Staying Learning Limber: Thoughts for New Education Graduates

Being a new teacher can be exciting, terrifying, and alltogether satisfying at once. You go from being a student to student-teacher to teacher candidate in just a matter of months. There is a lot to get together in a short span of time. You have to wrap up your undergraduate responsibilities, complete paperwork for your certificate, build a resume, look for jobs, and survive the whole thing in one piece emotionally!

I’m tempted to wring my shirt out over this page and hope the months of plattitudes, endearing advice, indellable student comments,  and genuine moments of achievement and failure (they usually aren’t far apart) simply drip out. It has been one crazy year, and I am more than exhausted! I’ll warn you now, you have to develop a radar for worthwhile advice and quotable soundbytes; people will be lobbing them at you during your first year like you’re the new designated hitter on a community softball team. Batter up!

From one new teacher to another, I want to help. You’ve already chosen to work in one of the most challenging and rewarding careers there is, you deserve as much help as any will offer. Graduating is an exciting event and you should embrace the celebration. Don’t let the fear of unemployment hit you in the gut too soon, but be deliberate: start taking baby steps early. Use your resources, ask for help, and put yourself out there.

Think you’re ready to start your master’s degree? Proceed with caution! Unless you’re ready to pack in the Big League Chew and pop some serious bubbles, you may find yourself hit with more than a few pitches. You’re probably more prepared than you think, and that climbable payscale will call to you like the Big Green Monster itself, begging you to hit long high balls to the outfield. It’s a great option if you find yourself with no job right after graduation (I’ve been there!). Being a regular substitute and swinging at a few grad hours here and there is a great way to stay limber while you wait for your shot at the Majors.

In the meantime, you’ve got to keep abreast of the trends and topics in education. I suggest a regular regimen of reading and reflection for proper education health. Starting a blog is a great way to keep track of your thoughts and garner feedback from other educators. I like WordPress & Blogger, both are simple to learn, clean looking, and well-supported. Another thing I suggest is to subscribe to a professional journal like Educational Leadership or The Kappan, both will stir in you challenging questions that prompt deeper thought. When your diet consists of a regular intake of such new ideas, your interview performance will be sharp and snappy!

While you’re preparing for job fairs, interviews, or resume-writing you need to keep a few things in mind: Don’t Panic! Douglas Adams’s timeless advice (inscribed on the front of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) should resonate in your mind as you await being called about openings and interviews. The only thing you can do is put your best foot forward, double-check your forms for each school, and keep a positive attitude.

As I approach the end of year one, I see so many things I will do differently next year. The heat and strain of all my work has tempered my memory, strengthened my confidence, and helped me understand specific things I can succeed at when I teach and those with which I should go to others for support. If had to choose one idea that clarified for me more than any other over the past year of teaching, it is this: I love to learn with my students and fellow teachers. That has stayed with me and kept me afloat through more “I don’t know” moments than any inspirational teaching quote, cooperative learning strategy, or Madeline Hunter design. Trust in yourself, trust in your love of learning.