So you’ve graduated, and you’ve just landed your first teaching job – congratulations!
Being a first year teacher is hard going. You have new names to learn and a classroom of children and their parents to get to know, all while you are finding your feet in your new career. This list of tips will offer practical advice on ways to manage your students, work with parents, keep yourself organised and survive your first weeks in the classroom.
Just remember: experience is going to be the best way to establish your teaching career, so make sure you jump in, boots and all. You will learn more in your first month than you learnt in the years you went to college, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared!
It is crucial that you be as organised as possible before you start, and that you maintain that organisation throughout the school year. Ensure that you have established an organisational system that works for you before your first day. A few minutes spent shuffling through papers can lead to chaos among your students so make sure you know where everything is, and you know exactly what is in store each day. When you arrive, put the day’s plans up on the board before class begins. That way, everyone is clear about where you are heading as the day progresses.
It is also crucial that your students are organised, and this is going to require some assistance from you. Don’t assume that they will know how to organise themselves – be clear and concise about how their books and folders should be organised, and what you want their work to look like.
Lastly, expect the unexpected, and plan for it. No day as a teacher will ever be the same, so make sure your organisation allows for unforeseen circumstances, which will arise every now and then. That way…it won’t throw your entire system off when the unexpected happens.
As well as being organised, you are going to need to become a planner. When it comes to teaching a full classroom, over planning is going to be the name of the game. For every hour of teaching time, make sure you have enough for two hours. The day and the lessons will go faster than you expect, and there’s nothing worse than those dreaded moments where you are not sure what to do next.
While you will not always need to spend so much time planning, you will need to take extra time to do this in your first year. Think of your first year in the teaching world as a sacrificial year – you will spend much more time planning and preparing this year than you will any other, because you haven’t written any lesson plans yet. Just make sure you hold onto anything you create in your planning – you will want to add to this and use it again in years to come.
Teaching is the one place where it’s not only acceptable, but necessary, to be a little bossy. Make sure that you are clear about what behaviour is appropriate in the classroom, and what is not acceptable. You also need to be clear about what the rewards and consequences are for students, and then you need to use as much follow through as you can possibly muster – empty threats will be the death of you. It is far easier to start out strict and loosen the rules later, than it is to try and rein in out-of-control behaviour later. Learn your school’s policies and procedures so that you know what the usual process is to follow, and then draw up a disciplinary plan. Never, ever allow students to ‘get away with it’. Your students need a teacher, not another friend.
In addition, be sure to inform parents of what is expected, and of the rewards and consequences. Send home a copy of the discipline plan, and ask parents to read through it with their children, clarifying anything they do not understand. This way you know that both parents and students know what is expected.
Above all, model the attitude and behaviours that you desire from your students. Monkey see….Monkey do.
In addition to involving parents in matters of classroom discipline, be sure to involve them as much as you can, in every area of your teaching. The learning process needs to involved everyone – parental communication can make a significant difference in the education of a child. Make sure you keep parents up to date with their child’s progress, and how they can help to develop your child’s abilities and education at home.
Make sure you also keep in mind parental support when you are trying to organise projects. If you need items for a celebration, send a note home asking for donations. Most parents love to contribute, and if you don’t ask for the things you need, then they don’t have the opportunity to.
Get to know the other teachers and become good friends with them – they will be priceless! This is going to be invaluable for your first year’s journey and its success. Taking advice and bouncing ideas around with your colleagues who are more experienced in teaching, and in the mechanics of the school, is going to help you find your way that little bit faster. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – most teachers are more than happy to share their experiences and tips for managing the classroom.
Just make sure that you do not try to be another teacher. Be unique –you will soon learn what works for you, and can adapt their advice to suit your teaching style.
Keep a Stash
Find a drawer, a shelf or a box and keep some essentials in it. You should include:
- An over-the-counter painkiller for headaches
- An extra set of clothing (you never know with children: paint, glue or vomit are all distinct possibilities)
- A couple of power bars for days where you just didn’t get time to eat
No matter how organised you are, some days the score board will read Students: 20, Teacher: 0. You will inevitably make mistakes (and learn from them) and there will always be ‘those days’. Just remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to get better at this. Do your best, keep your chin up and try to have fun.
And remember to play the ‘rookie card’. You will only be a new teacher for the first year, so cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself for making mistakes. And if all else fails…fake it till you make it!