How to Thrive as a New Teacher Hired at the Last Minute
If you are a new teacher who has just been hired by a school district at the last minute, then you may be feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Don’t worry – you are not alone! Every year, thousands of teachers are hired in this way. It can be challenging to adjust to a new job and a new school district so quickly, but with some preparation and organization, you can make the transition relatively smooth. In this blog post, we will provide some tips for not only surviving, but thriving as a new teacher hired at the last minute.
Find a Mentor- One of the most important things you can do as a new teacher is to find a mentor. A mentor is an experienced teacher who can provide guidance and support as you transition into your new role. If possible, try to connect with a mentor before the school year begins. That way, you will have someone to turn to when you have questions or need advice. Many school districts will match you with a mentor or guide. In best case scenarios, this mentor has experience helping new teachers, is familiar with your new role, and is easy to connect with. If you experience some disconnect, reach out to your principal or the Mentor Coordinator for guidance.
If you haven’t been matched with a mentor in your school or district, here are some easy steps you can take:
- Ask- Your curriculum director, department lead, or principal should all be familiar with the concept of mentoring. If you’re feeling alone or a bit back-on-your-heels, your first stop should be with your supervisors.
- Search online- you can also find mentors online (like right here in our New to Education Group on K12Leaders!!) or on other social media sites.
- Go Back to School- Try reaching back out to your certification program. Most schools of education are more than happy to stay engaged with their alumni, and this is a great way for them to do that!
- Head to the Library (or Amazon) – There are a number of great books on the topic, including “The Modern Mentor” (disclaimer, I’m the co-author) and “The First Year Matters” by Carol Radford
Build your Community- Another valuable tip for new teachers is to build community, both inside and outside of your school. When you feel connected to the people around you, it can make the transition into a new job much easier. Get to know your colleagues and try to find ways to connect with them on a personal level. Reach out to your students before the first day of school in some way – whether that is by email or by a social media post showing your excitement!
Despite some of the risks, many teachers find valuable communities through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And K12Leaders is designed <specifically> for educators to make those connections without some of the hassles that come along with those other sites. You can read more about the social media landscape for educators in Michael Bronder’s post “Safe and Professional Social Media for K12Educators in 2022.”
Preparing your classroom – is another task to take on before the school year begins. If you are hired at the last minute, there is a good chance you will not have the time, energy or budget to make your classroom “Pinterest Perfect“. Remember, the classroom is a community for all learners and should grow organically with that in mind. Let your students help to create their own surroundings. Teacher-created materials can be beautiful and helpful, but student-created materials will be more meaningful. Don’t worry about how your classroom is decorated, even if you were hired at the last minute. The environment will evolve over time while you focus on more important elements.
Plan- Another essential tip is to get organized and create a plan for the first few weeks of school. When it comes to building up your own confidence, nothing helps quite as much as feeling prepared and in control. Talk to your mentor or another experienced teacher about what to expect and what resources are available to you. Then, create a schedule and plan for how you will use your time each day. Your school or district will have a library of lesson plans in a variety of forms… they may be collected in shelves of plastic binders, or they may have a curriculum management platform or learning management system like Canvas or Edsby that makes it easier to structure your classes and sections.
Stay focused on your students- we are back in the classroom this year because we know relationships with our students are essential to effective learning. While you’re likely to be under pressure to cover content quickly, you will find that much more effective once you’ve developed some understanding and trust with your students.
Those first few weeks are ALL ABOUT building a classroom community. If you rush right into content without building relationships, you will have to try twice as hard to do so later in the year. Don’t skimp on community-building ideas in your plans!
Keep in mind that you are not alone! Many new teachers feel overwhelmed at first, but with some preparation and organization, you will be able to thrive in your new role. If you need help or support, reach out to your mentor or another experienced teacher nearby. Join a site like K12Leaders.com to connect with other educators. With some hard work and dedication, you will be able to successfully transition into your new role and have a rewarding year.
Self-Care is Essential- Finally, try to remember to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. You are entering in to a demanding profession and it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance. No matter how many hours you have available to get work done, there will never be enough. Carve out time for meals, sleep, personal connections, exercise and relaxing.
Don’t fall into that mind-set that “self-care” is all about massages and meditation… Often the most effective regimes involve things that require some self-discipline such as exercising when you don’t want to, reading and continuing your own learning when you’re tired, socializing with colleagues when you’ve already “had enough” for the week. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your students.
Do you have any tips for new teachers who are hired at the last minute? Share them in the comments below, or join our New to Education Group on K12Leaders and share with us there!