Confession time! When I landed my first teaching job, I felt like a total fraud. I had no idea what I was doing as a first year teacher! My classroom had 22 students and I felt so completely overwhelmed before I even met them.
I knew the curriculum documents would guide me, but what did that all mean? All of my learning from university suddenly seemed so long ago. So how did I overcome these feelings? More importantly, how can this help you to overcome your fraudster feelings?
Luckily, as a first year teacher I had some amazing support within the school – I had a small team of teachers who supported me with planning, teaching, and assessment strategies, I had our leadership team who supported me with classroom management and organizational issues, I had my gorgeous students, who made me feel like I did know what I was doing, and I had their wonderful parents who supported the learning activities I sent home.
But what if you don’t have that support within your school? I know that not all new teachers are lucky enough to land that perfect teaching position in the perfect school with all of this support in place. So what can you do as a first year teacher?
Tips to Keep the Fraudulent Feelings Away
- Be organized. Write detailed lesson plans, make reminders of what you need to print, copy, resources to find, etc. Plan every single minute of that learning time. And then plan some more, because chances are, you’ll have a few students finish everything quite quickly. Write how you plan to extend these students, and how you plan to support the students who need extra help. And after you’ve planned for every second of the day, be prepared to throw that planning out the window and just ‘wing it’. Trust me, you will have days where you need to do this, and it is totally ok.
- Use a simple classroom management strategy. I prefer to focus on the positives, and to place ownership of learning back onto my students. I tell my students that THEY are responsible for their own learning. If they are stopping another student from learning, then this is not fair and they are therefore choosing the consequence. I am very clear about what the consequences are, and provide examples of when a student might choose these consequences.
- Get to know your students. Students are usually much more engaged in a task that they find interesting, so plan lessons that focus on their interests and hobbies. If you’re planning a math lesson and you know three of your students love dancing, then plan your math lesson around dance. No, you don’t have to get up and start dancing! Instead, use dance as a theme. For example, you’re teaching measurement so have your students measure who can do the lowest plie or the highest arabesque. Those three students who love to dance now have the task of teaching their classmates how to do these dance moves. Instant engagement!
- Know how each student learns. What are their individual learning needs and styles? Have a student who likes to fidget? Provide fidget tools. Be prepared to change your expectations here, some children genuinely do need to fidget to aid their concentration. Expecting them to stop fidgeting means that all of their concentration is on the behavior of sitting still, rather than the important stuff which is the instruction you’re providing.
- Find a colleague that you can debrief with. Ideally, this would be another teacher from your workplace, but if your not comfortable confessing those fraudulent feelings to someone you work with, you could also reach out to teacher friends that you did your training with, or connect with other teachers on social media. There are heaps of Facebook groups that teachers can join for support and ideas.
- Give yourself time. All new jobs are daunting and involve a learning curve. Teaching is no different. I usually say I need three months to be totally familiar with the school and resources, and a year to really feel like I know what I’m doing.
- Take a break. Enjoy the weekends, don’t spend them planning! Spend time doing the things you enjoy, or take up a new hobby. It is so incredibly common for first year teachers to experience teacher burnout (read about teacher burnout).
- Don’t compare yourself to other teachers. Especially not those teachers who have been teaching for 20 years. Apples and oranges my friend! You’re only at the beginning of your incredible career, no one expects you to have the experience, knowledge or expertise of a more senior teacher.
- Set yourself goals and stay focused. It can be so incredibly overwhelming trying to do it all, especially for first year teachers. Cut yourself some slack and set a few goals that you’d like to focus on in the first year. During my first year of teaching, I chose to focus on classroom management techniques. Think about yourself as a teacher, what are you the most unsure about? Where do you feel you need the most support?
Chance are, even though you might FEEL like a teacher fraud, you definitely are not! You’ve completed all of the required teacher training, you’ve got experience to draw upon, you’ve totally got this! You CAN confidently step into that classroom and teach those children something. And don’t forget, your employer believes in you. After all, they offered you the job!
Feeling like a teacher-fraud? Have you tried any of these tips? Or perhaps something else worked for you? Drop a comment below to let me know!