Starting a new job or career is always a daunting experience, so stressing out about the first day of work is part of the process. But if you’re just starting out as a teacher, the idea of facing a classroom full of young students might prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
It can be quite an overwhelming experience to start your teaching career, and the fear and the sense of responsibility can really take a toll. You’re aware that you’re going to have a big impact on the development of the students in your classroom, and that both your students and their parents are counting on you to help them thrive.
The fear of failure can trigger a lot of anxiety in new teachers, and there might be days when you will question whether you’re cut out for a career in education. The good news is that all of that stress, anxiety, and fear are also part of the process, and not only that, they can be mitigated.
While a little bit of anxiety is completely normal in those first days at your new teaching job, too much anxiety can interfere with your lessons and prevent you from opening up and being present in the classroom. If your anxiety and stress levels don’t seem to be subsiding after a while, there are things you can do to ease your mind and help you become the teacher and mentor you want to be.
1. Practice mindfulness
You want to practice what you preach, so as you’re helping children in your classroom deal with their anxiety, their shyness, or their different learning challenges or disabilities, remember to do the same for yourself. Incorporate mindfulness in your daily life, and dedicate time for meditation and relaxation whenever you start to feel overwhelmed. It can be easy to spiral into an anxious loop whenever you have a tough day at school, but remember to breathe, pause, regroup, and try again with a clear head. Find ways to incorporate relaxation techniques whenever you have a hard time at home or between classes, whether it’s by using an app like Calm, writing in your journal, meditating, or doing breathing exercises. Whatever works.
2. Plan ahead
A good way of keeping anxiety at bay is to be prepared before you step into the classroom. Plan your lessons ahead, learn your curriculum, and come up with different strategies to better support the needs of your students. Plan ahead for every test, every lesson, every situation that you think might come up, keep reading and learning, and you’ll feel a lot more in control. Even if there will always be things that are out of your control, and working with children always brings a bit of unpredictability to the table, there are still things you can control and plan for. This is where you can start building confidence, knowing that you’re prepared and ready for whatever situation might arise.
3. Don’t put yourself down
Even with all that planning, unforeseen situations can arise, and you might have a few bad days, a few difficult conversations with students, or tense discussions with parents or other teachers. That’s also part of the job, and it comes with the territory, so it’s important to not let those days cloud the love and passion you have for teaching. As they say, this too shall pass, so don’t put yourself down if you sometimes lose some battles. Take a few steps back, look at it as a learning experience, extract whatever life lesson you can from it, and move on. Keeping a positive attitude is essential, and accepting the fact that the road to job satisfaction comes with hurdles will help you make progress and grow as a teacher and mentor.
4. Prioritize self care
Since we’ve talked so much about mindfulness, keeping a positive outlook, and not putting yourself down when the going gets tough, we also want to stress the importance of self care. In your first days, weeks, or months as a teacher, your mind will be all over the place, going over the lessons you had today, what’s on the agenda for tomorrow, that parent-teacher conference you have later in the week, and so on. You might forget to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing in this process, so make sure you pay attention to your own needs. The best way for you to really be there for your students and give your best as a teacher is to take care of yourself. Try not to stay up late worrying about your curriculum, or taking quick bites of junk food between classes and school meetings. Make sure to eat well, sleep well, exercise, and take your mind off work when you’re at home or during the weekends.
5. Seek support and inspiration
When you’re going through this whole new teacher experience, you might think that you’re alone in this, and that nobody can understand or help you navigate the ups and downs. But the reality is that every single teacher out there has been through the exact same thing, and they can offer support and encouragement that can help you unwind. Try to connect with other teachers and share experiences, find education-related books or podcasts that help you and inspire you, and don’t isolate yourself.
If all else fails, or you need a bit of extra support and encouragement, don’t hesitate to reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative. We’re always ready to help educators take their careers to the next level and provide the best education for their students.