Tips for First-Year Teachers
If I could go back in time and tell my younger self all the things that I have learned since teaching, my career trajectory and output as a teacher would be very different.
Teacher is a unique landscape. Sometimes it is black hole trying to consume your entire life, thoughts and movements. Elsewhere, it is the most rewarding thing in the world and you savour each and every moment. It is this bittersweet contrast that makes teaching a classroom full of rambunctious children so enjoyable.
For this reason, I have listed a number of things that I wish I had known as a first year teacher in the hopes that you can capitalise of my many mistakes and hardships.
Label it. File it. Box it. Store it. Keep track of it.
The meaning of the word ‘organised’ is a different thing for teachers. We are constantly spinning plates and it is easy for things to be forgotten.
Get yourself containers for notebooks to store in the classroom. Get folders for resources and label them correctly. Get a container and fill it with pens, paper, pencils, files, notebooks, highlighters, rulers. Any stationery that you think is important. Always have it at your disposal, so that you can avoid going to the shops and stocking up. Buy ahead and have it ready when you run out. Every once in a while, go and stock up.
Be open to your lessons not going to plan.
When you’re studying to be a teacher, you are not exposed to the natural interruptions of the classroom: athletics carnival, assemblies, sickness and world-wide pandemics…There are plenty of things that might occur and interrupt your teaching plan. Be flexible and open to moving around lessons and modifying your teaching.
Sometimes the wifi will cut out for the entire school and sometimes the weather is so hot or cold that students do not focus. Sometimes may not be able to print the worksheets or assessments. There are plenty of things that might happen that are out of your control.
Have a back up plan.
Be Willing to Fail
You will fail at something during your teaching career.
Lessons will bomb. Students will not jump to the challenge like the way you dreamed about the night before. You will say the wrong thing and hurt a relationship. You might forget your lunch duty, or arrive to class a minute late because your watch it slow.
Honestly, it is okay. You will survive.
Be mindful that your lessons will, at some point, not go to plan and you should not be harsh on yourself when it occurs. Embrace the suck and learn from your mistakes.
Be open-minded to new idea. There is more than one way to skin a cat.
You will meet teachers with better ideas and better classroom management. They will have different teaching strategies that will challenge the way you see the classroom. Be open minded to taking upon their practise and input. Ask questions, go and observe those classroom. Be prepared to accept that the way you have been doing something in the classroom may not be effective. Maybe you have been teaching metaphors for a certain way over the last three years and it “mostly works”. Be open to the idea that you can teach concepts in different ways. Be prepared to experiment.
Look after your health.
You need to have a healthy balance between your work commitments and life outside of school.
- Go to bed at the same time each night. No staying up at 1am cutting up laminated cards.
- Bring food each and every day. Do not skip meals, this is a poor habit to develop and you’ll pay for it eventually.
- Exercise. Go to the gym. Join a team. Go to a class. Lift some weights at home. Buy a skipping rope. With all the computer work and marking and lesson design, teaching can be a very isolating job. You need to break up your day with some exercise.
- If you do not enjoy exercise, do something that makes you happy elsewhere. Playing a musical instrument. Socialising. Cooking. Painting. Whatever it is, do it.
- See family regularly. Ring mum and dad. Organise a coffee catch up. Keep connected with your loved ones.