A letter to Early Career Teachers

chairs on table

Dear Early Career Teacher,

Congratulations! By virtue of the fact that you’ve acquired this new, if somewhat weird, title it means you’ve had your portfolio of evidence signed off by your mentor and are on your way to starting your first teaching post.

No doubt you’ve been congratulated by family, friends and the trainee teachers you’ve met along the way.

You’ve already signed up to Twitter, followed some key people and asked for some guidance on planning, classroom prep and what you should do in your first 100 days.

I imagine the feeling of being able to call yourself ‘a teacher’ when someone asks you what you do for a living is making you giddy with excitement, and the thought of having sole responsibility for a whole class of children is making you sick to the stomach.

To be honest, throughout the course of a single day there will be a myriad of emotions that overwhelm you and this may be the time when you associate yourself with Tigger, the bouncy character from Winnie the Pooh.

With all these thoughts and feelings doing overtime in your body, if there’s one piece of advice I can give you that will prepare you for September it’s this: Sometimes you’ll have to accept that you’ll never get it all done.

Yeah, I know that probably wasn’t the advice you were looking for, but it’s a fact.

Regardless of how many planners you have, or spreadsheets you set up; irrespective how diligently you rearrange your classroom during the last week of the summer holiday or back your boards in advance of September 1st, the bottom line is, there will always be something that doesn’t get done – and you know what, that’s ok!

There’s a lot to this career they call teaching. You suddenly become all things to all people and it forever feels like everyone wants a piece of you.

There will be days when you feel like Mary Poppins and can pull it out the bag at a moment’s notice; on other days you’ll feel like climbing into the bag, zipping it up and hope no-one will come looking for you.

Teaching is challenging and it’s also rewarding. But sometime the challenges can outweigh the rewards.

It’s at times like these, when you stand in the middle of your classroom, having taught ‘the worst lesson ever’ or after receiving negative feedback following an observation, or being shouted at by a parent for losing Kaleb’s jumper or because you can’t remember where you put that really important memo that your Phase Leader gave you with a list of something that needed to be done last week; it’s at these times that you need to remember, you’re not alone.

Despite the fact that you’re standing in the midst of nightmare and it feels like there are not enough days in the week, remember that every single teacher who has gone before you has felt exactly the same way at some point in their career.

Whether you’ve been teaching for 30 days, or 30 years, there will always be times when everything piles up. At certain times in the day, in the term and in the school year it will get mad busy and some things fall by the way side and you drop off. It’s inevitable and the sooner you accept this truth, the more relaxed you’ll begin to feel.

It’s also important that you own that truth; be honest with those around you that you’re finding things difficult. Admit when you need help, it’s a sign of strength not weakness.

No one expects you to know everything or get everything right first time. That’s the nature of being an Early Career Teacher, for the first two years you’re learning. I mean, to be fair, some might go as far as to say that for the first 10 years you’re learning, because in the world of education things are changing all the time and it is sometimes hard to keep up with them all.

So, hold on to the feeling of euphoria that you experienced when you got the call to say you’d been offered your dream job; Embrace the sense of pride you’ll feel when you welcome children into your class for the first time. And give yourself a pat on the back when you make it to the end of week one and a child tells you they’ve had the best week ever.

When it feels like things are falling apart, it’s these small things that will go a long way towards helping you to hold things together.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and teaching career isn’t built in a term so take each day as it comes and remember, even your headteacher doesn’t get it all done!

Enjoy the journey, share the ride.

If you would like to be part of the 2021 ECT Telegram group, where you’ll be able to meet other teachers starting in September 2021 and have a safe space to share your experiences send me a DM on Twitter and I will send you the link to join. https://twitter.com/AmandaWilson910

Amanda Wilson

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