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Mindset & Motivation   |   Sep 4, 2014

It’s September. Don’t worry, teaching gets better.

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer


If you absolutely hate the first few days (or even weeks) of school, you’re in good company. I was discussing this with some friends yesterday and we all agreed that the start of a new school year is the least rewarding time to be a teacher.

You don’t know your kids yet, and they don’t know you. You’re spending all your time repeating expectations and setting up routines. You haven’t wrapped your head around where your students are at academically and why is that kid acting like that, anyway? Couple all of this with new administrators or curriculum or standards or assessments–or maybe even a combination of those–and this job feels incredibly overwhelming.

My friends, can I speak some encouragement into your life right now? Teaching is going to get better. Don’t judge the entire school year by your first few weeks.

That kid who is driving you nuts? He’s going to settle into your classroom soon–he’ll learn your expectations and figure out you’re not going to give up on him. You might not see a miraculous turnaround, but you’re going to see slow, steady improvements, intermixed with the occasional backslide. There will be forward progress. It’s going to get better.

That seemingly never-ending amount of paperwork and data collection you’re being pressured to complete? You’re going to figure out a system for managing it all. You’ll learn shortcuts, you’ll figure out how to team up with co-workers to lighten the load, and you’ll discover how to prioritize your work so the most important stuff always gets done on time. It seems like way too much right now, and honestly, it probably is. But the burden of bureaucracy won’t feel so heavy in a few weeks when your classroom is humming along and the good stuff starts happening.

Remember: You haven’t yet seen kids who were struggling with a skill for weeks finally hit that lightbulb moment.

You haven’t yet experienced a reading block which flows smoothly enough for you to enjoy watching your students discover a fantastic book.

You haven’t yet formed a bond with your students so that they confide in you, give you glimpses into their hopes and dreams, or tell you how much they love having you as a teacher.

You haven’t yet seen your students transform from shaky readers and mathematicians to skilled ones, from insecure to confident, from unmotivated to focused on pursuing a learning passion, or from awkward and friendless to respected by peers.

These are the moments that make teaching worth it. And, these are moments of growth, so you won’t see them until some more time has passed. Don’t get discouraged now–the good stuff is right on the horizon!

Train your eye to look for the small wins. Celebrate every little success, not only in your mind when you’re tempted to replay your endless to-do list but also out loud with children. Don’t get distracted by the documentation and paperwork and meetings–handle your business, but always, always, keep your heart and mind focused on the kids. They’re the best part of this job, and it’s only going to get better with them from here on out.

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. THANK YOU for this post, Angela! In my debut role as instructional coach this year, the messages in this post is just what my staff needs to hear. Can’t wait to share it with them. 🙂

  2. Thank you for the encouraging words. This is my very first year and I have a very challenging class. Sweet kids, just challenging!

  3. I needed this so much. Thank you. Even simple tasks like taking attendance have been stressing me out lately! I can’t wait until the kids and I get in the groove of things…

  4. Thank you for this! It’s just what I needed to hear. I’m starting at a new school this year and it has been challenging in the classroom so far.

  5. Thank you for the encouragement! This is my first year teaching, and it has been very hard! I now it’s going to get better, and it already is, but I do wonder if those kids will ever settle down and learn the rules! There is hope! 🙂

  6. Have been teaching for 20 + years now and the first of the year is always the same. I start feeling like I’m teaching in “the groove” around October or Nov. Opening faculty mtgs and subsequent mtgs that involve assessments, evaluations, new programs, administrator and district expectations and of course the list of behavior problems, resource kids, speech and ESL kids can leave you with a feeling of “I wish I were closer to retirement” as you leave the mtg. Then . . . you go back to class and start talking to the kids, sharing stories, laughing with them and showing them what you’re all about and pretty soon . . . the gloom and doom of your “Defcon 4″experience in the Principals mtg softens and you get down to what you do best. Teaching!

  7. Roughest start I’ve ever had. 31 kinders (no aide) with many behavior issues as well as one who speaks no English, two on IEPs. Love your inspiration. 🙂

    1. Dear Pam,

      I feel your pain! It isn’t an easy start in any meaning!
      Wishing you the best of lucks (and an aide! 😉 )
      What age do you teach?

  8. This could not have come my way at a better time!! Finishing up my third week at my first teaching job. High school health and Phys Ed! Absolutely loving it, but a bit stressed about all of the technicalities! Thank you!

  9. OMG. This is so true. This is my first year teaching kindergarten and it is so stressful! I was expecting a challenge, but nothing like this. I teach at a school with mostly low-income students. Some of my students have undiagnosed ADHD (based on what their parents have told me) and it’s so hard to teach when they constantly get up and move around. It also doesn’t help that many of my kids just outright DEFY me. I don’t know what to do! What do I about students like that; who just don’t want to do what I say? If I say “sit down” or “be quiet” some will say “No!” or they’ll catch an attitude or they will look at me like I’m crazy and start laughing! That on top of all the paperwork and other logistical stuff just makes it so stressful!! I don’t know if I can make it till May.

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