On May 31st I was involved with a discussion with the student-teachers currently in the School. I was asked to share insights from a Term and a half of teaching. We gathered in the boardroom and begun discussing what it is like as a first year teacher and how to ‘survive’.
The insights and words of wisdom that I passed on were;
Avoid taking things personally. Teenagers are complex individuals and there are 1000’s of reasons that a student may respond to something in your lesson. Remember that each individual has their own background, values and quite often, their reaction is unrelated to anything you are doing. Be reflective, but don’t take it personally when things don’t go as well as you would hope.
Leaving University, most are full of passions and visions of how Education can change the future and with ambitions of being an impacting teacher. Hold on to this passion and energy but also, be patient. It will take at least 3 years to become the teacher you want to be. During this process, make mistakes, experiment and hold onto the vision for Education.
You are important. Students would rather a energised teacher who has had sleep then a teacher who is immaculately prepared. Get sleep, it is vital for so many reasons. Make sure you schedule relaxation time. Don’t feel guilty for not doing work on the weekends – try and get it all done during the week. Find things that energize you. Teaching is a giving and serving profession and constantly considering the needs of others takes it toll. Ask yourself frequently; what are my needs? And do something to meet them!
Get marking. Often, it seems like this scary mountain that needs to be climbed. And it is unfamiliar terrain. Assessment schedules? Moderation? Criteria? Exemplars? Get started. The more you mark the more that the schedules make sense and the patterns of achievement emerge. Side note: make sure you read all this documentation before you begin teaching the Standard so that you are confident with what and how you are teaching.
You will get used to the feeling of not knowing what is going on. To begin with everything is new and this can be overwhelming. You may feel like a fraud with a set of school-keys and classrooms of students calling you their teacher. This feeling may not fully go away but, you do become more familiar and comfortable with not quite knowing what is going on. Even experienced teachers feel like this. The students do not know that you are making final preparations 10mins before you see them. The students do not know that you are only a lesson ahead (if that) and that you are revising study guides and content. Fake it til you make it. Related to this though is be honest. If you are unsure, rather than waffling an answer, tell the student that it is a great question and that you will find out about it. Then, do it. Follow-up on finding the answer and then, tell the student next time you see them. They will respect your honest and follow-up.