Thriving in a New Teaching Assignment

I lead a running club for adults in my free time and many of the participants are teachers. Last week, I overheard two of the participants chatting about their teaching assignments for next year. They both were placed in assignments that were way out of their comfort zone and they were very nervous and anxious about the upcoming year. I understand how they are feeling. I took my educational career in a very different direction last year and it was probably the most challenging of my 15-year career but by far the most rewarding.

Taking on the role of teaching a class with 10 students who have Developmental Disabilities was very intimidating.  I knew very little about how to plan, assess or run a program that serviced the needs of these students. It was the steepest of steep learning curves but worth every minute!!

In my board, there is a 50 percent turnover rate of teachers in my role. I can absolutely see why teachers would leave after a year. This job can be very overwhelming and incredibly different than what teachers have trained for. I understand why teachers in general are nervous about change such as when they go from grade 8 to kindergarten or from music to special education support. We are one of the only professions where we are given new assignments and are expected to figure things out on our own with limited resources, training and support.

If you are one of those people that were handed a new assignment for next year and are anxious about the change, here is how I survived the huge change in my career:

  • I asked around immediately for people who were experienced and amazing in the role I was taking on. I reached out to many of them right away and they were amazing!!! They shared with me everything I could possibly need and went for coffee with me when I was struggling and needed a safe place to share my challenges. Without the support network of unbelievable Intermediate DD teachers, I would not have survived.
  • I decided that I was giving this role 100 percent of my effort and focus. Even if it hadn’t gone well, I still was going to try my very best every day and commit to my students. That decision helped me not get distracted by challenges that came with my role.
  • I recognized and celebrated the successes. It could have been very easy to be hard on myself in my new role. There were many things every day that did not go right. However, I learned that unless I cheered when something went well my students wouldn’t get the cheerful and positive teacher that they needed. It kept me and the whole team giving each other high fives and laughing.
  • I was open to the possibility of something awesome. This was the coolest, most unique experience of my career and if I had let my fear stop me from trying it out, I would have missed this incredible experience.

Finally, right before I took my current job, I reached out to a principal that I trust and asked her for some advice. We talked through the pros and cons of the new role and finally she gave me the best advice that relieved all the pressure of the drastic change. She said simply “this job will be 10 months out of your life. If after giving it your best effort it is not a good fit, move on to something that is.”

Good luck in the 2019-2020 school year everyone.

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The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a teacher of students with special needs in the Peel District School Board. This is my first year in the role and I am in the middle of a steep learning curve! I am loving every minute of this new experience with my amazing and cool students.

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