Three Ways To Thrive & Survive As A High School Teacher

Jill Rivera Spears teaches high school Spanish in Sumner County.

By Jill Rivera Spears, high school Spanish, Sumner County

The start of the school year can bring excitement, fear, anxiety, and happiness. I felt every one of these emotions on my first day of teaching last year.  No matter how much I had planned for that first day, I found myself worrying if I was even capable of teaching high school students.

Now that I am safely on the other side of my first year of teaching, I am happy to share some strategies that helped make the year successful.

Set a Positive Tone

I set a positive tone for my classroom from day one. I stood outside my door every day and greeted every single student that entered my classroom with a smile and a “Good morning.” It’s important that my students know that I want them to be in class and that I am happy to see them. When I greeted my students with a smile, they smiled back and felt a little less nervous about starting the year.

Model Social Skills

I always try to be a good example of appropriate social interaction.  Our students today are great multi-taskers and electronic device experts, but I also want my students to develop their personal skills. This is part of the reason I take the time to speak to my students every day when they walk in the class, and when I see them in the hallways.

Balance Structure & Flexibility

Finally, I recommend a good balance of structure and flexibility. High school students are not children and they are not adults. They struggle with this in-between stage constantly. Structure is important to establish a safe and productive learning environment. I did this by creating clear rules and expectations, practicing classroom procedures and ALWAYS following through with my discipline policy. As I learned more about my students, I encouraged them to be creative. I designed lessons that would give them the structure they needed to be successful at the task, but still encouraged creativity and self-expression. I believe that by doing this I established a mutual respect between my students and myself that worked well.

The most important thing I learned in my first year of teaching is that, to my students, I am another adult who has an impact on their lives every day. And for some students, I may be the one adult who inspires them to be the best they can be. I wish all of Tennessee’s first-year teachers a joyful and learning-filled school year!