From the Magazine

Note to my 1st Year Teacher Self

The other day I came across a well-worn notebook where I like to brainstorm and write down goals. It includes my 100 bucket list items, notes of inspiration from time spent abroad, and my dreams and aspirations of becoming a teacher. Flipping through the pages, I found one labeled “Teacher Goals 12/13,” which must have been written the summer between my first and second year of teaching. Ten years in, I smile at my young, naive, teacher goals but realize my past self did carry wisdom. I thought it would be fun to edit my young teacher goals, as well as tip my hat to her knowledge. 


Teaching Goals 12/13

1. I will have excellent classroom management. 

In the words of Ms. Taylor Swift, excellent classroom management “never goes out of style.”

2. My students will inspire me everyday. 

They will inspire you. They will also sneeze and vomit on you, bring you questionable wet items from the restroom and make you laugh until you cry. Sometimes they just plan make you cry. Your students will worry you and humble you.

3. I will be the best teacher I can be for my students. 

It will take you years to learn this. You really can’t pour from an empty cup. The best teacher is a happy teacher who isn’t carrying the guilt of trying to be everything for every one.

4. I will have a well-behaved, attentive, organized class. 

You will learn sometimes students will act out for reasons they don’t even understand. Don’t be afraid to get to know them, understand their story and relate to the trails and tribulations they are going through.

5. My students will grow considerably in all subject areas. 

It is important that they grow academically and to keep consistency in the classroom. However, don’t be afraid to support them to grow as people. Show them kindness and forgiveness. Be an example of someone that looks past what they are wearing or things people may have said about them.

6. I will keep myself organized and sufficient as a teacher. 

You are going to make so many mistakes. You will pick up tips and tricks as you go. Just remember, when you are stressed, your students can sense it. Find a system that works for you and soak in as much knowledge from the teachers around you.

7. My relationship with the staff will continue to grow and deepen in the most positive ways. 

Some of your deepest friendships will come out of this profession. No one else understands exactly what you are going through or will understand the love you pour into your students. Your fellow teachers are not your competition, they are your saving grace. They are your best allies and loudest cheering squad.


Ten years, two districts, and two grade levels later, so much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. This profession is a kaleidoscope of hope and wonder, frustration and anxiety. A wondrous mix of goofiness and stern, eye-opening moments. To my first-year teacher self, I can’t prepare you for all the unpredictability that is to come; but if you build relationships with your students, fight for your own peace, and stay true to yourself, that is an equation that will lead you closer toward the teacher you aspire to be. 

Carrie Swain is a 1st-grade teacher from Indiana in her 10th year of teaching. She and her family take full advantage of living near Lake Michigan by hiking, going to the beach, and collecting rocks with their German Shepherd Fitz.