There’s no doubt that embarking on a career in teaching is, for many people, a dream come true. The excitement that is felt seeing YOUR classroom for the first time is hard to match. Every experienced teacher will still have memories of the weeks leading up to their first year in teaching.
I still recall the emotions when I first saw my name on the classroom door, sending the picture to family and friends, and then the sudden realisation that this was actually happening. For every positive emotion, there were the inevitable niggles of nervousness. No student mentor to offer a word of advice. Really flying solo for the first time. In reality, any good school will have plenty of kind souls willing to offer an arm around the shoulder or a friendly word of advice, but in those days leading up to September I can’t deny having a few moments of self-doubt.
With all of this in mind, we asked our wonderful followers on social media to offer their best advice to those of you embarking on the amazing adventure of teaching. It came as no surprise to us that they delivered in spadefuls. Read some of their pearls of wisdom below:
1. Find a mentor, someone to vent to and someone who is positive.
2. Set clear boundaries between home and school – this job can consume your life if allowed.
3. There is nothing like teaching and there is always room for improvement, you will hone your skills this year and learn more than you thought possible.
4. It will get better, sometimes it’ll just be a rough week, month or year, but it will always get better.
5. Take care of yourself and enjoy the rideJoyce
I couldn’t agree more with these tips from Joyce. For me one of the most important pieces of advice here is finding a mentor. Those first few months wouldn’t have been the same without having someone I could check in with now and then to discuss my plans, for advice or just for a general debrief. You are, of course, appointed a mentor as an ECT. They will, no doubt, be invaluable but they might not end up being the person that you consider your real mentor. This point is reiterated below:
Ask for help and take it when it’s offered, you can and will learn so much from your fellow teachers and other members of staff.Tamara
Becky’s advice for preparing your classroom is also so helpful:
Don’t try and rush to get your classroom set up in the summer, wait till you’re teaching in the space and let it develop organically. You will find your own way – don’t try and have an Insta ready classroom before you’ve even taught in it!Becky
It’s so easy to get caught up in the whole instagram craze when it comes to setting up your classroom. Resist it! Of course the community on instagram is fantastic for gaining ideas but don’t let those images set your expectations. Your classroom is yours and as Becky suggests – it will grow in time.
Try to leave your classroom the night before with the date and timetable on the board and the first lesson set out ready for the morning. Also, it’s tough but enjoy the best job in the world where you can help children grow and thrive in your care.Liz
A fantastic tip which will help you with organisation.
Try and learn some systems of organisation and time management. Teaching is almost 50% admin and documentation now, so being able to do those things efficiently is essential. So many new teachers drown under the weight of it because they don’t know how important those skills are.Amanda
50% sometimes feels like an underestimation! It is very easy to become weighed down with the admin and paperwork. If you don’t get a grip on the organisation and time management it’s very easy for other aspects of the job to slip. If you’re struggling to keep on top of it, don’t be afraid to ask others how they cope. You will inevitably find out that there are things you don’t need to be doing or little tricks to reduce the time these tasks take.
Work smarter not harder. You will never get to the bottom of your to do list so try focus matrix app or similar. Give yourself an evening cut off point: you or your family will thank you for it. It’s ok to say no. A bad day is a black dot on a white page: the good days will outweigh the bad. Keep your sense of humour and laugh at yourself. If you make a mistake- it’s a teaching point either for common misconceptions or growth mindset. Keep nice/ positive thank you cards and pictures from kids and look through them on a bad day (even if they spell your name wrong!). Look through them when you feel like throwing in the towel. Avoid the “mood hoovers” amongst the workforce, as negativity can be contagious.Charlotte
Greet your students with a smile every morning! Share compliments during the day and most of all let them know you care about them!
Be kind to the office staff, caretaker and cleaner as they know a lot and have seen a lot!
Never underestimate your teaching assistant, treat as your equal, they probably know more than you!Mary, Finula and Lee
All excellent pieces of advice. Making a school work is a massive team effort and every person plays a vital role. It’s not just your fellow teachers who can pick you back up after a tough day. Your teaching assistant/learning support assistant will most likely be the most important work colleague that you have. They will teach you the ropes and show you how things are done. You can’t underestimate how different each school is and if you are starting at a school that you’ve never been to before you need someone to guide you through all of the quirks of your new setting.
Make sure you are in a union!Mary
For many people, unions are a bit of a relic from the past and are just associated with organising strikes which may be seen negatively. However, as a teacher they are still vitally important. In addition to working to try and keep teachers safe and fight for fair working conditions, they can be seen as a bit of an insurance policy. Hopefully you will never need to call on them, but if you ever have issues with false accusations or if you feel you are being treated unfairly by senior management a union will be there for advice and will even mediate discussions or speak to people on your behalf.
Follow the tea and biscuit rule. If something has upset you I.e. a lesson doesn’t go well, give yourself the length of time while you drink a cuppa and eat a biscuit to process the emotion. Then try to let it go…learn from the experience but don’t let it drag you down. Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me.Ruth