What I Wish I Knew During My First Year of Teaching

Story by cnmAdmin2030 / August 6, 2019

Dear Alison,

Congratulations on accepting your first job offer in Charleston, SC! I know you are filled with joy, excitement, and anticipation. I also know you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into! Teaching is not about crafty lessons, decorative scissors, and bulletin boards. It is so much more than that – think blood, sweat, and tears. Are you excited? You should be! However, you should also be prepared for bumps in the road. Take a deep breath and absorb any advice you are given!

Be Yourself
Tell nerdy jokes, share silly stories about your life, sing and dance, laugh, talk about your pets, and give a hug or high five to every kid, every morning! Kids are perceptive and will totally know if you are faking it! Don’t ever be embarrassed to be who you are. Being vulnerable for your kids builds a community of acceptance and empowerment. Side note, kids are hilarious and weird. You are going to laugh at inappropriate times occasionally, and it will be okay!

Grow a Strong Teacher Tribe
This work is HARD. There are going to be days that you may not think you can continue on in this profession. Your teacher tribe will be there to lift you up on your darkest days and to celebrate your many, many successes. Fill your tribe with people who love hard, are insanely passionate, optimistic and hopeful, a bit weird, will push your thinking, and will take you out dancing when necessary.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Firm
Children crave structure, routine, and predictability. Set clear expectations and boundaries, and hold everyone (including yourself) accountable. Accountability helps kiddos grow self-control, own their learning, and is the best way to show kids that you love and believe in them no matter what. Also, if you say you are going to call their family, DO IT!

Buy a Sensible Pair of Shoes
Every summer, go to a grown up shoe store. Please, don’t go to Target. Wear your new shoes around the house for at least a week before the first day of school. Yes, these shoes may seem a bit geriatric, but I promise you, your feet will thank you at 3:30 each day!

Go the Extra Mile
Get to know your kids, their families, and the community in which you teach. Go to football games, birthday parties, backyard BBQ’s, and soccer matches. Kids are way more likely to show up ready to learn inside of school, if you show them how much you care about them outside of school!

Whispering Is Way More Effective Than Raising Your Voice
Seriously. Rumi said it best, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder. ” Deep, right? There will be times when you are pushed to your limits. Don’t be afraid to step away, take a break, and ask for help. Know yourself and your students well enough to identify the root causes of any turmoil in the classroom community.

Not All Lessons Are Going to Be Great
Be prepared to make mistakes and know that some lessons just won’t work. It is ok to feel embarrassed, frustrated, or perplexed. Remember to give yourself grace, take a deep breath, and try again. This work is hard, but your kids are worth it and YOU are making a difference!

On the First Day, Wear an Outfit That Makes You Feel Amazing
Although it may seem small, looking your best helps you to feel more prepared and ready for the day. Get dressed, look in the mirror and give yourself a smile! I know you have a closet-full of fabulous teacher dresses Alison- rock that look!

Be Brave Enough to Ask for Help
There are so many people who are cheering for you! Ask a friend, a loved one, a colleague, a parent, or a mentor to help you. They can grade, copy, organize, and decorate. Make two lists – one filled with tasks that you need to handle, and one with tasks others can help you with. Asking for help is a sign of strength and courage!

Create a Balanced Life
Schedule your time before and after school. Set boundaries and ask a friend to hold you accountable. You should plan at least one day each week where you leave school by 4:00 and go do something that makes you happy – exercise, walk your dog, cook, or go to a movie. Happy teachers have a work-life balance.

Alison, you are going to move mountains! This work is incredible – so hard, so intense, so hilarious, but mostly SO IMPORTANT! Your kindness, empathy, grit, optimism, and work ethic will help you to make an incredible difference. Lastly, don’t ever stop believing in yourself. You are an AWESOME teacher!

I believe in you!
Future Alison


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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.


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“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher

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“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

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“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent