Feeling stressed

I’m a first-year middle school life science teacher. After a few weeks, I am really stressed with all of the planning and paperwork. Any resources or words of encouragement? —L., New York

Welcome to science teaching! Every teacher has gone through what you’re experiencing, even if they had a great student teaching experience. Fortunately, there are resources to help.

NSTA’s email lists  have timely advice on specific questions concerning content, the Next Generation Science Standards, safety, classroom management, assessments, and more. NSTA journals have lessons that you can adapt. Other NSTA publications, such as those mentioned in Tips for the First Day of School, also address your concerns.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the time-consuming details of lesson planning and evaluating student work, but remember to look occasionally at the big picture. A recent higher education blog post described What Every Incoming Science Student Should Know. The author’s suggestions can be modified for what incoming science teachers should know:

  • Decide what you want your students to gain from your class. They may forget the bulletin boards or elaborate presentations, but they’ll remember if you fostered a love of learning and an appreciation for science and if you respected them and gave them choices.
  • Help students become independent learners. Teach notetaking skills rather than preparing lots of handouts. Encourage students to ask (and answer) their own questions. Recognize your students’ creativity and curiosity.
  • Whenever possible, help students make the connections among science, the “real world,” and their own interests.
  • Take time for yourself and don’t neglect your health. Have a support group of mentors and other first-year teachers to relax with and share adventures.
  • Understand that real teaching is hard. Allow yourself to make mistakes (but not when it comes to student safety!). Reflect on, learn from, and then let go of the mistakes.

Think about your successes every day— there will be many! Good luck!


Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daviddmuir/1410227652/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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  1. Kendall
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I am not currently a classroom teacher, but I am studying to be. This post really relieved some of the stress I have been feeling when I think about next year as a student teacher! I find myself overwhelmed with how to teach science and be an effective teacher. I really enjoyed reading these tips and I will definitely reflect back on them when I become an actual science teacher!

  2. Sarah Hume
    Posted November 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I am just about to graduate and get my first classroom next year. This is so exciting and terrifying all at the same time. After reading your response I got some great perspective and then I realized that this is just how I felt before I became a parent. It seems overwhelming at first, but if you concentrate on the important stuff, it eventually falls into place after a while of sleeplessness. I feel I got this now for the first time. Thank you for the perspective.

  3. Mary B
    Posted November 15, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right, Sarah and Kendall — concentrate on the important “stuff.” A wise mentor once told me — Don’t sweat (or obsess over) the small stuff and most stuff is small. Save your energies for the big-picture issues.

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