From Clueless to Confident: What I Wish I'd Known My First Year of Teaching

#firstyearteachers Sep 08, 2022

When I reflect on my first year of teaching, there are a few things I wish I knew. I was fresh out of college and full of energy and ideas. I had high hopes for my students and myself. However, I quickly realized that teaching is not as easy as it looks.

Starting As A Teacher:

First, let’s set the scene for what I was getting myself into. I taught second grade to 26 students with very “involved” parents. This was truly my dream job and I felt (and still do feel) quite blessed to have had this opportunity. 

As August moved closer and closer to fruition, I began doubting my decision for becoming a teacher. Could I do it? How will I know if they are learning? Can I manage all of these students in one classroom? Maybe this was a bad idea and I should back out.


Next came the monetary component. No one will ever truly understand how much money teachers spend out of pocket unless they are teachers. It was crazy! Luckily, a family friend was retiring from teaching third grade and gave me ALL of her stuff. I could not have been more grateful! You see, what I failed to realize was that my first paycheck would not be in my account until the middle of September. Let me tell you, the struggle was real!

What Worked?  What Went Well in My First Year of Teaching?

When I think back on my first year of teaching, there are a few things I wish I could go back and tell myself. For one, I would have liked to know how important it is to develop relationships with your students. It sounds obvious, but it's something that can make or break a school year. If you can get your students to trust you and see you as a person they can confide in, they're much more likely to succeed both academically and socially.


Beyond this, students love taking control of their learning processes. As much as I thought my “craftivities” were student-centered learning, it was just students copying my work. However, at the time, that is all I knew.

Another thing I wish I knew in my first year of teaching is that no two students are the same. It seems like such a simple concept, but it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all of your students learn in the same way and at the same pace. But every student is unique and has different needs.


Small groups would quickly become my best friend. Not only could I easily differentiate, but they made our day go so FAST! I would pull small groups and students would be working independently or collaboratively at their centers. They loved this time as much as I did! 

What Didn’t Work? What Would I Change?

In my first year of teaching, I was so idealistic and full of energy, but I quickly learned that the reality of teaching is very different from what I expected. The workload is immense, the students can be challenging, and the bureaucracy can be frustrating. But despite all of these challenges, teaching is still the best job in the world.

The first couple of years of teaching makes you feel like you are working all of the time. You want to find fun and trendy methods to introduce curriculum, but soon realize that it takes HOURS to find all of these things. My Sundays were spent prepping for school and sometimes I loathed the constant feeling of work hanging over my head.


As for student behavior, I was a tough cookie with discipline in my classroom with pretty high expectations. You can probably guess what that brought with it. Yep, the phone calls and emails from parents wanting a dissertation of the events that unfolded.

 It would have been easy to a blind eye to behavior so I wouldn’t have to deal with parents, but where would that get me as far as the environment I would be creating? Instead, I chose to make phone calls and send emails which enhanced my communication skills to a whole new level! This definitely made me a stronger teacher, but it took a WHOLE LOT OF TIME IN MY DAY!

All of these experiences made me the educator I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!


The Biggest Surprise…What I Didn’t Expect!

The biggest surprise of my first year of teaching was what I didn't expect. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. It's challenging and frustrating and sometimes overwhelming, but it's also the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

I didn't expect the students to be so incredible. They are funny and smart and resilient and they teach me something new every day. They make me laugh, they make me think, and they remind me why I'm here.



I didn't expect how much this job would change me. I've grown in ways I never thought possible, both professionally and personally. Teaching has made me a better person, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Teaching is a hard job and takes a special person. If you feel that tug in your heart and grew up knowing you were made to teach, don’t let the words and opinions of others influence your dreams. You will be amazed at how much you grow as a human being.

 The Best Advice: What I Would Tell New Teachers

When I first started teaching, I had no idea what I was doing. I was so nervous and scared all the time. I made so many mistakes that first year. If I could go back and tell my first-year self some things, here is what I would say:


  1. Relax. It's going to be okay. You will make mistakes, but your students will still love you.


  1. Get to know your students. Learn their names, interests, and backgrounds. This will help you connect with them and make them feel comfortable in your classroom.


  1. Be organized. Create a system for yourself and your materials so that you can find everything you need quickly and easily. This will save you a lot of time and frustration throughout the year.


  1. Don't be afraid to ask for help.


When starting as a teacher, there are a few things you should know to set yourself up for success. First and foremost, be prepared to work long hours. You will more than likely have to work beyond your contracted hours just so you stay afloat. Secondly, get to know your students and their families. This will help you create a more supportive and effective learning environment. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There are plenty of resources available to new teachers, so take advantage of them! Be sure to keep scrolling to the end of this post so you can see all of the opportunities we have to save you time and energy!


Conclusion: Looking Back

When I look back at my first year of teaching, there are a few things I wish I could have gone differently.  First and foremost, I wish I would have been more patient with my students. They were constantly asking questions and wanting attention, and it was hard for me to keep up.  Secondly, I wish I would have been more organized.  There always seemed to be papers flying everywhere and I could never find what I was looking for. Systems are so important! Lastly, I wish I would have taken more time for myself.  Teaching is a demanding job and it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. 

Overall, though, I am proud of how my first year went. My students learned a lot and we had a lot of fun along the way. I did the best with what I knew at the time and continue to grow every day!

Did you know...

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If you enjoyed this post...

 If you enjoyed this post, then you'll want to read about instilling calm in a primary classroom.

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