Nicole Hanlon, OFLA Beginning Teachers’ Chair
The start of a new year is always full of feeling: excitement, nerves, anxiety, and motivation – and sometimes just a feeling of being plain overwhelmed. As a newish teacher myself (this is Year 4), I still very much remember the stress and confusion I felt during my first year as I was learning to navigate the classroom and all of its responsibilities. In an effort to help those who are also entering the profession, here are some resources and tips that really helped me to get through the first few years (and can even help veteran teachers as well!)
1.Network. Kudos to you for finding your way to OFLA and this group of supportive professionals, but your job of networking doesn’t end just by sending the membership dues. Get out there and meet other teachers in the field-those that teach your language and those that don’t. Building a strong support network of other teachers of your subject can help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed and also give you somewhere to turn when you have questions about how to approach different topics and situations. Plan to attend the conference in the Spring and check out our OFLA Beginning Teachers Facebook group, where you can post questions and get feedback and ideas. Another great way to network is to join up with the specific professional group for your language: AATF, AATSP, OATJ, AATG and more to meet teachers in the state and around the country who teach your language specifically.
2.Share. Once you meet those other teachers, put yourself out there. Share materials that you create and they will share and collaborate with you. One of the best things that happened in my second year of teaching was finding the Facebook group French Teachers in the US, a group of over 4,000 French teachers who collaborate, share materials, and can give you feedback and new ideas. I know these groups exist for other languages too, so hunt them down! Many of us are only teachers of our language in our schools, so it is important to feel connected and supported and the internet can create your own professional learning community!
3.“Steal.” There are many free resources out there for teachers, especially for those of us who are lucky enough to be in Ohio! Take advantage of these free resources made by other professionals and integrate them into your teaching. There is the OFLA Weebly for ready-to-use IPAs, SLO assessments, rubrics and more. Then, there is the ODE Model Curriculum for World Language – a treasure trove where you can find resources on unit design by theme, Can-Do statements, proficiency samples, and tons of authentic and instructional resources.
4.Be kind. More than anything, be kind to yourself. It sounds silly, but the first few years (and even the years after those) are stressful as teachers. There are so many things we want to do and are expected to do in and out of the classroom. It’s easy to get discouraged looking at other teachers’ Pinterest-worthy lessons or feel like we aren’t perfectly achieving the 90% or “doing enough” for our students. Teaching is the work of a lifetime, so be kind to yourself as you grow. We are one of the only professions where a brand-new employee has all the same responsibilities as a veteran. Develop whatever cool activities you can this year and don’t beat yourself up if every day isn’t worthy of a Pinterest post. It’s important for you to sleep, eat and exercise too, not just be a teaching drone! Look at the long picture: If you develop 1-2 activities you’re really proud of for each unit every year, in a few years you’ll have your own personal treasure trove of resources to use in the classroom and share with the new “newbies.”
Teaching is a hard profession, but so worthwhile. In my experience, if you can rely on these 4 tips, you will be surprised at how much you and your students will grow in your first few years.