The first year of being a teacher is the hardest. There is a big learning curve, pressure of being a public figure, managing classes and actual teaching. It’s a scary prospect walking into a classroom and being responsible for the behavior and education of learners who are now your students.
The following ten tips will help new teachers to become more confident and successful in teaching.
Instead of wishing to be the best teacher in the world, create procedures and class rules to ensure success.
Students should exactly know:
- What happens at the start of class
- How they should address you
- How to behave in class and what will happen if they misbehave
- How to communicate during group work
- What to do when they are finished.
Thus, have systems planned so that you and your students know exactly what is supposed to happen in class. It takes the stress off yourself and makes teaching automatic.
Students want to be safe and know that they can trust you and know the boundaries you set for them. Be reasonable.
How to introduce classroom rules:
So, write a few main rules on a poster in front of the class – 3 to 5 is ideal. Also, hand out a paper with classroom procedures. Go through them with your learners.
Do roleplay scenarios so that students understand what is expected. Practice and repeat the procedures every day over the first two weeks so that they are ingrained within your students.
Learning how to work with colleagues and parents is important for every teacher. You can learn valuable lessons from fellow teachers, and receive a lot of support from kind parents.
Relationships with students:
Talk to learners, ask them questions about themselves – This builds report.
Make a seating chart at the start of the semester so that the students know where to sit. Doing that creates the impression that you are well prepared and an authority figure.
Keep a space next to their names to write down personal information: Appearance, favorite ice cream flavor, sports they play, important upcoming events.
This will help you remember them quicker and bring up things about them to show you care.
I recently put out a survey on the channel where 90% of teachers believe that the most important relationship is between a teacher and student. But I’m sure if I added the option of ALL relationships are important, many would’ve chosen that.
Relationships with colleagues, admin and parents:
Make friends with admin and support staff. You will need them in the future, so it’s important to have a pleasant relationship with them.
A note of warning – while it’s important to make friends and find good people to work with, you should also know that not everyone will be a positive influence in your life and career. Learn to avoid toxic teachers that are incompetent or always complaining. They will try to drag you down to their level. It is not your job to try and change them.
You will have parents that might not care, or worse, be over-involved. You will need to be friendly, helpful and open, but stay professional.
Don’t take things personally
Teaching is a social job where you work with many individuals, including students, colleagues, administrators, parents, community stakeholders, and the department of education.
Try to build positive relationships with everyone, but do not internalize what people say, situations, or any conflict you may get involved in. Kids will test, parents judge and colleagues disappoint you.
So don’t waste your time, energy, or complaints to your best friend about them. Find ways to enjoy your life outside of school. If you take your feelings out of the equation, you will find that you stay rational and respected for what is really important – Giving your learners a quality education. I know many people will disagree with me for saying this, but it’s after all just a job. An important one with a huge social responsibility, but just a job.
Don’t lose your sanity over it.
Be a professional
Though it’s a cliché, the truest advice I can give teachers is to be lifelong learners.
Master your subject. Learn all the assessment standards that you have to test your students on. Read at least three educational books a year. Most CEO’s read four books a month. Did you know that after completing university, most people only read three career-focused books for the rest of their lives! That means that by reading only three books a year, you will be ahead of 90% of your colleagues. You’ll be in the upper echelon of teachers in no time if you commit yourself to improve your mind and your professional craft.
Save, save, save
Create a master file by collecting all the best activities, lesson plans – constantly work at improving your syllabus. If it gets too big, make a different folder for printouts and the other for the curriculum + lesson plans. You will never regret having those documents in the future.
So many teachers look back at the work they’ve planned and done, wishing that they saved it. They forgot to make notes of effective activities they did, and now don’t have it anymore. Be a hoarder of all the good material you’ve acquired, but – be selective. Once a year, go through your master file and replace old ideas with better ones.
It’s important to have a physical file, but also save it digitally so it’s easier to share or print out later.
Don’t waste a whole cabinet for unused trash – a tidy, well-kept teacher is worth their weight in gold.
Don’t take advice – Except mine 😉
So often teachers get into teaching with preconceptions they carry from their youth as a learner. They talk to teachers and create this idea of what teachers are supposed to be like.
Many teachers are very pessimistic about their careers and how bad kids have become.
“Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers. Children are now tyrants.”
You might think that this is a quote concerning the recent state of our youth.
But, it’s not.
Socrates said that 2500 years ago, showing us that things are not so different as we imagine they are.
Forget all that you know, avoid comparisons of what other teachers are or say. They have built up preconceptions that they spread to new teachers. It can be general teaching advice or about specific students. Just go on Reddit, the teacher forums are filled with horror tales and bad experiences at school.
Instead, I want to encourage you to use your own instincts. Without preconceptions, deal with situations as you think best. That doesn’t mean you should forget what you’ve been taught, but use your own judgement of situations before defaulting on the perceptions of others.
(Although new teachers are always looking for ways to become more effective, ways to be stronger communicators, and ways to manage students and their behaviors, it is unrealistic to compare yourself to others. Strive for excellence, model the best teachers that you see, but be yourself.)
While creating your master file, you will compile plenty of activities and resources to use in class. But until you’ve done that, you need to have backup activities and materials to use in class. At the start of the year, I like to tell my students to always have a book to read with them. When they are done with work, they can pull that out and read, no excuses to cause problems or mess with their friends, there is always something to do. Older students could have a notebook where they should review what was done or write a diary entry. On my channel I share plenty of activities you can use. I also wrote this book with 100 No-prep activities that you can find in the description.
Always be in control of the energy flow in class – You direct them and manage what their attention should be on. Almost like a conductor in the orchestra – guide your students effectively.
Work at getting your time right during class.
Plan the introduction of the lesson, chunk the activities into smaller manageable parts, check the students’ understanding and give appropriate feedback.
It will take some time, but eventually, you will develop a feel for structuring your classes and get the timing right. Plan extra activities to have enough for the lesson, but in a way where you can cut it short if needed.
Two great worries new teachers have is A. Running out of things to do, the class gets bored and becomes rowdy.
B. or planning too much work to do, rushing through the lesson, leaving everyone stressed out, without enough time to process knowledge or practice the activities, spoiling the lesson.
Instead, plan enough, but have some things that you can cut if it gets too late.
What I like to do is leave 5 minutes at the end of class to do a review, remind students of their homework or let them relax while I ask questions to get to know them.
You are not their friend, but also not their enemy
Most first-year teachers want to go into the profession by making the students like them. They are overly nice because they believe that if students like them, they will invest more in learning. “They won’t be strict or boring like their teachers were.”
The first couple of weeks it might seem like it’s working, with no problems, but then, slowly but surely, students will start testing you, creating an unpleasant class. Over time, the once easy and peaceful class becomes a terror to teach.
Every weekend, teachers dread the coming week because they have a certain class to teach.
Don’t let that happen to you. Create rules, set boundaries, enforce those boundaries and build procedures that inform everyone of what is expected of them. I have a whole playlist on classroom management of which the link is below.
Be a role model
Teachers are key role models who can influence their students’ attitudes, values, and behaviors. A positive role model serves to inspire children to live meaningful lives.
But beyond being a role model for your students, colleagues, and parents – You should also do your best to be a role model for yourself.
When he was young, Matthew McConaughey was asked who his hero was. He replied: Me, in 10 years. Right now, you might not have the skills of an experienced teacher, but if you act like the best version of yourself in 10 years, that mindset will set you up for success in the immediate future.
Believe in yourself, intentionally work towards being that great teacher that you know you can be, then very soon, you will achieve it.
So what are your greatest challenges? Leave it in the comments below.