When we think of the first day of school, we often think about it from the students’ perspectives. After all, how many times have you photographed your children on their first day of school, backpacks in tow? Or better yet, how many childhood pictures do you have of yourself taken on the first day of school?
But do we ever think about it from the teachers’ perspectives? Especially the first-time teachers walking into the classroom for the very first time?
All of this back-to-school hype has got me thinking about my own first day of teaching and how terrified, excited, eager, frenzied, nervous—insert every other mixed emotion—I felt.
The famous line “if I’d only known then what I know now” rings true, but where would the fun be if we didn’t experience the highs and lows?
Here are a few lessons I learned from my first day of teaching.
Operate With Sincerity
I’ll admit it...I baked cookies for my class on my first day as a newbie teacher. It was a bribery of sorts, a deep-seated desire to gain my pupils affection from the start. And it worked!
But it wasn’t the warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies that did the trick (though that certainly couldn’t have hurt!)—It was the sincerity of my actions that showed my students from the start that I cared about them. I cared about their learning. I cared about helping them succeed. I cared about them meeting their full potential both inside and outside the classroom.
I’ve since been able to recreate this minus the cookies, but that first day in my first year I was grateful for a little chocolate chip help.
Don’t Overdo The Preparation
To offset my lack of experience, I over prepared my first year of teaching. I had piles of paperwork detailing every lesson, every activity, every article to read, every essay to write. I had not left a single minute of our time together without an assigned task.
This can’t be a bad thing, can it?
Yes and no. Prepping is good and we need it, of course. But over prepping stilted my teaching because I didn’t account for the natural flow that happens between students and students and students and teachers—there were no impromptu learning moments or discussions because I hadn’t left room for them.
The spontaneous, off-the-cuff moments were nowhere to be found and it took me awhile to realize what I was losing by being over prepared. Some of the best learning experiences, discussions, and student engagement has come from the unsubscribed moments in my classroom. Those moments where we let the conversation wander, circle back, and wander off course again. Prep is good, but leave room for natural interactions!
With the first day of school not far away, I send good luck vibes to all the new teachers out there—may you learn as much from that first day as I did!