If you absolutely hate the first few days (or even weeks) of school, you’re in good company. I was discussing this with some friends yesterday and we all agreed that the start of a new school year is the least rewarding time to be a teacher.

You don’t know your kids yet, and they don’t know you. You’re spending all your time repeating expectations and setting up routines. You haven’t wrapped your head around where your students are at academically and why is that kid acting like that, anyway? Couple all of this with new administrators or curriculum or standards or assessments–or maybe even a combination of those–and this job feels incredibly overwhelming.

My friends, can I speak some encouragement into your life right now? Teaching is going to get better. Don’t judge the entire school year by your first few weeks.

That kid who is driving you nuts? He’s going to settle into your classroom soon–he’ll learn your expectations and figure out you’re not going to give up on him. You might not see a miraculous turnaround, but you’re going to see slow, steady improvements, intermixed with the occasional backslide. There will be forward progress. It’s going to get better.

That seemingly never-ending amount of paperwork and data collection you’re being pressured to complete? You’re going to figure out a system for managing it all. You’ll learn shortcuts, you’ll figure out how to team up with co-workers to lighten the load, and you’ll discover how to prioritize your work so the most important stuff always gets done on time. It seems like way too much right now, and honestly, it probably is. But the burden of bureaucracy won’t feel so heavy in a few weeks when your classroom is humming along and the good stuff starts happening.

Remember: You haven’t yet seen kids who were struggling with a skill for weeks finally hit that lightbulb moment.

You haven’t yet experienced a reading block which flows smoothly enough for you to enjoy watching your students discover a fantastic book.

You haven’t yet formed a bond with your students so that they confide in you, give you glimpses into their hopes and dreams, or tell you how much they love having you as a teacher.

You haven’t yet seen your students transform from shaky readers and mathematicians to skilled ones, from insecure to confident, from unmotivated to focused on pursuing a learning passion, or from awkward and friendless to respected by peers.

These are the moments that make teaching worth it. And, these are moments of growth, so you won’t see them until some more time has passed. Don’t get discouraged now–the good stuff is right on the horizon!

Train your eye to look for the small wins. Celebrate every little success, not only in your mind when you’re tempted to replay your endless to-do list but also out loud with children. Don’t get distracted by the documentation and paperwork and meetings–handle your business, but always, always, keep your heart and mind focused on the kids. They’re the best part of this job, and it’s only going to get better with them from here on out.



  1. Dani B

    THANK YOU for this post, Angela! In my debut role as instructional coach this year, the messages in this post is just what my staff needs to hear. Can’t wait to share it with them. 🙂

    • Angela Watson

      How wonderful that you are passing the message on! Good work, Dani!

  2. Megan

    Thank you for the encouraging words. This is my very first year and I have a very challenging class. Sweet kids, just challenging!

    • Angela Watson

      Ah yes, I’ve had that class myself! 🙂 The challenges were great that year but the rewards and payoff were just incredible. Hang in there.

  3. Lauren

    I needed this so much. Thank you. Even simple tasks like taking attendance have been stressing me out lately! I can’t wait until the kids and I get in the groove of things…

    • Angela Watson

      Yep, that’s life at the beginning of the school year, isn’t it? You can do it!

  4. Rachel

    Thank you for the reminder!!

    • Angela Watson

      You’re welcome, Rachel!

  5. Jenny

    Thank you for this! It’s just what I needed to hear. I’m starting at a new school this year and it has been challenging in the classroom so far.

    • Angela Watson

      It is really tough to start at a new school–I get it! 🙂

  6. Jillian

    As a first year teacher I really appreciate this post. I believe you! Can’t wait.

    • Angela Watson

      Great attitude, Jillian! Thank you for commenting.

  7. Gaz

    2 weeks in and already seen a huge difference compared to 2 days in – hopefully this trend continues!

    • Angela Watson

      Woohoo! What an inspiring message for other teachers. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ana

    Thank you for the encouragement! This is my first year teaching, and it has been very hard! I now it’s going to get better, and it already is, but I do wonder if those kids will ever settle down and learn the rules! There is hope! 🙂

    • Angela Watson

      There IS hope, yes! Hang in there!

  9. Chad Hawkes

    Have been teaching for 20 + years now and the first of the year is always the same. I start feeling like I’m teaching in “the groove” around October or Nov. Opening faculty mtgs and subsequent mtgs that involve assessments, evaluations, new programs, administrator and district expectations and of course the list of behavior problems, resource kids, speech and ESL kids can leave you with a feeling of “I wish I were closer to retirement” as you leave the mtg. Then . . . you go back to class and start talking to the kids, sharing stories, laughing with them and showing them what you’re all about and pretty soon . . . the gloom and doom of your “Defcon 4″experience in the Principals mtg softens and you get down to what you do best. Teaching!

  10. Pam Saltmarsh

    Roughest start I’ve ever had. 31 kinders (no aide) with many behavior issues as well as one who speaks no English, two on IEPs. Love your inspiration. 🙂

    • Olga

      Dear Pam,

      I feel your pain! It isn’t an easy start in any meaning!
      Wishing you the best of lucks (and an aide! 😉 )
      What age do you teach?

  11. Maggie

    This could not have come my way at a better time!! Finishing up my third week at my first teaching job. High school health and Phys Ed! Absolutely loving it, but a bit stressed about all of the technicalities! Thank you!

  12. Renee

    These words are so true. Thank you! I’m looking forward to sharing this with my first bs second year teachers.

  13. Jerris

    OMG. This is so true. This is my first year teaching kindergarten and it is so stressful! I was expecting a challenge, but nothing like this. I teach at a school with mostly low-income students. Some of my students have undiagnosed ADHD (based on what their parents have told me) and it’s so hard to teach when they constantly get up and move around. It also doesn’t help that many of my kids just outright DEFY me. I don’t know what to do! What do I about students like that; who just don’t want to do what I say? If I say “sit down” or “be quiet” some will say “No!” or they’ll catch an attitude or they will look at me like I’m crazy and start laughing! That on top of all the paperwork and other logistical stuff just makes it so stressful!! I don’t know if I can make it till May.

  14. Heather Cano

    Exactly what I needed to read. This has been one of those years…it’s bound to get better! Thanks!!

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