Dear New Christian School Teacher,
Whether this is your first year teaching in a Christian school or your first year teaching anywhere, you are a novice. A novice is one who experiences something new and is in the initial stage of learning the knowledge and skills that will develop and be enhanced. Sometimes this is a lonely place to be, especially if all the others around you are skillful and experienced. But remember, all of us were once novices. Every teacher has a “first year”—even if your first year looks radically different from other first years, thanks to the disruption of COVID-19. In fact, even the most experienced teachers may feel like novices again, with all the changes in education due to the pandemic.
The purpose of this letter is to offer you some encouragement. Research has documented the pattern found in the life of a first-year teacher. The New Teacher Center studies this, and they illustrates the first year this way:
Notice that the months of November, December, and January are when you might be at your lowest. The Center offers descriptions of the various stages in the article, and based on my years of interacting with first- and second-year teachers, I would have to agree with them. Recently a second-year teacher commented to me, “I am crying less this year!” So how can you thrive rather than only survive that first year, especially in a first year that is like no other? Here is a list of reminders from 1 Thessalonians that might help.
You have been called.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” Rehearse in your mind the ways God led you to this school, this classroom, this community. When the circumstances become overwhelming, it is best to take an hour or two to simply sit and remind yourself of God’s hand on your life, your days, your experiences. He has you in his hand! Can you recall those conversations, interviews, and events that led you to this point? When you do, rest in this promise that when he calls, he equips.
You are not alone.
Your fellow teachers have all had a first year, some more recently than others. Ask for help—it is not a sign of weakness, but humility. Whining does not help, but seeking a friend does. As part of your induction plan, you were likely assigned a mentor teacher. Start there, but if the match doesn’t click, seek another mentor or a coach who can be your second set of eyes and ears. It is helpful to have someone bring another perspective to your situation. Notice the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”
You are the teacher.
Your training and preparation have brought you to this point. In 1:6–7, Paul asserts that you had been an imitator, and now you are a model. That is exactly what the process is for becoming a teacher.
“From Surviving To Thriving: The Phases of First-Year Teaching,” New Teacher Center, Newteachercenter.Org, 2017, https://p.widencdn.net/adrxie/Phases-of-First-Year-Teaching_2017.
Penny Clawson taught in York, Pennsylvania, at the Christian School of York for fifteen years before becoming a professor at Lancaster Bible College in 1983. She served as the chair of the Education Department (1985–2012) and as the program director of the graduate program for the Consulting Resource Teacher (2003–2015). Penny also served as the faculty coach in the Office of Teaching Effectiveness (2012–2015). When Penny retired from full-time teaching, she began to offer services as an educational consultant to Christian schools and Bible colleges, allowing her to serve in a wider geographical area. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.