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Dear First Year Teacher,

By Hope Reimers

Teaching Years: 3 years and counting

Grades: 3rd-4th

Lives: Gulfport, MS

Dear First-Year Teacher,

I see you. I see the nervousness and excitement that comes with the unknown. It’s all so new: new job, new church, new state, new marriage, new friends, new home! You’ve looked up all the teacher tips and hacks online. You’ve asked all the questions and gotten as many answers as you could from other teachers you trust like the studious person you try to be. One of your many Pinterest boards has cute ideas of the theme with which you want to decorate your classroom. You have expectations for yourself piled high and want to be able to prove your skill and reputation to yourself, your students, their parents, your colleagues, and anyone else around!

If I could send a note back in time to myself, this is exactly how it would start. My fiancé and I had just graduated from Bible college, gotten married, and shortly after, moved to Mississippi. That in itself was a miracle! I, a California girl, and my husband, a Yankee, had no intention of ever living in the South, but through a series of events, God made it very clear that that is where we needed to be!

Teaching is undoubtedly my calling.

I enjoy and thrive in it (maybe not EVERY single moment if I’m being honest!). I’m a combination of a “Type A” and “Type B” teacher. In case it’s unfamiliar, “Type A” teachers are your typically super organized, scheduled, Pinterest-themed-classroom type of personalities. “Type B” teachers are the extra laid back personalities who may not have everything organized and perfectly decorated, but they can be great at thinking fast on their feet most of the time! I definitely start off very organized with a defined schedule because that is my comfort zone for sure, but by the next big school break, I find myself a bit more lax in organization while also coming up with helpful, last-minute lesson props and add-ins. I say all that to emphasize that there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all teaching style. What may work for one teacher may not work for the teacher next door. The group of students can also affect what works and what doesn’t.

The phrase “the first year is a learning curve” is an understatement! It’s actually the statement that made me the most nervous. I’m the type of person who wants to know what to expect at any given moment of my job so I can get it done the best way possible. The thought of not knowing what to expect with everything new in my life was very daunting to me. It was the year that made me learn very quickly that I cannot teach a classroom of 3rd and 4th grade students by myself. I can try to show them how to diagram sentences and how to do long division. I can attempt to give them the history of our great country and how to smoothly connect cursive letters. I can give them the best tips to memorize spelling and grammar rules. I can even help them memorize good Bible verses, but if I try to teach by myself, it simply doesn’t work.

All my organization, decorations, or “words of wisdom” cannot reach and truly teach my students in the way that they need individually.

The only one who can reach their hearts and knows them best is Christ.

One of the teachers I taught under as a student teacher in college said she made it her goal to have the hearts of her students. When you do, what you say truly touches them and can make a good, lasting impact on their lives. Some children will readily open up, and some have very strong internal barriers that they want to hide behind. When I go into the classroom in the flesh and my well-meaning intentions alone, the responses I give and decisions I make are often done too rashly and come with some regret afterward.

When I go into my classroom heeding the Holy Spirit, having Him make the decisions, telling me what needs to be said before I even open my mouth, I can attest that what He does and says through me is my best classroom management. I’ve experienced in real time God’s guiding hand, through my words and demeanor, resolve an escalating situation on the spot, guide me through handling discipline uniquely for a student, or soothe a hurting heart. I have found myself multiple times in awe of what has just come out of my mouth. Those who know me, know I am not witty, especially compared to my husband, nor can I usually think quickly enough to add something helpful to a fast-paced, in-person conversation. I know for sure it is God who helps me every step of my day whenever I let Him. Galatians 2:20 is the verse I claim and read as a daily reminder to die to myself, my desires, and my good intentions and to allow Christ to live through me.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

So to continue that letter to myself…

Organize all the things! Decorate to your heart’s content! Remember your teaching and classroom management style will take time to develop with a lot of trial and error, which is perfectly normal. It might not resemble other teachers’ styles, and that’s ok! Remind yourself before all of the hustle and bustle of preparation, scheduling, and lesson planning, to prioritize your prayer time, Bible time, and quiet time with the Lord. He already knows what your school day holds, and He knows the best way to handle it all. He has the answers you’re looking for in His Word about how to handle that particular student you will meet soon, but you’ll need to wake up early enough to fully catch what He wants you to know for today and the days to come. He sees your heart and your passion for reaching your students. No one knows how to help them and loves them better than He does. He also knows what you are capable of with His guidance.

Give Him the liberty in your actions and words within your classroom from the first cheery “Good morning!” to the last tired wave or hug and “See you tomorrow!” Look forward to school and to all God is capable of doing through you when you are willing!


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