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Dear student teacher…
You have so many thoughts and emotions right now. The thrill of having your first classroom! All the Pinterest ideas you have saved! So many fun lessons and labs you have planned! Everything will be matching in your classroom! There will be quality time with each of your students and you’ll bring in snacks or homemade treats to motivate or show some love to your kids. That Instagram account is going to show off all your awesome lessons and classroom, while you connect with other current and future teachers, especially in your content area. You are going to be just like the teachers on Instagram who make doing this work seem so easy.
Did I mention all those Pinterest lessons you have saved?
I don’t blame you for your excitement. I was excited. After a year of student teaching and being in and out of classrooms, I wondered how I would set it up differently, etc. I had myself sooo excited to finally put all my ideas into actualization. After school, Pinterest gives you so many cool lessons that will only cost under $10 and will have your kids so engaged! I went ALL OUT for my first classroom. One of my teacher friends looked at me and said “I know you are excited for your first year, and I’m not going to stop you because I was the same way, but you don’t need to spend that much money on an adorable planner. I just use the cheapest one and it works fine.”
And you know what, she was right. About both things.
I needed to get that expensive planner out of my system (still regret getting that thing since I don’t really use planners) and she was right that the cheap planner works just as well. Literally no one at my school cares what planner I had. They didn’t care that my classroom matched (It did and it was so lovely. It was red and purple, and I even happened to have red chairs in my classroom which really brought the theme together). My students don’t notice the fonts on my worksheets, or if the lab cost $10 or was free.
But I didn’t learn this until the end of that first year.
I spent hours making lesson plans on my own then I had to stop by the store on my way to school and *hope* they had supplies I needed for the lab that day. Easily I spent over $500 on my classroom that year and this was before I found teacher instagram- I bet I would’ve spent more if it was around for me then. That amount of money is crazy considering I didn’t even get my first paycheck till after I was already teaching. Credit card’s were how I paid for my classrooms supplies and labs. That year my classes were 50 minutes (and for science, that isn’t much time for a lab). I spent so much time cleaning up and prepping for the next class that I never stopped to think how much my students took away that day. Each day I poured so much of myself into my kids and my school, that I had literally zero left for me or my new husband at the end of the day.
And that is not sustainable.
Now that I am in my 6th year of teaching, I can look back and say “all that money and energy didn’t really have that big of an outcome”. Kids learn no matter if I spend $30 on a lesson or $0. As a first year teacher, you are going to stumble. Lessons you teach will totally bomb (mine still do and there is a team of us creating them). That is part of teaching. But what I want you to take away from this post is that you are going to do the best you can for the kids in front of you. Not for the Instagram community behind a screen. Or the teachers down the hall. Because we all have our mess ups too. It’s just that you don’t see them. Or we downplay them.
You don’t need to keep up with anyone, especially in this first year of teaching.
Not the teacher down the hall nor the teacher who you thought you’d be. Just relax and focus on creating relationships with your students. Have fun activities, but you don’t need one everyday (especially if it costs money). Don’t feel the need to document every moment with your kids. Ask veteran teachers ideas for easy (free) time fillers if your lesson ends early. Use this community to know you are not alone, but do not compare yourself to this community. Disconnect when you need to. Show a video of a lab when you need to. Message similar content teachers when you need some advice.
Future teacher, you got this. As a community, we are here to cheer you on.
Good luck going into your first classroom fellow teacher!