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How to Conquer the Learning Curve in Teaching

Few professions have a steeper learning curve than teaching. From classroom management to lesson planning to communicating with parents, there’s a lot to figure out. And with so much at stake that first week of school, and a few rookie mistakes can produce problems for the rest of the year.

I’ve been there. Pretty much every veteran has.

And if you feel yourself struggling with the learning curve, you’re not alone. And you’re not doomed to failure.

How to Conquer the Learning Curve of TeachingHow to Conquer Teaching's Learning Curve

Today my book Create Your Dream Classroom is finally available in paperback, and as it’s released, I want to share a bit of my own journey: the struggle I had with the learning curve, how I overcame it, and how I believe you can, too.

Before the Learning Curve

I think I always wanted to be a teacher. At least, I remember telling all my friends that I did back in third grade. Then in high school I found myself acting as the class homework tutor and something just clicked. I loved this. This was what I was meant to do.

I attended Pensacola Christian College and majored in math education. And I’m incredibly thankful for the training I received there. While many colleges focus way too much on theory, their emphasis was on practical instruction. I soaked it all in, loving (pretty much) every minute of my education classes and student teaching internship.

But there’s still something about that first year in your own class. Regardless of how much skill you have and how much training you’ve received, there are challenges. It’s just the nature of the learning curve.

My Biggest First-Year Challenges

That first year was pretty rough. I don’t even know if I realized how rough it was at the time. I just knew that I wasn’t really that happy teaching, and I always thought I would absolutely love it. Looking back now, I can see it was the learning curve. I was struggling – I just didn’t really want to admit it. Even to myself.

Even with all my training and preparation, I still had a few areas I felt a little lost in. In particular, I really struggled with….

  • Correcting students. I was terrified to correct a student. Really, I was. I had to get up the nerve to even say “Evelyn, please sit up.” And giving out actual consequences…..oh the horror!!
  • Determining when to give consequences. I was really unclear about when to give out consequences. I didn’t want to whack kids with punishments during the first week of school, so I didn’t really do anything. What I failed to realize was that I needed to be verbally correcting issues even if I wasn’t giving out consequences…..Yeah, I definitely learned that lesson the hard way.
  • Communicating with parents. Parents – what on earth do I say to them? As a twenty-two-year-old new teacher, I was pretty lost. Yeah, those first parent-teacher conferences probably weren’t the best.
  • Counseling students. I really wanted to help students with more than just math. I wanted to be able to help them with the issues and struggles they were experiencing. But I just didn’t know how to do this. What was I supposed to say to two friends who just got in a fight? How was I supposed to help a girl who had an issue with lying?
  • Having confidence. Sum up all the areas I was unsure about, and that resulted in a big lack of confidence in my ability to discipline. I wasn’t so sure I knew what to do – and the students could sense it. And so they did what students do – whatever they felt like – because I didn’t know how to handle it.

Conquering the Curve

Do any of these struggles sound familiar to you? Maybe you’re experiencing the same ones that I am. Or maybe yours are different. The good news is that the learning curve can be conquered!

For me, the conquering of the curve started during the second half of my first year, but I didn’t really get to experience the benefits until my second year. That’s because a new school year is a fresh start, and with that fresh start you can correct all your rookie mistakes and set the tone for a classroom that is exactly what you want it to be.

As I learned lessons my rookie year, I started to implement some changes. But changing mid-year is tough. It is still most definitely worth it, but I only got so far. And if you’re trying to correct the ship mid-year, just realize you’re sailing against the tide and you won’t see all the benefits right away.

The biggest help to me was reevaluating and analyzing my teaching over the summer between my first and second years. With that first year of mistakes under my belt, I could see exactly where I needed to improve, and I spent time planning exactly how I would do that.

When school started, I was ready to go. And while I still had more to learn, the difference was amazing! I started to truly enjoy teaching, and the learning curve began to flatten out.

Create Your Dream Classroom

I finally found myself loving teaching and living the dream I had had for so long. And I desperately want every other teacher to get to that same point. The point where they feel successful and love what they do.

That’s why I wrote Create Your Dream Classroom. In it, I share the lessons that I learned and give practical ideas for how you, too, can conquer the learning curve.

It’s not just for new teachers – it’ll bring lots of new ideas and fresh excitement to veterans, too. But if you are a newer teacher, I did write it with you specifically in mind. Because I was you. And I know exactly how you feel.

You can conquer the learning curve. You can control your class. You can love teaching.

I want this for you. You want this for you. My book may or may not be the tool to get you there, but if it can help some of you, it will be more than worth the time and effort I’ve put into it.

Find Out More

What has been your biggest learning curve challenge? What helped you overcome it? Leave a comment below.

The giveaway for Create Your Dream Classroom is now completed. Congratulations to our winner Sherrie!

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  • Great day to come across your page through Pinterest. I am in my 2nd year teaching-last year I taught all day pre-k and now I am in my first year of 5th grade. Talk about a change! After a rough day today with a few disrespectful students, it definitely made me wonder if I will ever get to a point of comfort and love of teaching in the classroom. I stood my ground with my disrespectful students today, but it was exhausting and I cannot wait for it to get easier. Definitely interested in your book for tips that can help me get to that confident place sooner!

    • We’ve all been there, Elise! Don’t get discouraged. They’ll always be tough moments but you’ll get better at knowing how to handle them – and you’ll start to see more results as time goes on which helps balance out the tough moments 🙂 (The best is when those tough moments turn into great victories for the student!)

  • This is my 3rd year teaching 4th grade. Every year has been different due to curriculum changes, making it hard to get a handle on any one thing. Teaching is something I have always wanted to do and have felt led to. I am having a hard time keeping my confidence level and belief in myself up due to many different factors. I am hoping this book will help me be able to focus on building my self-confidence and abilities to have a safe, loving, and encouraging classroom. I know that teaching is where I should be, some days it is hard to see though.

  • My biggest challenge is finding the time to fit everything in within the classroom and finding a balance in my life. It is a never-ending battle.

  • I’ve struggled with confidence as a young unexperienced teacher. This book sounds extremely beneficial!!

  • My biggest challenge has been balancing being fun and strict. I feel strongly about both but somehow have yet to find a good balance without feeling like I’m too far to one side.

  • As a teacher and an adjunct faculty teaching a Classroom Management class, I look forward to reading this book and using it as a resource both in my classroom and in the college course that I teach

  • My biggest struggle as a teacher is finding enough time in the day to do all I want with the students! I have so many great ideas from blogs, pinterest, etc., but I can’t fit it all in! Over the years, I really try to prioritize and utilize what is best needed for the students I am working with. My favorite quote which helps me is “Why am I doing what I am doing?” If the project or activity is helping the students, then I don’t use it!

  • I have just started substitute teaching and I must say I never thought it was possible to feel so many emotions at once. I have learned not to allow my fear to take over or to over think any situation.

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