Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

Helping New Teachers Through Their Hardest Days

By Teaching Ahead Contributor — October 19, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Roxanna Elden

During my first year of teaching, I would never have written an Education Week post about the first year of teaching. Especially not in October.

For one thing, I wouldn’t have had time. My first set of report card grades was rapidly approaching and I was behind on grading. There was a long list of parents I needed to call. Meanwhile, I was barely clinging to the treadmill of preparing the next day’s lesson. Every day I stayed at school later and got less done, slowed by exhaustion, pumped back up by panic. I knew if the kids got confused or bored, the class would get chaotic again, and I’d end the day the way I ended most days: Yelling.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was right in the middle of what the New Teacher Center calls The Disillusionment Phase. This is the time frame between mid-October and Thanksgiving when many beginners hit their low points.

Rookies with supportive administrators and high quality mentor teachers are the lucky ones. Yet this season is no picnic for mentors and administrators, either. In October and November, energy throughout a school is in short supply. It also doesn’t help that one symptom of disillusionment is defensiveness. Well-meaning guidance can be rewarded with attitude, or a series of dejected uh-huh’s.

This hesitation to open up is not personal.

For better or worse, there is no good way for struggling teachers to out themselves during the first year. Even meetings meant to support new teachers can feel competitive, with participants more eager to share success stories than confess mistakes. As a result, beginners spend lots of time comparing their unedited footage to other people’s highlight reels, each secretly worried that they are the weak links.

By October of my first year, I, too, had learned to put a positive spin on any stories I shared. And yet, what I needed most was for someone to be straightforward about how tough teaching can be. Especially when you feel like the weak link. Especially when everyone around you is sharing success stories.

Rather than repeating that terrifying catchphrase about how the first year of teaching “makes you or breaks you,” I needed someone to reassure me that the great teachers of the future know they are not great yet.

New teachers need to know that they can bounce back from their worst moments and still go on to become successful. And then, they need to know the next manageable step to being a better teacher tomorrow morning.

Roxana Elden made it through her first year of teaching and another 10 years after that. She attained National Board Certification and wrote See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, which has helped thousands of new teachers make the transition from training to the classroom. Most recently, she created the Disillusionment Power Pack, a free, one-month series of emails meant to help new teachers through their toughest days. You can sign up here to receive the emails.

Save

Save

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion ‘A Culture of Care’: How Schools Can Alleviate Educator Stress This Year
It takes more than deep breathing to alleviate the stress teachers feel. Here's how to get to the root cause.
Sean Slade & Alyssa Gallagher
6 min read
shutterstock 740616958 resized
Shutterstock
Teaching Profession Reported Essay Students Aren’t the Only Ones Grieving
Faced with so many losses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief?
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read