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What I Learned From My First Year of Teaching

This year, over 700 new teachers joined the Success Academy family. The first year of teaching can be challenging, but it can also be exciting, eye-opening, and filled with opportunities for learning and development. Each year, we give an award called “Rookie of the Year” to first-year teachers who have embraced the challenge and demonstrated significant growth. We asked these teachers to share words of wisdom on how they conquered first-year jitters and landed on their feet. New teachers, we hope this advice from last year’s “Rookie of the Year” winners encourages and guides you during your first weeks and months in the classroom! 

What’s something you wish you had known at the beginning of your first year?

Own your development. 

You are in charge, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if it’s uncomfortable. If you don’t like how things are, manage up and suggest an alternative. The worst response you will get is a no, but you’ll never know until you try. —Ameera Badamasi, 2nd Grade ICT, SA Bronx 1

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Use your mistakes as opportunities, not limitations.

I wish I’d known that setting high expectations for yourself doesn’t mean you won’t falter. You will make mistakes—it’s how you handle and grow from them that matters most. And it shows your kids that you’re human, too. —Julia Monro, 2nd Grade, SA Bronx 1


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Know that your hard work will pay off.

One thing I wish I knew at the beginning of last year is that the hard work pays off. Even though I felt overwhelmed at the start of the year, I put 110 percent into my pre-work and classroom so I could understand what was happening and fully engage in discussions with my team members and leadership about content and my students. I found out that while workload may seem like a lot, it is all purposeful—and your effort directly impacts your students and your career at Success. —Kelsey Shallow, 3rd Grade ICT, SA Harlem 4

What are you doing to make this school year your best year yet?

Appreciating and understanding the importance of Teacher Excellence Training (TET).

Understanding TET’s value has allowed me to be more intentional about my planning, my vision for my classroom, and the expectations that I have for myself and my scholars in order to make that happen. TET really taught me how to consistently keep my bar high and refuse to drop it, values I’ll bring with me into this year. —Ashley Earl, 1st grade, SA Crown Heights

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Fostering great relationships with parents.

I’m a firm believer that as teachers, we should always have at least one parent/guardian number in our phone for each of our scholars. I want parents to know that we can be such a powerful team if we work together. This year, I’m committed to consistently reaching out to parents—whether it’s to let them know their scholar is struggling, or even just to share a picture of their scholar enjoying school. —Fabiani Baez, Kindergarten, SA Bronx 4

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Staying organized and transparent with leadership. 

I keep an agenda, as well as our “Week at a Glance” (WAG) and sticky-notes on my computer to remind me of everything I need to do for the day to help eliminate weekend work. I also am being transparent with my leadership and grade team lead, by asking questions when I’m confused, letting them know how I feel, and asking for feedback on areas I want to grow in. 

Kelsey Shallow, 3rd Grade ICT, SA Harlem 4

Cover Photo: Kelsey Shallow

Written by Success Academy September 19, 2019

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