Building Success In Your First Year of Teaching

There is not enough time to be a perfect teacher in your first year.

One of the issues that many first-year teachers will get caught in will be comparing themselves to long term teachers. The first year will be rough, so will the second and third years, but you should start developing rhythms in the first few years that will benefit your later years.

Everyone knows that a first-year teacher is not going to perform at the same level as a 30-year veteran.

Teaching is like an iceberg – there is only a small part that is seen by the student. It is up to the teacher to decide how to be intentional about which corners to cut so that your inexperience has the least impact on the students. How do you go about cutting corners?


To begin with, you should refuse to internalize pressure to be as good as a teacher that has been honing their craft for several years already. It is ok to realize that you won’t and can’t be an expert in all areas of curriculum, teaching methods, and classroom management. These are all complex things that can take years to master. Please don’t feel shame or guilt about not knowing it all. But do not go to the other end of the spectrum of apathy, not caring about improving yourself as a teacher. Teaching is a science as well as an art. It will take some time to learn the science before you can develop the art. Keep a growth mindset and keep learning the science of teaching and your abilities in the art of teaching will follow.

Cutting corners

If you need to cut corners, it will be important to focus on those corners that will have the least impact on the students. Being prepared for every class is important, but there might be times when our ”adult” responsibilities will demand some time ought to be spent without students. Having to go speak or be in a meeting may require a pacing that allows for a test while you are away, or you may need to develop a self-paced activity for the students while under a substitute teacher’s care.

Perfect lesson plans

You won’t be able to create the ideal lesson plans for your first year, especially from scratch. Pay attention to what resources are available to you from the textbook publisher. Ask other veteran teachers for help and if you can ”borrow” from them. There are plenty of places to ask for help, but you must be careful to not get stuck in the sand when looking for resources, especially those online.

Asking questions

As a new teacher, you need to reach out to others without shame or shyness. If you are in a new school, start asking simple questions to the experienced staff. This will help you build a foundation for asking harder questions later and you will feel more at ease asking them questions. It takes time to ask people for help when you can likely figure something out on your own, but asking early and often will pay it forward for when you need help.

If you didn’t start earlier then it’s harder to start when the going has gotten really tough.

Beta versions

As you begin developing materials for your classroom cut the cutesy and let go of perfectionism. It sounds harsh – but it’s a matter of getting the first edition out and then improving it later. It’s a technique that is used in the software/app world. Software developers are always pushing out updates all the time. You should think about your lessons and materials, in the same way, you can always improve it after an experience teaching it. You might be browsing polished materials on Teachers Pay Teachers and think all your materials will look that good, they will, but, not at first.


The last first-year teacher tip I want you to consider is to take time to reflect. You need to think back to what was working and what didn’t work so that you can begin improving on those things. As you reflect and begin recognizing what is effective and what is not effective, you will begin to do better in your planning and you’ll start instinctively doing those types of things that work.

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