Top Ten Things I Learned in My First Year of Teaching

Written by Erin Wollett

August 24, 2016


#1. You will get mistaken as a student. Take it as a compliment.

Yes, I am a 22 year old that is wearing the same t-shirt as my students… but I promise I’m an adult. I take this as a compliment because I feel like in 20 years I’m going to wish that people would think that I’m young. Even as I just finished my second open house of my career, I had a parent ask me what grade I was in. No joke, like, dude, I’ve been here for a year. If you, too, have been blessed with baby cheeks, I bet that before the end of your first year of teaching, you will encounter something similar to this:

Me: (Sitting at desk)

8th grade student: (Walks in class) “Is this Miss Wollett’s room?!

Me: “It is!”

8th grade student: “Is she here?!”

Me: (Internally chuckling) “She is!”

8th grade student: (after moments of silence) “OHHHHH. Are you Miss Wollett?? LOL. I thought you were a teacher’s aide doing homework!”

Me: …

Shout out to my friends out there that have been blessed with the ability to grow facial hair and are able to use that to their advantage in this situation.


#2. “Teacher Ears” are a blessing and a curse.

Remember when you were in grade school and the teacher told you he/she had eyes in the back of his/her head?? Spoiler alert: IT’S TRUE. The first time you have this oddly out- of-body-experience that allows you to know exactly which of your 23 students is about to stick their Bubblicious bubble gum on the underside of their desk without even looking, you will understand. You will get little happy butterflies on the inside and think, “I’ve made it!”

Although this can be quite advantageous, you will likely hear too many things that were not intended for your ears. (Because you know, If Miss Teacher is three feet away, she totally won’t hear us.) This can be very powerful but also very dangerous, young Jedi. Knowledge is power. Teachers know all.


#3. If you’re single, you’re students will try to find you a spouse/mate.

“Hey Miss Wollett, how do you feel about bow ties??” This was the first time it happened. New sub in school—we’re soul mates. National President is giving his speech   at convention—the stars have aligned. (Shout out to Andy Paul… apparently we’re meant for each other.) You’d like to think it’s because they want you to be happy and stuff, but let’s be real. All they want is to vicariously Pinterest a wedding for you. All they want is a “class pet” (a.k.a. your first born child) to chase around the shop at FFA events. Regardless, EVERYWHERE YOU GO, there is someone perfect for you. Congratulations, apparently you’re desirable.


#4. Never underestimate the power of Velcro

By fourth period, Grandma’s Velcro-on shoes have never sounded so good. When I was student teaching, I thought it would be professional of me to wear heels on the day that I was being evaluated. This only resulted in me going barefoot during sixth period hoping that none of my students were morally offended by this action. Nikes, Twisted X, whatever you have to do, just do it. (Get the Nike reference, there?) You’ll thank yourself later.


#5. Your students actually know what they’re talking about. Sometimes.

Regardless of how many times you hear the term, “But that’s not how Mr. So and So used to do it!” And regardless of how many times you want to kick a turtle for hearing that, maybe there’s some wisdom there. Turns out humility is a virtue, turns out there might be some value in what these kids are saying. Other teachers do things for a reason and by listening to what “Mr. So and So” used to do, you might learn something about your own teaching. (Cue life lesson.)

On the flip side, middle school students void this rule. They may walk and talk like normal people… but they are not. Proceed with caution.


#6. The maintenance man is not your R.A., you don’t have to ask permission to hang things in your room.

I’ve never received a weirder look than when I went to the maintenance guy to ask if I could hang things from the actual wall or if I was required to use command strips. Apparently becoming and adult and getting a big kid job means you have the power to make these decisions on your own. Who knew?! This isn’t me saying that Velcro sided command strips aren’t your absolute best friend. Take it down, put it back up again, take it down. It’s like magic, they’re great. You want a Scentsy that is run by heat? Go for it. For real. Nobody will yell at you.


#7. When the spa comes calling… run to it.

When I spent my first summer at FFA camp as a teacher, two veterans gave me the greatest advice ever: Take your personal days. At most schools, if you don’t use your   personal days, you lose them. Yes, most of the time it is easier to just go to school than to organize sub plans… but you need to take time for you. FFA advisors put in enough time as it is. Get a massage, go to a baseball game, go garage sale-ing for goodness sake. Do what is good for your soul. You can’t pour from an empty cup.


#8. VCRs still exist.

Yes. It’s true. But the old band director guy down the hall probably knows how to fix it. Also, when it’s three-quarters of the way through the school year and you just can’t figure out how to make it work, he will know how to come and simply plug it in. (Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple.) Most of the teachers in the school remember just how much of a hot mess their first years of teaching were and are happy to be your knight in shining armor/idiot in tin foil.


#9. If you feed them, they will come.

I’m not above bribery. Why do you think Dumbledore had such a big feast at the beginning of every school year? To secure good behavior, I’m sure. I won’t say that this happened, but I won’t say that it didn’t either— but last year I may have had my fall teacher’s evaluation scheduled with a pretty shifty class. Bribed them with cake pops. They were angelic. Having a meeting? Pizza. (Not that pizza isn’t always the answer in life anyways…) Have four alums judging your parli contest? Give them a can of left over fruit sale nuts. Food is the way to any man’s student’s heart, sponsor’s wallet, and volunteer’s time.


#10. You have the coolest job in. the. world.

Even when you are leaving the school at 11:30pm the night before evaluations all salty because you missed this evening’s episode of The Bachelor (totally happened), know that you have THE coolest job out there. Each day, you walk into a classroom and foster an incredibly special relationship with your students/members. You make a difference in their lives that they may not realize until years after. You also get the awesome opportunity to join the family of agricultural educators throughout the state and the nation—a group of people who understand your life and your passion and your dedication to these special young people. You get to help build the future of agriculture, which in turn manufactures the future of our society, which actually determines the fate of our planet. Basically, you rule the world. (But also, if you screw them up, they won’t know to blame you until undergoing years of therapy. So breathe.) So, congratulations on your new job, welcome to the family, and Dear Lord… GOOD LUCK.