First Year Got You Down? Hang in There!
The first year of teaching is a year of “firsts,” as you establish yourself personally, financially and professionally.
Experienced teachers have found that these techniques will help you cope.
- Keep a “things to do” list. Review it daily and do one or two things. When you cross something off your list, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment.
- Don’t procrastinate. Having something hanging over you can cause more tension than the project is worth.
- Don’t feel you have to do everything. Try to do a few things well each day and do the best you can on the rest.
- Tame the paper tiger. Keep up with paperwork, or it can ruin your love of teaching. Find a method that works for you, and try not to create more paperwork than you need to assess students, grade them fairly, and reflect and improve on your practice.
- Schedule time for you. A refreshing walk, good book or creative hobby will give you a chance to revive and recharge.
- Leave your teaching at school. If you must lug home school work, get it done early in the evening. Better yet, do it at school and leave it there.
- Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed early if you’re tired. Don’t lie awake worrying about how you should have handled a situation in class.
- Find a friend who can be a trusted listener. Talking a problem out won’t make it go away, but it can relieve the tension.
- Observe good health habits. Don’t forget to exercise, and watch your vitamin and mineral intake. Eat wholesome foods so that your body gets enough calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B, vitamin C and protein. When in stress, the body calls on these nutrients for energy.
Keep Up with Paperwork
If you teach special education, you have major responsibilities in addition to instructing your students. You are required by the federal and state governments, and often your local district to document your work to ensure procedural safeguards for students with disabilities. This mandatory paperwork is an increasing part of special educators’ workload.
No matter how good a teacher you are, there are legal consequences for failing to complete paperwork and you risk losing your job if you fall too far behind. It is important to get yourself organized; take advantage of any support your school
can provide and ask for help when you need it.
- Get a mentor and use his or her expertise. If your school does not provide formal mentoring, find an experienced colleague you can call on for advice. Also keep the lines of communication open with your fellow teachers.
- When you attend IEP meetings, come prepared with a checklist of things to get done—both general goals and items specific to that student.
- Use systems to keep track of deadlines and students. Most districts use an electronic data management system for special education. If yours doesn’t, develop your own spreadsheets. Use one spreadsheet for due dates for IEPs, periodic reviews and assessments; if you have case management responsibilities, use another spreadsheet to track students’ whereabouts and progress. Color-coding the spreadsheet entries can be helpful.
- Tell someone if you are getting overwhelmed with paperwork. Go to your mentor or a colleague, supervisor or principal, or the special education coordinator or director. Ask for time and support to get your work done. Do not wait until you are so far behind that you’re in danger of losing your job.
- Ask if clerical help is available. Depending on the school district, you might be able to get help processing the paperwork. It is your responsibility, however, to get the work done. Work with your local association negotiators to address issues related to special education.
Stay in Compliance
What can you do to overcome monitoring and compliance issues? Document, involve parents, correctly identify students, make decisions based on student needs, meet timelines as required by law, provide individualized instruction and retain evidence of progress.