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5 Mistakes I Made My First Year!

Many moons ago, I started teaching first grade. I was wide eyed and excited for every adventure thrown at me! An invite to a child’s birthday party – YES, I’ll be there!

Would you join this committee? You bet I will!

But let’s be real…by the end of year one, I was exhausted! So, today I’m sharing my top Five mistakes I made as first year teacher. {Believe me, there were definitely more than five!}

Top 5 Mistakes I Made My First Year

During my first year, I may as well have slept in my classroom. I arrived by 7 a.m. {at the latest!} and never left before the evening news was over!

I would run around my classroom prepping centers, cutting out pieces for an art project, and standing in front of the copy machine {scratching my head to figure out what we’d be doing TOMORROW!}

Looking back, how crazy was that? I would tell my first year self, there will always be work to do! Cutting out laminate, cleaning every crevice in my classroom, and perusing through teacher resource books can wait! Go home, spend time with your family and friends {or at the very least, kick back and watch TV!}

Oh, and along those same lines…DO NOT take home work! You can always trace those templates out tomorrow!

Mistake # 2 First year Teaching

What can I say, I was 22. I thought I knew everything! I was fresh out of a training program and I knew what was best for children! I was equipped with the best research, case studies, and latest trends in teaching!

What I didn’t know is what it would be like to actually be in a classroom with 16 students ALL DAY LONG sans an amazing master teacher! {Yes, I had just 16 first graders my first year! Oh how I miss those days!}

I didn’t know that the basal reader was not the only way to teach reading. I didn’t know that parents could be so powerful. I didn’t know the importance of having an amazing team to support me!

If I was 22 all over again, I would tell myself to just hang in the background for a bit. Get the lay of the land, allow others to speak first, and keep my head down!

Mistake # 3 First year Teaching

I wish someone would have cut up my credit card my first year {or explained to me how many pairs of shoes I could have purchased with that same amount of money!}

I bought everything that wasn’t nailed down at Lakeshore! It didn’t help that I live near an amazing Lakeshore Clearance store. If I *thought* I might have used a resource, taught a lesson or thought it was just too cute, in my cart it went!

I was cleaning my cabinets at the end of this past school year and I finally let go of some of the {brand new} resources I purchased in my early years. It pained me to toss those books and games that I never even used!

Related Product: End of the Year Activities for 1st Graders

My advice is to never buy something in the hopes of using it in the future. Just buy what you need for right now!

Mistake #4 First year Teaching

New teachers are so lucky to have Teachers Pay Teachers as a resource today. In 2015, you can instantly purchase a unit on the Continents, something to decorate your classroom, or even printables to help reinforce a skill you’re working on. I thought I had to be a “Yes Man” when I first started teaching. I agreed to be on every committee, go to every extracurricular school activity, and volunteered for stuff that I had very little knowledge about!

New teachers…it’s OK to say no! It’s overwhelming to set up a classroom, keep it running smoothly, and get kids to actually learn something!

In your first years, you should be focusing on growing as an educator, not checking off boxes for committees {that likely you were selected for because no one else wanted to do it}

Mistake # 2 First year Teaching

This last mistake took me a few years to realize. I let my kids get away with murder that first year! Since it was my first class, I had absolutely no idea what they should be expected to do!

It wasn’t until I had a few “good” classes under my belt that I realized I had zero classroom management skills that first year! If a naughty student smiled at me, I let their offense go! If a child wanted to sit near a friend, I allowed it! If the class didn’t want to do writing today, no problem…we’d do it tomorrow!

Can you imagine that now? It’s completely laughable! I’m so glad I’ve learned to implement schedules, systems, and the importance of building a community.

Now when a student finishes early, I ask them to pull out their B.A.T. Books – instead of “drawing a picture!”

While I’m not as bright eyed as I was back in 2003, I still have the same excitement each August for a new group. I love finding new resources {usually via TpT and Pinterest}, learning from PD {but mostly blogs!}, or chatting with my awesome coworkers!

What mistakes did you make as a new teacher? Share in the comments below!


5 Responses

  1. I think I made all those mistakes too! Unfortunately the spending money one became a habit that has been hard to break. I’ve learned to ask for donations more and Donors Choose has helped too. Another mistake I made was underestimating the amount of time on test prep. This was more a district directive than a personal choice, but I thought I’d be able to use all those great ideas I learned in college, but instead I was doing a whole lot of test prep (I thought third grade which is the first testing grade here in in OH).

    Have a great weekend!


    1. Great idea to use Donors Choose! Test prep – eeeek! When they are so little, too 🙁 I wonder what I’ll look back on in another 10 years and think I’m currently doing that was oh so terrible!

  2. Thank you so much for these tips to a future teacher (2 years of school left…)! I follow you on Instagram and TPT and you are an incredible inspiration. Thanks!

    1. Awww Jessica, you are so sweet! Thank you for your kind words & following along! I’ve made lots more mistakes and I will share those soon 🙂

  3. Here I am in bed, deleting emails. I read your newsletter quickly and got ready to call it a night. Fortunately, this article’s blurb caught my eye. I knew I had to read it! I am a first year, third grade teacher. I’m three weeks in and loving it! However, if I’m honest, I’m also unsure of how long I can keep up the pace I’m going at. I leave my house at 6:15 am and get home by 5:00 at the earliest. I then spend every moment (other than a hurried dinner as I go) until I go to bed at 9:00 making sure everything’s ready for the next day. I know that teaching requires a large time commitment, but I also want to have time for a life! Thanks so much for the reminder to stick to boundaries and enjoy time doing other things I love (and need!) 🙂

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