Wise Advice to a New Teacher

full pict juggling

The Question:

I am four weeks into my first year of teaching. A couple of people have been telling me lately that they’re worried I’m going to get burned out quickly because I spend so much time at school and then take work home.

I don’t know how else to do it, because there is always so much to do, especially because I want everything to be perfect.

Does anyone have any advice or tips? What should I do differently?

The Answers:

Ann

It will never be perfect. Slow down and smell the roses.

Valerie

That is the life of a new teacher! Do what you need to do to feel comfortable in your new career! Good luck!

Deondra

Everyone is different. I’m in my 12th year and find myself working in my classroom on Saturdays. As long as you enjoy it I agree with the previous poster– do what you feel is comfortable.

Amy

I have been teaching for 17 years and still stay late to organize and get stuff ready. I choose not to bring a ton of stuff home. I love teaching kindergarten and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Don’t let negative people bring you down. If you don’t have a problem staying and working don’t worry about it.

Michelle

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Check with your local high school and see if a future teacher would like to “get their feet wet.” (sometimes they need volunteer hours and then you can be a reference for them). Sometimes you can also get parents to help.

Marrissa 

Every new teacher spends hours perfecting. It’s all new. My first year, I spend thousands of dollars on my classroom set up and materials and countless hours learning and planning my lessons. All so that I felt comfortable. No one is going to do it for you. The next years you will spend less money and less time. It’s the nature of the beast! Good luck:)

Jennifer

I can find many reasons to come in early and stay late EVERY DAY and I have been teaching for 14 years. Everything will never be perfect. Do what you must do and LEAVE!!!! You need time for YOU too!! Have the kids help you with things that are in classroom. K kids love to help. Set a timer at the end of the day and leave when it goes off!!

Ruth

I’ve been “overdoing” it for 24 years—-when does the burn out begin? But I don’t stay at school at night. You need some down time. I do something I enjoy after 6 p.m.—knit, watch TV, play a game on my tablet, play the piano, etc. And don’t work all weekend. I reserve until noon on Saturday for lesson plans and such. Sunday is your day to relax and enjoy your family, go to church and get that inner healing and guidance so you’ll be fresh and ready for Monday.

Sharman

I agree, there is always projects to be done and taking some work home is also the nature of the beast. Ask your grade level to help in some tasks. I know that when coming to prep for a project we all take on a piece and it makes it easier. Additionally, if you are fortunate to stay in same grade next year, some things will be done and you will focus on new projects to perfect your teaching. Call the local High school and see if their students have community hour requirements. Then use them to prep tear sheets, collating, filing in the portfolios. Most important even with being new is to make time for yourself, family and friends.

Loise

If you feel good about what you are doing, then stick with it. I was in kdgn. for 23 years and my motto was: does it look and feel good and most importantly- are the kids happy??? Everyone has a style that suits them best. Stick with it. Don’t worry about others.

Laren

My first year, I often stayed until 8 or 8:30. I now stay until about 5 or 5:30, but only bring work home to do gradecards. There is so much to learn and do in your first year. A teacher’s work is never done, there is always something you can do. Make sure you take time for you!

Celina

The life of a new teacher? I must be doing it wrong, too. I have 14 years under my belt. Stay until 5 everyday, take the bag home and do what I can when my children go to sleep, and work all day either Saturday or Sunday.

Sheila

 I also stayed late and worked at school on weekends, then I would also bring work home my first few years…I understand now that the work will never be done and my personal life is more important to me than to spend so much of my time working. So now I stay for an hour or 2 if necessary…but I don’t overdo it anymore…so find what works for you…just remember its your career, not your life…you should work to live, not live to work…

Lynn

This is my 36th year of teaching, with 33 of those in kindergarten, and I have always spent that much time at school and bringing schoolwork home. It’s a lifetime curse, I believe, but I still love it.

Rebekah

 To help me stay organized and prepared for each day, I have a basket for each day of the week. I put ALL the materials I will need for each day in it. I make sure everything is in it for the next week by the time I leave on Friday.

Lynda

That was me last year. Now I’m in my second year of teaching, and try to leave by 5 every day. There is ALWAYS something else to do, and it will still be there in the morning. Please don’t expect everything to be perfect ~ are your expectations for your students is that everything is perfect? Try your best, always, and if it isn’t perfect, oh well! My personal mantra is “It is what it is.” Good Luck to you, and relax.

Lisa

Hang in there! Year One is bad, because there is always something to make/do/create. But Year Two will be SO MUCH BETTER!! I have been teaching for 23 years, and that is what I remember vividly from way back then.

Melissa

When I first came to kindergarten a very wise teacher told me that everything didn’t need to be perfect for them. She told me to remember that they are five and they don’t notice. It is still hard for me too after all these years, but if you love teaching don’t kill yourself. Try to find veteran teachers who can help you to find ways to do things quicker. There are lots of little tricks that many of us use. Find someone in your school who doesn’t spend a million hours at school and is willing to share some of those little tricks with you. Good luck!

Laurie

28th year and 12 hours a day! It used to be better but now so pressure from above, adding new programs all the time, it’s a project that doesn’t end until June every year!! Good Luck on this year’s project!

Sarah

Spend one weekend really getting ahead. I do the same thing Rebekah Linn does and have each upcoming day in a basket ready to go. I try to be at least one week ahead with all my prep. This way you only have to get one day ready at a time and when you’re having a tired day, you can relax knowing you are way ahead of schedule. You’ll find your “groove.” Kindergarten is a lot more prepwork than other grades!

Constance

I still find myself going in early or staying late and I’m 6 years in. I don’t think I’ve burned out yet as I still can’t imagine doing anything else. As far as working at home, I don’t think that will ever end.  I’ve just learned to multitask by jammin’ to music or watching TV + doing school stuff  to make it go by sooooo quickly.

Kate

I’m in my third year and finding ways to organize and stay ahead, but still put in a lot of hours. I think it is the nature of kindergarten- the kids can’t help with “real” tasks as much as older students. I’m trying to use my parent volunteers for some of my grunt work this year. I look at some of my extra time spent as time I’d give to another hobby- I do love it!

Jennifer

After 25 years….I’m still usually the last to leave school. The first year is always the toughest because you are building your examples and making a lot of things. Just pace yourself and make sure you take some time to do something NICE for YOU! Don’t listen to the others. They just don’t want to be out-done by a newby.

Patti

 37 years in…still spending too much time there! BALANCE!

Gina

25 years and still fighting that same thing. Always something new to work on. Looking for help with this too. Afraid of being assessed and not looking prepared.

Margaret

37 years and still doing that!

Lynn

13 years in and still doing it. I started this year with leaving by 5:30 on most nights (all kids gone by 4:10), but then giving myself two nights at school where I stay later. It helps tremendously with my school life and my home life.

Margaret

14 years in kindergarten…we often joked that the building would cave in if we were all 4 gone before 6 pm during the first 10-12 weeks each year.

Julie

Just limit yourself at home. It’s important to get your mind off of school in the evenings! Also leave it at school sometimes and do something good for yourself! Our district does a Zumba class for teachers twice a week. I leave my work at school on those days!

Tracy

 All the advice above is good. But it just takes time to find your groove. It will happen!

Debbie

I’m 34 years into teaching Kindergarten. I still am the first to arrive and the last to leave the building. I also am up late working on things for school. A dedicated teacher puts 110% into their teaching. Good luck this year. Welcome to a fantastic job!

Sarah

It’s because it’s kindergarten- if they don’t teach kindergarten they have no idea- put in the time now, especially if you don’t have children of your own yet, if some of the stuff you take home is tracing, making a game, etc put out a letter to the parents and see who is willing to do some of that for you

Diane

This is my 35th year. Still one of the first to arrive and I always take stuff home. You do need to remember to take time for yourself, too. The kids will benefit. Have an awesome year.

Christy

I would say keep doing what makes you feel on top of things! I was the same way my first year….at school by 7:15am, leave at 8:45pm, and taking things home. It’s all about survival! But…it will get better!!! This is my third year and I finally feel like I can leave at a decent time in the afternoon and I don’t often bring things home unless I really need to get it done. I would just caution and advise you to make time for friends, family, and significant others (and of course you!). It is easy to get totally absorbed in you classroom and lose touch with life and relationships. Give yourself some days/weekends off from time to time to catch up on your life and important people in your life.

Karen

I think it’s sad that most people seem to be endorsing long days, many, for decades. It does not need to be that way, and should not. There are many, many ways to streamline the process. I only saw a few of those suggestions. Most are just saying it’s the nature of kindergarten, when, in fact, you can (and should) find systems that allow you to work a reasonable day. No wonder half of all teachers burn out and quit by their 5th year. If I read most if these posts after my 4th week, I’d be so depressed. My suggestion is to find another teacher that you like/admire and ask if you can basically just do whatever they do the first year. Tell her you’ll run the copies, help prep, etc. you may not love everything she does, but it will allow you time to acclimate. Your second year, you can start adding more and more of your own ideas. Also, I use racks that let me put baskets on it for everyday of the week. I do two weeks at a time and put everything I need in those for two weeks. I see many teachers spend hours and hours after school and they aren’t always the best teachers. Often, these are the teachers that don’t share, don’t work together, don’t delegate…. Please don’t be discouraged. I know many, many teachers that are superior teachers that do not spend endless hours at school. Find out what they are doing!!!!!!

Lori

Started in 1987 and never stopped doing that. Sorry!

Diane 

 36 years in and I still stay late. Everything is changing do much that I have to keep up . I too am a perfectionist. I rarely take work home. Remember to give yourself fun time. I never do school work on Saturday! That is my day!

Amy

Perfect is an illusion. Yes it’s a lot at first, but make sure you are taking care of you!!

Jamie

 My question for you would be, are the people telling you this teachers? If not don’t listen. If you are not a teacher you have NO CLUE how much time and effort it takes to run a classroom. Just make sure you have you time!

Kylynn

Good teachers know that when they signed up for the job it was more than 9-5. We work before and after school. We take stuff home. We work weekends and summers. Try to take some time for you too, but keep up the good work!

Lydia

Use your professional community to split up work. Make one newsletter for everyone, make one center project for everyone, make a week’s worth of math problems for everyone, have an integrated art project idea for everyone. When it comes to having a nice looking classroom at the end of the day have procedures in place for the students as well as you. Use the clean up time that they have to put your books away and clean off your desk. When it comes to organizing data keep their records in a binder.

Karen

This post is so frustrating!!!!!!! Seriously!!!! If you are spending 12 hour days after 20 years YOU are doing something wrong!!!! The teachers that I see spending this time are often the ones that spend 2 hours writing things in a doodler handwriting font (that nobody notices), have messy rooms, and can’t ever find anything, and are control freaks who want everything a certain way! (Example: they cut out the children’s art projects instead of letting them do them on their own because it looks too messy on their wall – sound familiar?)Not always, but a lot!

Plus, I’ve not seen these teachers have superior students. Does anyone else? Quit trying to equate 12 hour days with “good” teachers! And offer the poor girl your best practices that have saved you time!!! We all work hard. Some have just learned to do it smarter. How dare anyone try to say that a “good” teacher is one that sacrifices their night hours. Do not let these people brainwash you into feeling like you’re a bad teacher if you aren’t there with them at 8 pm!!!!

Amber

You said it Karen!

Sarah

Definitely, I agree with Karen…after a few years you learn to streamline. Also, I know this is not a popular suggestion, but K kids don’t need everything to be cutesy, holiday related, etc. I used to knock myself out having pumpkin counters, snowmen, hearts, etc. and stay up late making things, but the kids don’t need all the bells and whistles. And there’s a lot less prep when you encourage art (kid created), not just do crafts where there’s a certain product that has to look a certain way. You’ll figure it out, good luck!!

Samantha

Believing in perfect will burn you out faster than staying late will!

Stefanie

No worries! The first year is always the longest. Things will get faster.

Cyndi

You will survive. I did it for 41 1/2 years. Your friend is right you will learn as you go, but it doesn’t get easier.

Amber

Give the kids the same routine of responsibility and review activities every morning. Train the kids to run the morning with a focus board and “equity sticks” that the students pull. Calendar, songs, shares, the previous days anchor chart, the letter sounds up along the wall, vocabulary posters etc…. can all be student led. ( it will take a few months of training but once they are doing it, it’ll really free up your morning for getting you head on strait, sipping some coffee, and dealing with all the unexpected things that always pop up. Get idea books you like, pinterest is full of ideas, so is better lesson.com.

And yes, ask other teachers if you can do a lot of what they are doing for the first year. For example, use all their homework packets. Bam, done. Next year, you’ll have a better idea of things that you can mass produce in one or two nights that you can use all year.

Also, the stuff you make does not have to be a piece of art. Don’t aim for perfect. If you try to make every letter you write on a poster beautiful, you’ll kill your time. I’m sure your neat handwriting is good enough to teach them to read

Patty

I’ve learned that most of the time less- is more. Start now taking note on what is REALLY needed and what is not. Also remember- IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT! In fact, “perfection” sends the wrong message to your students about expectations. Nobody’s perfect. Keeping things human is a good way to show what a realistic hardworking adult looks like.

Jami

Work smarter, not longer. It shouldn’t be that much work after the first year or so. They are FIVE, it doesn’t have to be perfect. They will still learn and love school. The first year is the hardest and longest, but after that first year the hours and work load should go down a lot. Create files and baskets to store things in. Keep examples from this year. Keep notes and ideas to make the project/lesson smoother for the next year. It is a thankless amount of hours that teachers put in and it shouldn’t be like that.

Jamie

I prefer to stay at work late and not bring anything home. I’m not burnt out! You have to do what feels right for you!  I actually love working and even prepping. Thankful I have a job I love being at.

Debbie

I just retired after 33 years. I still stayed until at least 5:00 up until my retirement because I never did things the same way with a new group of children. Do what you want! You need to feel good about what you do and not feel like you should have to explain nor defend how you need to “roll”! With small children at home, I couldn’t stay as long, but later, I loved having this special time to myself to work, plan, create, record, decorate, etc.

Melissa

You do what feels best for you. Don’t let others tell you what to do. I teach kindergarten and I’m always here late and arrive early. That’s what I want to do.

Kerry

My son is in his first year and is also coaching and working on masters. His principal has worried about him getting burned out because one night he spent night at school. But hopefully after December when masters is finished and football is over it will get better.

Suzanne

 Do what YOU feel most comfortable doing, not what others say you should be doing. Your own common sense and creativity will dictate how you trim down your ways of doing things and you will learn on your own and in time how to make thing easier for yourself while maintaining your high quality of work. It’s kind of like the tv commercial that shows the first-time mom packing everything to go for a walk and forgetting the baby. When the second baby is on the scene, the new-again mom is leaving the house with a diaper, a wipe, a handful of snacks in her pocket, her baby in a front pack, and her toddler in tow. You learn.

Brenda

22 years of teaching and I still stay late and go in on the weekends. If you love what you do- you won’t burn out.

Carmen

It’s my 5th year and I still stay late. I do try not to take much “work” home with me (it is IMPOSSIBLE not to take the emotional stuff with you!). I stay late so that I can relax when I get home. To me, that’s worth it. As long as YOU don’t feel like you’re overdoing it, I think you’re ok. If it becomes too stressful, prioritize. Do what you can, when you can. I agree with Brenda – if you love it, you enjoy it, you won’t burn out – especially not your first year!

Rhonda

5th grade girls LOVE to come to kindergarten after school, to cut, staple, file, read to children during dismissal etc. Their help does free up some time.

Mary

I am in year 6. Some days are longer than I want.  I do try to do somethings over summer, but I never get out as early as I intend! Some days you just have to say this can wait, but teaching K is a lot of extra work and prep.

Lynn

Yes, ignore them. Every first year teacher has to stay long hours, but it does get better after a few years in the same grade. When you become familiar with the materials and books from which you teach, it is less stress. I’m in my 24th year and I still stay at least an hour after school most days, but it’s not the hours I spent my first 2 years!

Ashley

I did this my first couple years. It’s normal and as long as your not frantic about it, I think you’re doing great!

Dawn

Oh, we’ve all been there. You’re right, in the beginning it will feel this way. It does get better though and try to find a little “you” time each weeekend

Cheryl

I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I still bring work home with me….

Margaret

Oh my gosh…I have been teaching 20 some years and I still take things home and stay late at school!

Roxanne

I have been teaching 17 years and I stay late and bring things home. I haven’t found the trick either.

Roxanne

This is year 26. Teaching is a 24/7 job. Even on breaks, you are working. So glad it is only 180 days or we would have all burnt out after a year or two.

Dylana

The first year is the hardest and you will spend every waking minute doing something or thinking about something to do. It gets better! You will eventually get to have a life outside of school, don’t worry!

Amy

Year 4 here- my advice is get smart about using your breaks for seriously planning and prep time. It’s so easy to get sidetracked, but don’t let that happen. Also, use any and all parent volunteers you have! Send home small things for them to do so that you can really use your time effectively both at school and at home. And leave early at least one night a week. Just do it. Your things can wait, and you will be happy you did. It gets better.

Eric

This is definitely a hot topic! First, I would agree with the comment in which the teacher mentioned creating structure and routines that can be used daily and small changes to those routines would still challenge the students. Second create interactive learning walls and student work walls with construction paper and paper clips so that things can simply be put up without stapling over and over again. Third, spend the time to build relationships with the students and teachers! I barely do any cleaning or paper passing out because I have taught my students procedures (daily table helpers, explicit places for materials to go) because I have modeled and encouraged my students to become independent with the cleanliness of the classroom and how to work with each other. Also, building parent relationships means the parents are more willing to listen to you and they are more willing to volunteer to do prep work for you. Teacher’s minds are so full of planning and lesson prep that we are often much slower at basic prep that a parent who is not inundated with those thoughts. My advice as a 4th year kinder teacher. I love this grade! The kids are awesome and you can always be pumped on positivity. However, part of the reason I have such a blast teaching is because I HAVE a life outside of the job. Like the students, I want to go in and tell them my life experiences outside of school. It gives me time to recharge and come back with energy. Good Luck!

Lisa

You are normal.

After 27 years and now, looking back, I would say that your goal is NOT to make it normal forever. I lived, ate, slept and drank the job in the beginning and because of it, I missed out on living. Set yourself a deadline to leave and if it’s not done, tough, leave, go and be you and just plan to get there a little early in the morning. Don’t miss out on living – you can’t get that time back! Now that I have kids, it’s even more true – I’m Mama first, Mrs. S second! I love teaching and can’t imagine doing anything else. I hope you’ll feel this way too when you reflect back someday!

P.S. You will NEVER have it all perfect – and learning it now is wonderful!

Elizabeth

Your first year it always takes longer … You will be fine!

Nita

Now you know why teachers are considered salaried employees. School Boards couldn’t afford us if we were paid by the hour. As long as your heart is in it, give it all that you have but take time for yourself and your family too. Give yourself permission to have “me” time. I like what someone else wrote about balance. Thanks Goodness for summers to have time to refresh!

Debbie

First of all…take perfect out of your vocabulary…there’s no such animal. The first year is survival…So don’t beat yourself up… however, if you are not careful you will set a precedent that is hard to break. ( Trust me, I know of what I speak….

Janet

Collaborate with your team …..each is responsible for a part of the lesson plans. I can’t imagine the time it would take to create lesson plans alone.

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