Impactful ways for new teachers to prep for the year ahead

By Crissandra Ayroso

new students going back to school meeting their new teachers

The first year of teaching is challenging. Everything is new, from your daily routine to the new relationship dynamics in your classroom. A new job can be overwhelming, especially on your first day, whether it’s your first year or fifth career change.

The good news is, that uncomfortable feeling? It’s a good thing. That’s the feeling of leaving your comfort zone. 

Scientific research shows that openness to new experiences is positively associated with many incredible things. From personal growth and building confidence to creating a breadth and depth of emotional experience, the effects of open engagement suggest that those who are willing to can benefit from long and short-term outcomes.

So while things may feel a bit uncertain at first, just know that you’re growing. Remember to always ask for help when you need it.

Luckily, we’ve had the opportunity to sit down and meet with many talented and experienced educators on our teacher podcast School of Talk.

We asked about some of the trickiest situations they’ve had to navigate at some point in their teaching careers and learned a lot from listening.

We’d like to share their wisdom and advice to help you start your year off comfortably outside your comfort zone.

Establish an inclusive learning environment.

An inclusive classroom is an environment where students, with and without learning differences, learn together.

Ideally, it’s a system in place for all kids to succeed. But the current reality is that “we’re working in a system that wasn’t designed to be inclusive,” says Shelley Moore, Educational Inclusion Specialist. 

It was designed to teach all kids the same thing in the same way in the same amount of time, with the same level of complexity, she explains. 

“If you have a child or a student in your class with a disability, advocate for the class…What you would ask for one person, ask for the whole class,” says Moore.

How can teachers be more inclusive?

Start with creating standard-based curricular goals. Shift from standardization to standard-spaced learning to create curricular goals that are conceptual and accessible.

Set the tone to make your classroom LGBTQ+ inclusive.

As a classroom teacher, you likely want to create a welcoming environment for all your students.

Schools across the US are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBTQ students, according to GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey. Even in the more liberal states.  

“We have to remember that intersectionality exists,” says Ace Schwarz, Pennsylvania-based science teacher and passionate advocate of social justice and LGBTQ+ inclusion. “We have students that exist in many identities.”

LGBTQ students attending inclusive schools have less negative school experiences and a greater sense of belonging to the school community, according to GLSEN.

Creating a safe environment for all students is not difficult, Ace explains. ”It’s not something that requires a ton of time and energy on even the most basic level.”

  1. Start with inclusive language, whether you’re talking face to face or sending forms home
  2. Add one LGBTQ+ book to the curriculum or in your read alouds
  3. Focus on an LGBTQ+ scientist or historian

When you’ve got the basics down, you can really start looking more systemically, like at classroom and school policies.

Understanding that students exist in many identities is just one way to create a safe space for all students.

Resources to create more LGBTQ+ inclusive learning environments:

Encourage trial and error.

Innovation is the key to a creative classroom. In order to innovate, making mistakes need to be just as welcome as making breakthroughs.

“If something doesn’t work the first time… treat it as an experiment that you learned something from,”  says Dr. John Spencer, a best-selling author, and professor.

Dr. Spencer encourages teachers to engage in creative work even if it means a project of trial and error. He’s passionate about helping teachers unleash the creative potential in all of their students so that kids can be makers, designers, artists, and engineers. 

“Success is the fact that you tried and experimented,” he says. 

“If a school leader says we want you to be creative, we want students to engage in creative work, we, we want you to take risks, and then you base all success, all celebrations, everything on standardized test score data, there’s going to be a disconnect, right, there’s going to be a bit of a culture of fear. So it’s really important that they not only provide those systems, but they create those permissions to sort of fail forward.”

Take it one day at a time

Finding ways to empower students through embracing change and finding inspiration are some of the best habits a teacher can have.

For more first-hand teacher advice, listen to our teacher podcast School of Talk. Available in audio and transcribed audio formats.

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