Those of you who are new teachers probably didn’t think it was possible for your student teaching to become more stressful, but in March 2020, just as student teachers were taking over the classroom instruction, the unthinkable happened. We were all thrown into the deep end, told we wouldn’t be coming back to our classrooms, and that we would be teaching remotely. Every single one of us, including you, jumped into action, planning lessons online, videotaping lectures, and meeting our students virtually. Every single one of us made it to shore. Getting there took us across choppy waters—learning new technologies and troubleshooting challenges. Nevertheless, we reached the shore undoubtedly more resilient and arguably as even better educators as a result.
As a professor who has taught online before, even I was overwhelmed. It’s one thing to teach an online course, and quite another to transition to remote learning with such a short turnaround time. The challenges have continued, even though they have changed. I share this so that you realize even veteran teachers can experience tremendous uncertainties and continue to learn and grow.
Here are four tips to help you stay calm even when you feel like you’re just barely keeping your head above water.
- Use your colleagues as a source of support. Whether you just need someone to talk through an idea or have no idea how to use a piece of technology, find someone who does. Jump on a virtual meeting to work through ideas together. My colleagues and I have done this numerous times and it has been invaluable. As a result, we’ve integrated new technologies, learned new tricks, and become even closer.
- Set times where you walk away from the technology. It is vital that you prioritize yourself and your own well-being. Thus, do whatever it is that you enjoy and don’t feel guilty for taking this time. Your students need you to be well rested and excited to teach them. You can’t do that if you are stressed and overwhelmed.
- Check in with your students and their parents regularly. Although some may say this could cause stress, I would argue the opposite. Proactively understanding your students’ needs and the challenges their families are facing will allow for more efficient planning and ensure you are meeting their needs.
- Remember, no one is expecting you to be perfect. Know that you are making a difference even when you make a mistake, or the technology doesn’t work the way it was supposed to. Show up each day and do your best. That is enough.
In your first years of teaching, know that feeling overwhelmed is completely normal. It means that you are taking the responsibility seriously and that you care. You will have unexpected challenges, but you’ve already demonstrated you can rise to the occasion. Meet new challenges with the same resolve and perseverance. One thing I can promise is that you will never forget your first year. Those students will always hold a special place in your heart, and you can feel proud of your accomplishments.
By Lauren Bosworth McFadden
Dr. McFadden is an Associate Professor at Seton Hall University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in lesson planning, classroom management, and special education. She is also the Faculty Counselor for the Xi Gamma Chapter of KDP, RallyCap Sports, and the SHU Dance Team.