I want to take a moment to shout out all the first-year teachers out there who made it through what was, in all likelihood, one of the most difficult years of your life.
I will never forget my first year of teaching, weeping daily for months as I walked out of University City High School on 36th and Filbert in West Philadelphia. My mother told me something then that I have since told all the first-year teachers I have had the privilege to guide, mentor, support and educate along the way.
You will never, ever, have to do your first year of teaching ever again.
You may go to new schools, teach new subjects and teach new grades. You may become a grade-team lead, a curriculum designer or an after-school coordinator. You may become principal, assistant principal or superintendent. And these roles will have their challenges.
But you will never, ever, have to do your first year of teaching ever again.
What does that really mean?
It means that—unless you were one of the few who benefited from a gradual onramp into teaching with a teacher residency program, something all teachers should ideally get—you will never be dropped into arguably the most important and difficult profession in the land with nary a roadmap or context for success.
(Indeed, an extra tip of the hat goes to all those alt-cert folks out there who jumped into teaching without having majored in education in college. Nobody’s path to teaching is harder than yours.)
Regardless of how you entered the classroom, though, you will never have to pretend you know what you’re doing when in fact you actually have no idea. You will never have to navigate a school year bereft of context, experiencing every day, week, month and semester as isolated experiences. You will never have so little ability to look at a school year with perspective.
From now on, even if you are in a new school or classroom, you will have an understanding of what a rainy morning does to a classroom’s energy. You will have an understanding of why the period after lunch is so bonkers. You will have an understanding of what September feels like, what December feels like, what February feels like, what May feels like and what June feels like.
But remember this first year. Remember its struggles—for those struggles have within them the lessons that will make your second and third years so transformative.
Get a journal. List all the mistakes you made. List all the things you would have done on day one if you had only known. Then take July off. That time is yours. But by the time August rolls around, get that journal back out and get planning.
You will never have to do your first year of teaching ever again—so plan to make year two that much better.
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...