Dear First Year Teacher: An Open Letter

Dec 11, 2016 | December, Teacher Rants | 6 comments

Dear First Year Teacher, It's the middle of the year. I know how you might be feeling.

Dear First Year Teacher,

You are halfway done with your first year and you’re probably feeling drained.

Do you find yourself wondering what you’re doing? How you’ll keep going? How long until the next break? Don’t worry, Teach, you’re not alone!

Check out this graphic from the Wisconsin Education Association.

Dear First Year Teacher - The middle part of the year can be really difficult

Phases of First-Year Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Teaching by Wisconsin Education Association

During the months of November, December and January new teachers feel the lowest about their profession.

I know. I’ve been there.

My first year I was teaching in an inner-city elementary school. We had no books. None. Not text books or a school library or anything.

I had to buy every teaching resource I used or scrape together what I could find. I would check out 30-40 public library books at a time (hoping no one would steal them). I was broke. I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly wasn’t prepared to write a curriculum.

I stayed until 7 almost every night. I didn’t know what else to do. I was just surviving.

On the drive home, I would think about what I might possibly teach the next day. Can I possibly plan one more lesson?

Did I really go thousands of dollars into debt to do this?“Oh, how I don’t want 30 years of this.”

Ugh. It was bleak.

Dear First Year Teacher, It's the middle of the year. I know how you might be feeling.

I know not all schools are as tough to teach in. But it doesn’t mean that your disillusionment with the profession will be any less.

Actually, 35% of teachers leave the profession in the first year (Wisconsin Education Association Council)

It’s a job that can be fun. You get to revel in the excitement of the students. You get lots of breaks during the year (because you need them!). But there is so much more to it than that.

You’re not alone Teach. We’ve been there. We see your disappointment, disillusionment, and tough days.

We can’t save you. We can help you. We can listen. But we can’t do it for you.

You’ll come through this stronger, better, and more resilient.

Take  the Christmas break to rest, relax and renew. Think about what has been working and what you have enjoyed. Come up with a plan to create more of that.

But more than anything give yourself a break. Teachers tend to be perfectionists. Often we were star students in school and college. But teaching isn’t something you can jump into and be a star. There are so many dynamics to it. It takes years to master, refine and become an expert.

An open letter to first year teachers in the middle of the year.

As much as you can, have fun along the way. You are a great person and you’ll become the teacher you envisioned. We can see so many of the wonderful aspects of your teaching already. You’ll get this. Give it time.

If you’re lucky you’ll get some snow days – time away helps with your inner peace.  It’s time to catch up and, more importantly, relax. Otherwise, spring will be here soon. Birds chirping and warm air make everything seem better.

Next year, Teach, will be better. It will be a little easier, a little more organized. You’ll be better and you’ll continue to get better each year.

You were called to this profession for a reason. Embrace it, learn from it, and most importantly love yourself along the way. This is just one part of your journey. You’re much stronger than you give yourself credit for.

I believe in you. You can do this!

With much love and appreciation,

The Teacher Across the Hall


  1. Jordan

    I needed this. I am a first year teacher who has a really tough day today and I’m wondering if I’m meant for this. I’m so passionate I take kids challenging behavior to heart. 🙁

    • Lindsay

      Hi Jordan!

      I’m sorry you’ve had such a tough day. Believe me, you’re not alone! I think teachers tend to be over achievers and it can hit us hard when we can’t hit it out of the park each day. Teaching is a challenging and complex profession but it will get better with more time, skill and experience! Keep in mind that kids are usually acting out because of their own frustrations and fears. Try not to take it personally and try to focus on ways to guide them through it. Remember, too that sometimes they’re just repeating behavior they’ve seen in their lives and they might not know other ways to act in some situations.

      Some days you might just survive just keep reflecting and improving so that more of your days you can thrive.

      You can do this!


  2. Tracie

    Thank you so much for this! I needed that and can relate to everything in your article. I am a first year teacher after being an ESE Para for 11 years. This is absolutely the hardest job I have ever had in my life but I love it!

  3. Rissa

    I just finished my first semester. I am really struggling. I get anxious easily, I have never had anxiety symptoms until now. I am teaching a rough bunch who just want their old teacher back. In the course of one day I back and forth between feeling hopeful and hopeless. I know things will get better,I know next year will be better too, but I can’t go through this next semester going through what I went through this semester with two of my classes. The 8th graders really want their old teacher back. Since Day 1 most of them were against me, it’s calmed since then but it’s still really bad. Odd thing is the younger grades really like me, I just don’t know what to do with this 8th Grade class.

  4. Natalie

    Thank you, I am a first year teacher that can relate to EVERYTHING in your post. I am beyond stressed and I honestly do not know what else to do. Everyone says I am doing a great job but I have no work life balance. I am not eating well or sleeping as I am constantly trying to play catch up with just about everything. Honestly, I am not sure how much longer I will last. I love my students but I was not prepared for how hard my first year would be.

  5. Kortney R.

    I love this! Is there a way to make it a handout? I am the first year induction coach, and would love to print a copy for each of them!


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