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Midyear Survival Tips for New High School Teachers

 By Alexandra Pannoni, Digital Producer from US News and World Report

The first year can be tough for new high school teachers.

“I loved student teaching, but teaching full time is completely different,” says Kelly Williamson, a second-year humanities teacher at Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She says there’s a lot of learning on the job and that it can be challenging for first-year teachers to adjust to grading, planning and being in the classroom every day.

When the excitement wears off after a couple of months on the job, reality sets in, and some teachers become disillusioned, says Ellen Moir, founder and CEO of the New Teacher Center, a nonprofit that works with large urban school districts to help new educators. Some new teachers may consider quitting, she says.

It’s important that new high school teachers, many of whom are working in the most underserved schools with limited resources, among other challenges, don’t make this decision, she says. She notes that the profession can’t afford to lose any more teachers – many leave within the first five years. But she says that with the right mentoring, support and encouragement, many educators choose to remain.

New high school teachers feeling burned out should consider these four tips to push through a midyear slump.

1. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel: High school teachers often teach hundreds of students while prepping for many different classes – they may also be studying up on the material they will be teaching soon, says Williamson.

Teachers don’t need to create every single lesson, she says, and advises them to share and ask other teachers for ideas. Many free lessons are also available online. Williamson suggests educators look at other teacher’s websites for ideas.

If one day doesn’t go well, whether it’s a lesson that wasn’t well-received or an issue with a student, it’s important for new teachers to move forward so they can appreciate the job, Williamson says.

2. Ask for help: New teachers really find their footing when seasoned teachers mentor or coach them, says Moir.

While she recommends districts to have structured mentoring programs for new teachers, she says educators without these resources can look to their colleagues for advice.

[Learn how high school teachers can connect and share ideas on Instagram.]

Williamson adds that teachers could look to other relatively new educators in- and outside their department for help, since they may have wisdom to share. “Even just support and commiseration can be nice sometimes,” she says.

One high school teacher on Twitter tells educators to encourage one another.

Teachers could also visit the New Teacher Center website or call the organization for help, Moir says.

3. Use winter break to recharge: The upcoming winter break is a good time for new teachers to regroup, says Moir. Then teachers can come back in January rejuvenated.

Winter break is also a good time for teachers to reflect on what worked well during the fall and areas they want to work on in the New Year, Moir says. She adds that it’s crucial for them to remind themselves why they wanted to enter the education field in the first place.

4. Remember to have fun: Williamson tells new teachers to remember to have fun with their students, even if they still have some classroom management and discipline techniques they are developing. She says to focus on the positive and try to develop quality relationships with students.

Another Twitter user agreed with these sentiments.

But Williamson adds that new teachers should be prepared to confront more challenges this year, especially during the long stretch between Christmas and spring break. Teachers may get more burned out as students become comfortable or as teens try to push teachers’ boundaries. She reminds teachers to maintain focus and take care of themselves.

“You are giving so much to your students,” Williamson says, but notes that it’s important for teachers to allow themselves to leave work at school and make time for themselves

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Yael Bailey

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