I'm going into my 6th year and I am now starting to realize more and more of my silly 1st year teacher mistakes. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I was really hard on myself during the first few years. Here are my tips for those of you who are just starting out.
Because I am such a perfectionist, planner, organizer going into my first year was really stressful. Most of this stemmed from the fact that I didn't know what to expect. What I've learned after 6 years and 2 schools, is that everything will be explained during pre-planning. Most schools do a great job of buddying you up with someone who has been at the school and can answer all those burning questions like "Where do I make copies?" :)
2. Don't buy too much.
I made the mistake of buying too much going into my first year. (I don't think I've completely gotten over this, still room for improvement!) Wait and see what is already a part of your classroom. My first school had a great assortment of costumes, props, resources, etc. Try and wait until you have set up your classroom and lived in it a bit before buying items. There were many things I wish I had a few months into school that I'd never thought of.
3. It takes time.
I made myself sick throughout my first year worrying about being a great music educator. There was a lot I was unsure of and I kept comparing myself to the 20+ year vets of my county. Not fair! Looking back I know that I still don't know it all and that I make mistakes from time to time and that's okay. What's important is how you reflect on those mistakes. Realize the misstep and make a plan to fix it. You won't be Artie Almeida or Randy and Jeff after just a few days of teaching! :)
4. Kids are amazing.
Don't under estimate your kids. This is not to say that I didn't think my kids were capable of learning or doing things, I just did not realize how much I could rely on them. After a few weeks into school you'll start to see who your most responsible kids are. Use them as helpers during class. Don't run around like a chicken with your head cut off!
I took on way to much in my first year when I could have assigned kids to the task. After school programs are a great place to find helpers to fold programs and do any number of other small jobs. Kids love to help and this extra time they get to spend with you.
5. Take Care of Yourself.
Kids are germy and hand sanitizer is your friend. Make sure to take care of yourself during this first year especially because you will be exposed to so many germs. Take your vitamins, try and exercise and wash your hands/use hand sanitizer frequently.
I know that the day is long and busy but if you can find time, wipe down some of the things you touch frequently (remotes, keyboards, handles, etc.).
Take care of your voice. Talking/singing the whole day is taxing on the voice, especially in the first few months. Be careful. Make sure to hydrate and rest your voice as frequently as possible.
6. Have Fun.
Enjoy the learning process. Live in the moment. Kids are hysterical but you will only get to enjoy these moments if you slow down. There is no race. The kids will learn, it will all get done, don't sweat it.
7. Lean on Others.
I was often afraid to ask for help because I didn't want to sound stupid. What was I thinking? Every teacher went through their first year, they will understand the questions you have. Reach out to teachers at your school and the music community. Someone will have the answer and they won't think you're stupid for not knowing.
Parents are a great resource and are often willing to donate their time to help you out with projects. Don't be afraid to ask. Since I've learned to ask, I have created a wonderful network of parents who within minutes of an email have taken the task off my shoulders.
Family. Although my family doesn't always understand completely what my day is like dealing with 6-11 year olds, they are always there to listen. Use family time to relax and release your mind of the burden of school.