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Dear IC

Dear IC…Is Second Semester Easier than the First?

Dear IC,

Someone told me that the second semester of the first-year of teaching is MUCH easier than the first. Can you confirm this?


Mihndova Matta


Hi Mihndova,

I remember my first semester of teaching. I also remember thinking that nothing could possibly be more difficult…. I was right, perhaps for the first time in my teaching career to that point! The picture above was taken at the end of my first semester as a teacher. Let’s just say that the hair didn’t stay around for much longer after that. J The work we do is tough, as you already know now that you have a semester under your belt.

The first semester is filled with so many new experiences that it often feels like a blur. Hours, days and weeks often blend together with what feels like an endless amount of grading, lesson planning, and, most importantly, our students. While much of the “blur” I speak of is due to sleep deprivation, overwhelming amounts of caffeine to compensate for the sleep deprivation, and a whirlwind of demands on our time that seem endless, we like to wear our first semester of teaching as a badge of honor. And it’s well-deserved.

To answer your question regarding second semester being “easier” than the first: Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that you now have a much better grasp on the logistical, instructional, and behavioral elements needed to be an effective instructional leader in and out of the classroom. You have had an tremendous amount of experiences in a short amount of time that has contributed to you and your students’ successes. You have designed & planned, implemented, and more recently, have likely been able to evaluate your success (via assessment data, mid-year meetings, etc.). Now, it is time to reassess your approach and make adjustments to meet the needs of your students. The most effective teachers not only plan and design, they do something with the results that they get in order to make it even better. This leads us to the “no” portion of my response…. Sorry, I had to go there.

Your next semester (and every semester after that) will likely be equally if not more challenging than the previous one. If one holds a true growth mindset and approaches each day they have with their students as a chance to improve their instruction, then each day will require adjustments and enhancements to our instructional approaches. The opposite of this critical mindset is seeing each day as one step closer to “the end.” This mindset can be especially difficult to overcome as we often seek to achieve a position in which we can simply replicate what we’ve always done. This was an especially difficult mindset for me to overcome, since as an achiever (Strengths Finder) my first instinct was to focus on doing whatever is necessary in order to simply complete things. In other words, I was always focused on getting to “the end.”

If one inverts their mindset with their work in the classroom towards one of “continuous improvement” (see Continuous Improvement Cycle below), then this semester will be as challenging as you make it. With this mindset guiding your actions, one focuses on continuously improving themselves and their instructional approaches in a never-ending cycle. Of course, this should be done in a way that is feasible and manageable, preventing “burn-out.” In return, you will move your students to levels previously thought impossible to reach. The most effective organizations and instructional facilitators that I know hold this cycle “near and dear” to their approach with all of their undertakings.

The Continuous Improvement Cycle:

At Teaching Excellence, and all of our partnering organizations, we believe in the continuous improvement cycle. It drives our vision, mindsets, actions, and ultimately, the success of our students.

Your next semester will be equally as challenging, if not more challenging if you make it so. That’s o.k. though, because you have the support of your Instructional Coach, campus instructional leaders, and your fellow teachers. And you have a “continuous improvement” mindset. Having this mindset, in the words of YES Prep’s President, Jason Bernal, will help us continuously “redefine possible”. Remember, it’s simply mind over matter.

Best regards,

What other questions do you have for our Instructional Coaches? Leave a comment and your question may be next!



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