New Teachers

Before You Graduate: A Few Words for New Teachers

May 12, 2015

We're gearing up for graduation here at Antioch New England. This will be the 13th time I've donned cap and gown to sit on stage while our graduates -- some of them newly minted teachers -- cross over from one side of the desk to the other, figuratively speaking. Every year, I wonder about the work that is in front of them. I know they're well prepared because our teacher prep programs are rock star quality, but I also know that "well prepared" for a new teacher is just a drop in the bucket of what's ahead. 

We helped them lay the foundation, but they'll build that house over the next 30 years in the classroom, using the tools we gave them and mostly it's all on them to do it and do it well.

If I had just a few minutes to sit with them, with their excited faces and energy that I can't even imagine having again, I'd want to say just a few things.

1. You're just getting started with this learning thing. There is so much left to do. First, go back and read the stuff that was assigned but that you skimmed (or skipped) because you had so much work and your brain was starting to melt. Then, start looking for things you don't know. Set up a professional Twitter account, join a professional organization or two, and get used to the idea that there is a lot left to learn and that you'll never learn it all. Then take up a nifty hobby that has nothing to do with teaching, because...

2. You have to be more than a teacher, because otherwise this job will eat you alive. The first year? It's going to be exhausting and hard and going to make you long for the days when you were in grad school. It's also going to be amazing and you're going to discover parts of yourself you never knew existed. But you have to take care of yourself and that means living a balanced life. 

Find things that feed you -- things that have nothing to do with school -- and carve out time to do them. Find people who make you laugh and spend time with them; people who aren't teachers. You'll meet lots of teachers and the pull of people like you will be strong. Fight it. You need other perspectives in your life, and they need yours.

3. This summer? Balance the things you have to do with something you always wanted to do that has nothing to do with the work you'll embark on in the fall. Travel, read trashy novels, sleep until noon, grow vegetables or flowers...whatever. 

You won't have a real summer again for a long time -- no matter what people may tell you when you tell them you're a teacher. You'll spend summers planning, going to professional development workshops and courses, and trying to catch up on the myriad small things you didn't get done during the school year, like painting your house or balancing your checkbook. Make this summer count.

4. Don't be a stranger. Just because you leave us, doesn't mean we stop thinking about you. Your advisor, your professors, the teachers you worked with during student teaching -- we all want to support you.

Reach out when you're feeling frustrated or you need help or when things are going great and you want to share the amazing thing that just happened. This profession is about supporting learners. Just like you'll always be happy to help your former students, we're happy to help you -- even after you're an alum. Plus, we wonder how you're doing and hearing from you makes us happy. :-)

So that's it. Go eat some cake with your family, move your boxes home or into your new place or whatever. Take a few minutes to stand in the sunshine and relish this accomplishment, and to really be in this moment of beginnings and potential and possibility.

We're so proud of you. You're going to be awesome.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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