Winning your first teaching position is very exciting and scary at the same time. Here are some tips to make your first term a successful one.
Make sure you introduce yourself to all the support staff. Working in schools is all about teams. You will rely on the support and goodwill of others to survive the year, trust me. Make sure you are always courteous and respectful of their time. During a stressful teaching day, it is easy when tired to become short with others. Breath and make sure you approach them with a smile. You may need to ask a favour from the office lady, gardener or cafeteria staff one day, so look after them. Why not surprise them with random chocolate or thank you card.
Work smart, not hard.
You don’t need to write and create everything from scratch. Ask around for resources, and remember sharing is caring. Maybe team up with a colleague and agree to share the planning and the creation of lessons. Also, be creative with formative assessments and mini-tests. Try to manage your marking load by using whole-class marking or peer marking. Or even better, use online tests that self mark. You will have enough to mark with common assessments, so ensure you have enough energy and time left over to create great lessons.
Listen and learn.
For the first few weeks, listen and learn. This applies to every situation. In meetings, listen and learn, sure put ideas forward if appropriate but get a feel for things before pushing ideas for change. When in the staff room and offices, listen and learn. Don’t get involved in gossip or negative conversations. Teaching can be tough. Engaging in negative conversations will only drag you down. Keep conversations optimistic and positive.
Be true to your word.
Say what you mean and mean what you say—what a great saying and very accurate when you are inside the classroom. Make sure you can follow through with everything you say. Keep all consequences small and manageable. Don’t give out numerous detentions that you can’t possibly follow up with. If you give detentions, you don’t need to keep students for the whole of lunch. Depending on the behaviours, it may be appropriate to only keep students in for a few minutes. During this time, they can assist with pushing chairs under and cleaning the board, leaving you with time for lunch and a well-deserved cuppa.
Prioritise your work-life balance.
If you plan to run three times a week, make sure you stick to the schedule. There is always something that can be done, improved, updates and created. If you are a perfectionist, you need to relax a little in this job. Your health and wellbeing are priorities. Everybody losses if you don’t have a work-life balance, and you end up burnt out. Especially the students. So go to yoga, have a meal out or put on your dancing shoes.
Ask for help.
You are not alone. Ask for help if you need it. Teachers love to support and help each other. It’s why they love teaching. For example, if you are struggling with student behaviour. Ask for help and support. Ask for observations and feedback, ask for tips or guidance on the school processes, anything – just ask. The risk of not asking for help early and waiting until you are at breaking point is dangerous. If you are struggling to manage behaviours, and students feel they are getting away with it. Other students will join in, and before you know it, you have the 20:80 shift. That is, it has changed from 20% misbehaving and 80% doing the right thing. To 80% misbehaving and 20% doing the right thing. This is very difficult to change back. Ask early, don’t leave it too late. For more information on how to manage classroom behaviour and this shift, click here.
Build student rapport, not mateship.
Classroom management is all about relationships. Sometimes newly qualified teachers struggle with keeping the relationship strictly teacher-student. We need to build trust and rapport, but we must always maintain high standards with behaviour and engagement. If you correct student behaviour and keep them accountable for the work output, not all students will ‘like’ you. However, they will learn to respect you as a teacher, and when they improve their grade and grow academically, they will appreciate you and want you as their teacher forever.
Don’t take things personally.
Students can say and do mean things, and you may feel the pinch. Do not take their behaviour personally. The teenage years are challenging. With increased brain activity and raging hormones, many students struggle to manage their emotions. Sometimes, teachers take the brunt of an adolescent tantrum. Keep calm, breathe and don’t take it personally. For more information on how to manage extreme student behaviour, read here.
Dress to impress.
Ensure you wear comfortable smart clothing. This will not only make you feel good but will also portray professionalism. For obvious reasons, don’t wear clothes that are too tight, too short or too revealing.
Well done on your new position, and good luck. You are going to rock!