeteria food.
Eventually, you pay attention long enough and learn what is good and what is definitely not edible. You stop having the energy for packing something every. single. day. and just settle for the pizza.
- You start to really connect with your students.
In the beginning, it takes a lot of effort to keep things moving. You’re exhausted from remembering morning announcements, finalizing lesson plans, answering emails, arriving early and staying late. The truth is it all leaves very little room for connecting with the students on a personal level. As you cut your teeth, you start to streamline your processes and you relax a bit. That’s when you’re able to cut loose with the kids and really get to know them–which pays dividends when the learning begins.
- You start to look like a walking advertisement for your school.
If you stay at one school long enough, your wardrobe just becomes one big billboard for that school. I used to have a hard and fast rule against wearing school swag to anything other than school or school-related events. But the hoodies are pretty legit and you eventually have so many of them that it just becomes second nature.
- You learn to avoid the lounge.
Negative people make for a negative experience. The best teachers stay out of the drama and find a crew of people who are like-minded and supportive. Seasoned teachers know that some things are just a fact of the profession and dwelling on the inability to change them will only make the year even more unpleasant.
- You learn to navigate relationships with parents.
There are lots of different types of parents and you will quickly learn how to deal with them all. You learn to email early and often, to temper bad news with some sort of praise and to schedule conferences because in-person communication leaves less room for misinterpretation.
- You stop assigning work over breaks and holidays.
The first time you come back from a break to a stack of papers that need grading due to your own insistence that students get in some extra practice during their time off….will also be the last time. A break is a break. You will learn to enjoy them, as they’re much needed.
- You learn to pick your battles.
In the beginning, you are a stickler for classroom and school rules. After all, they’re there for a reason, right? But some time and experience will teach you that some rules are meant to be bent–particularly in the name of reaching difficult students. If Sally Who Never Shows Up comes to class ready to learn and her skirt is an inch too short–is it really worth sending her away?
- You come to terms with what teaching really is.
You know from day one you won’t make much money. You know from day one that you will work long hours and will often go unappreciated. But what you learn, over many years, is that your students take the work you do and carry it with them in big and little ways. Sometimes they come back to thank you or tell you what you mean to them and then you really know why you’re doing this job.