Editorial - I survived - my first year of teaching

by Jay Raygor - Graduate of UW-Stout

Much like the chaos of a zombie apocalypse, a new teacher's first year in the classroom can be stressful and overwhelming. There are swarms of elementary students asking to go to the bathroom, help with homework, and continuous requests to borrow a pencil. Luckily, I survived.

My first year of teaching took place at my own alma mater in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin. I had the privilege to teach 3rd grade as the 5th section teacher. My job subjects included: Math, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Science, and Social Studies. I also had the opportunity outside of the classroom helping with recess duty every Thursday at 9:45 AM. Alongside teaching, I coached the following three sports: middle school football, high school wrestling, and middle school track.

Being immersed in my first teaching role, the same questions always seemed to work their way into conversations within the community. "So, do you really like teaching?" "How do you handle all of those young kids?" "No but really, how do you like it?" Now, I assume those are questions that most new teachers new to the profession experience. However, I continue to draw on inner dialogue evaluating if my female counterpart receives the same rigorous questioning.

As a male, how have I survived working with younger children in this female dominated profession?

If you follow these simple rules, you have a chance to survive too…

Rules of survival for a male first year teacher:

1. Mentality

In coaching, I often tell my athletes not to survive—thrive. It's a mentality that I preach to them daily. It's an attitude. I took this same belief system into my first year of teaching. Bring your lunch pale and thermos and come to work with an attitude of whatever the district or my team needs, I'll do it. You're new, do whatever it takes.
2. Listen

When other teachers speak, I listen. I'm the first person to admit that I don't have all of the answers. My experiences at the University of Wisconsin-Stout prepared me to become successful during my first year, but I knew I had a lot to learn. My goal was to learn and absorb as much knowledge as I can from my colleagues.

3. Time
Some of the best advice I've been given was by a male veteran teacher when I first arrived. He told me right away don't waste my prep time and use it to the fullest. That advice drastically helped me because of two reasons. The first being, new teachers need to prep and plan more than veteran teachers because simply they don't know the routines and curriculum. Secondly, coaching three sports takes a lot of time away. That's a huge time sacrifice.

4. Brotherhood

There are certain things that men and women do different. One big example (from my experience) are classroom parties. Female teachers find ways to express themselves in ways that are just absolutely amazing. Decorative cups, fancy table clothes, elaborate crafts are all ways these amazing teachers rock their classrooms. The guy teachers I've observed do not operate that way. And that's good! I believe having a brotherhood of other male teachers in the building helps men feel normalized in a school and not an outsider. It allows for us to do things differently without feeling isolated.

5. Knuckles

There isn't a single time when I walked from my classroom to go to the bathroom or to grab copies without knuckling or high fiving other students in the hallways. Get to know as many kids as possible.

6. Enjoy your time
Every day one of my students says something funny or has a break through learning experience. Something great happens daily and I always make sure to stop and be thankful for my job and the great opportunity I worked hard to achieve.

If you follow my six simple principles, you can survive your first year as a male teacher TOO!