Writer Wednesday: 6 Lessons I Learned from 4 First-Year Teaching Experiences

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Introduction: First Year of teaching is definitely the toughest. You’re in a new place, trying to adapt to new ways, get your lesson plans in on time, get to know your colleagues, and keep ahead of the students in the subject matter. Having done “first year” of teaching 4 times now, I guess I’ve learned a few things.

Lesson One: It’s Not Always About You (Me) … Sometimes it’s Just Time to Move on
My very first, first-year teaching experience involved guiding public high school freshmen through the wonderful rigors of biology. It was a rough year. I had a supervisor who was in his first year of doing that job, so it was very much blind leading blind around. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. In the teaching world, it’s called “non-renewal” in other fields it’s called “moving in a different direction”, “downsizing,” or “being let go.” Whatever. End result is the same: no job for the next year.

Lesson Two: Losing a Job Isn’t the End of the World
Two weeks before the start of the new school term, I found a job teaching chemistry at my old high school. This was a private, Christian school, and I absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, there’s very little money in it and you’re usually asked to go above and beyond as a matter of course just to keep the place running. I didn’t mind, but when they ran into a budget crisis and hit the “non-renew” button on me, I was happy to move on. I’d wanted to get a public school chemistry license for a few years at that point.

Lesson Three: Seize the Moment
I returned to college and earned enough credits to get a formal license in chemistry. By the way, having that biology license paved the way for that to happen very smoothly. I received the license just in time to start a mid-year position at a high school very close to home.

Lesson Four: Growing in Grace and Peace
That job lasted 2.5 years and then just before tenure would kick in, I parted ways with a school (yet again). That brings us to this school year. I searched for another job and found one mid-August. It was a little far from my home, so I needed to get an apartment. Long story short, I enjoy this school better than all the others. I’m also forced to be out on my own.

Lesson Five: God’s Got Better Plans than I do
I have felt confused about why all those “doors” closed for me, yet every new place I’ve been has been hands-down better for me than the last. It keeps me aware of how grateful I am to have a job I find fulfilling, where I can make a difference.

Lesson Six: It’s about the People and the Little Things
Every new position offers the opportunity to meet a different cast of characters. If I’d stayed in that first job, I never would have met the students I did along the way at the other three schools. That would be a shame because they’re some of the finest people I know.


Julie C. Gilbert is a writer, a believer, and a high school chemistry teacher. She teaches by day and writes mainly in the evenings. She’s slowly learning to trust God to take her in the right direction. Side note, she also loves email. Also, if you’d like a free paperback book of Christian inspirational poetry, please send the request to devyaschildren@gmail.com.

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