Dear First Year Teacher,

Welcome to teaching.

This year is going to be different from any year you’ve had before this. Whether you’re fresh out of college or switching careers, I can basically promise that this is going to feel like something entirely separate from almost every other major life experience. Teaching is just different.

You’re going to be challenged, and that’s okay. Sometimes that challenge will overwhelm you and threaten to push you down into deeply stressful places. For better or worse, that’s normal. I promise you, though, you will make it through those periods. Teaching is a career that demands an immense amount of energy, dedication, and focus: few other jobs are quite as intense, and it can be a stressful transition into a job like this. You’ll be okay.

There will be long, difficult days and sometimes those days will turn into long, difficult weeks.  You will be tired. A lot. There will be chunks of the school year that seem impossible to break through (i.e., all of November), but you will break through eventually. This is not a normal profession; it is stressful and draining, taking a lot more of your “daily human interaction quota” than you expect. Please remember that. Remember that this is a difficult, stressful, and at times draining career, because if you forget, you may be tempted to think it is just you. It is not just you. Every teacher has felt what you will feel this year. Every teacher has doubted his or her ability to teach and to enjoy teaching. They have made it through their first year, and so will you.

Remember to take care of yourself. Don’t let it be an option. As you go through the year, pay attention to your inner self and know that different days will need different types of self-care. Some days, you should probably go on a run and work out the stress and irritation of a bad day. Some days, you should probably go home, pour a glass of wine, and watch your favorite movie with some friends. Some days, it will feel best to just cry on the phone to your mom or dad. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.) Please know that one of these types of decompression is not better or worse than another type; it just may be what you need that day.

Enjoy the good moments. Teaching is not like a normal job: the highs are really high, and the lows are really low. I hope you don’t have too many low moments, but you will learn from them. It is easy, too easy, to focus on the difficult parts of this job and not spend enough time feeling good or proud about the parts of the job that made you want to be a teacher. Focus on the good parts, and you will be better for it.

Think about teaching, but don’t live in teaching. Think about what you did well, and what you need to work on; doing that will improve your skills as a teacher and it is important to strive for improvement. But when you go home, do everything you can to be home. Relax. When you leave that school campus, however you do it, you should be mentally and emotionally focused on your home life. This is going to be hard to do: after all, you care about your students and your job, so you want to do the best you can. But if you are living in the “teacher mind,” which is to say, you’re thinking about teaching every moment of the day, you’ll burn out. Leave some time for you to still be you.

This year, you will experience more than you expect. Don’t beat yourself up too much for mistakes you may make, and remember that you will get better with each day if you try. As you go through the year, remember to enjoy it as much as you can, even if you’re stressed. I’ll be rooting for you.

Good luck.

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