As we call a wrap on this school year, I wanted to share the most common new teacher questions (and answers) that I heard from new teachers this past year. One thing I know for sure, if one person has a question about something, you can be sure 100 other teachers are wondering the same thing!
So often, new teachers feel alone because they are in a department that doesn’t have many teachers (special education) or they don’t want to reach out because they are worried if they seem like they don’t know what they are doing, they won’t be taken seriously.
My most important piece of advice for new teachers… FIND A MENTOR. They don’t have to be in your school or even in your school district. Just find someone you can get support from and feel safe to share your mistakes with.
Here are the top ten questions new teachers came to me looking for support in.
Top 10 new teacher questions
Question #1-Where do I go for help when I don’t know what to do?
Answer: The best answer I can give on this is anywhere you can! Everyone’s situation is different but here are a few things to look for when finding answers to your new teacher questions
- Find someone in the same field/specialty as you. (ex: special education, elementary school, high school)
- Choose someone who makes you feel better about yourself when you talk to them
- Choose someone that your respect as a teacher
- Be on the lookout for negative talk. You want to choose someone whose outlook matches yours.
- Find someone who has the time to be there for you
- Choose someone that you trust
Question #2- How do I know if this is for me? Maybe I’m not cut out to teach.
Answer: I always tell new teachers that you really can’t make that decision until after 3 years. (I know that sounds like a long time). Those first 3 years are hard and you just can’t make an educated decision until you give yourself a chance to get good at what you do. Be patient with yourself and the process and after giving yourself and the job time, you will know what is the right decision for you.
Question #3– Where do I get the curriculum and how do I know how to teach?
Answer: This question I get most from special education teachers. I wish I had a magic wand that would allow me to get each new special education teacher all of the curricula they need on day one but that just doesn’t exist for some. The truth is that all teachers should have equal access to the appropriate curriculum they need to teach, but that doesn’t always happen. A few tips are
- Use your mentor to help with this
- Don’t try and get it all set up at once. Focus on one curriculum area at a time.
- Be willing to try a curriculum that may not be your first choice. Some is better than none
- Be creative
Question #4- How do I get control of my class?
Answer: This is always the first thing I address with new teachers. If you don’t have a behavioral system (including rules, procedures, and reinforcement) in your class from day one, I would encourage you to back up and get that set. Ideally, your system is strong enough that the behavior is well-managed but if it isn’t, your biggest bang for your buck will be reviewing your rules, procedures and reinforcement system. If you’d like to learn more about dealing with whatever behaviors comes your way, check out Bite-Size Behavior https://behaviorbuster.com/bsbcourse
Question #5– Will I always be this exhausted and work this many hours?
Answer: The good news is the answer to this is NO but the bad news is it may take a while to get there. 🙂 Being a teacher is REALLY hard and at the beginning it is exhausting. If you go into it knowing this, it helps when the overwhelm comes. Each year will get just a little bit easier so hang in there and give yourself permission to take a break and recharge.
Question #6– How do I handle a difficult parent?
Answer: This is a big question and can cause so much stress in new teachers. The 3 tips are what I tell all the teachers I mentor
- Don’t take it personally
- Reach out to the administration for support
- Continue to do the right thing and don’t engage in the “fight”
Human nature is to “dig in” for the fight. This is a no-win situation so I encourage teachers to continue to be true to what they know is right, stay positive with the parent and remember that most of the time this isn’t about them.
Question #7– What do I do if my administration isn’t supportive?
Answer: This is a really tough one. Sometimes there isn’t anything that can be changed in that situation. The best path in this situation is to find support in other ways. Having a colleague that you can go to to understand the dynamic of the school can be very helpful as you navigate a new school.
Question #8– How do I collect data/teach and do all of the paperwork?
Answer: This is a question I get asked a lot by special education teachers. This can be one of the most challenging parts of being a special education teacher. Organization is KEY! Setting up all of your systems, scheduling your meetings, and scheduling your data collection on day one will make all the difference. If you are looking for ongoing support in all things special education (including a whole month on data collection) check out Special Ed Untangled. A membership community for special education teachers. http://specialeduntangled.com/
Question #9- What do I do if I receive a “needs improvement” on an evaluation?
Answer: Stay calm! I know this can be upsetting and scary but if it does occur, use it as a learning experience and really focus on making improvements based on the feedback you received. If you feel you need more support to improve, reach out to your mentor. Often times teachers can be overwhelmed by this feedback and feel like everything they are doing is wrong. That is NOT what a needs improvement means- focus on the specific area and make changes as you can
Question #10– What if I don’t get along with a colleague?
Answer: Collaboration with colleagues can be one of the most challenging parts of teaching. Joining a school is similar to joining a new family with 50-200 new family members. 🙂 If you are struggling with a colleague, reaching out to them and listening to their feedback and sharing yours can be very helpful. Remember- you can always agree to disagree, just in a professional way.