Starting your journey as a teacher is the most tumultuous experience that many will ever endure.

There are tears, anger, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. But there are also feelings of satisfaction, elation, pride, and simple happiness. Overall, a lot was learned during my first year as a teacher. Here are some of the most noticeable things:

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You can never do enough planning

When planning your lessons, you really should prepare for all eventualities. You could spend your whole summer planning – as I did – and it still wouldn’t be enough to prepare you for lessons. I also found that my planning changed as the year went on, and I got to know the learning habits of my students better; I found that my mainly visually-oriented plans were being scrapped in favor of more physical and hands-on ones.

Each day is unique

I scoffed when I was told during teacher training that no two days would be the same. How different could two days be? But they were right. You don’t consider what goes on outside of school hours at a student’s home and how this affects their mind when they enter the classroom. A student can be smiling one day yet tearful the next. Every time you step through the school doors, you should be prepared for today to be wholly different from yesterday.

Self-care should be stressed more

Over the past year, I’ve grown to appreciate the small moments I get to myself. Whether it’s a bubble bath on a Sunday evening or a quick cup of tea during break time, the small moments to myself have never gone unnoticed. I think prospective teachers should think about what makes them happy and try to squeeze in those things wherever possible.

A two-week trip to the Bahamas may not be possible, but an extra slice of cake at lunchtime certainly is… because teacher burnout is real.

Appreciate your network of people more

During this first year of my teaching career, I constantly vied for support from my partner, friends, and colleagues. That’s right – don’t hesitate to approach your colleagues for help! They were once in the situation that I was in, and I used that to boost my confidence when it came to striking up a bond with them. And I’m glad I did – we have lots in common! As well as this, I made sure to vent out regularly to my parents, partner, and friends, so I never felt like bottling up my emotions for too long. That’s one thing I’m glad I did.

There will be a fair share of bad days

It’s naive to assume that every day will be full of sunshine and rainbows. There were some days when my students were argumentative, stubborn, and uncooperative, no matter how hard I tried. At first, this was tough to deal with. “I’m just trying to help you!” was what I often thought or said. It took me a little while to remember that I don’t often know a student’s circumstances beyond the classroom walls and that I should be patient with them on the bad days.

…But there weren’t just bad days

For every bad day, there was at least one good one. I was worried about being met with hostility on my first day; I was obviously nervous, inexperienced, and young. But in fact, my students couldn’t have been more welcoming. We went through the usual awkward icebreakers together, we laughed, and we set rules of mutual respect and academic goals.

At the end of the year, I bought cupcakes for my class, and we had a great farewell. My first year was full of highs and lows, but it’s an experience I won’t forget.

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