Like anyone starting a new job or entering a new profession, we all can benefit from getting a few tips and tricks from seasoned mentors. If you want to know how to make sure you kick ass as a beginning teacher, I have some down-to-earth real-life teachers tips to share with you. I wish I had these when I first started teaching! My husband likes to quote often; a smart person learns from their mistakes and a wise person learns from the mistakes of others (he claims he came up with this himself and is very proud of it) It rings true though, I know you are a wise person, so read on to get some helpful truths about all things education-related.
Teachers Tips Number #1 Look After Yourself
So we all know about self-care right? I am not going to bang on about having a relaxing warm bath or getting a massage. (Click here for self care tips for teachers) But you do need to look after yourself. That means eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and spending time doing the things that you love.
Now you are going to be freaking busy AF when the school year starts, I’m not going to lie to you. You are going to be exhausted those first few days and weeks. So my best tip is to accept this fact. It’s not going to last forever, I believe the first 5 weeks of the school year are the most intense and require the most extra hours to be put in. So my advice is to plan for this. Keep your weekends and evenings as free as they can be, so you can either relax and get some much needed downtime or catch up on that ever-increasing to-do list.
Now should you be working 80+ hours a week? – That’s a hard NO from me. But you are going to be busy getting to know your students, setting up programs for the term/semester/year, and revising/writing your programs.
Sure you may have spent the break leading up to the new school year planning and perfecting your programs to suit your grade level. But this might just not work for the kids that are in front of you. Perhaps the majority of the class is significantly below grade level, or you have some high achievers. You are going to need to plan for the students you have, not what you think you should have.
Good Teaching Tip Number # 2 You Don’t Need A Pinterest Perfect Classroom
I know you have been daydreaming of having the perfect Pinterest classroom, that if you took pics and posted them on the teachergram, they’d go viral. But let’s just get real, those pretty pretty classrooms are not school-funded! Unless you are lucky enough to work for a wealthy private school, all that decor is coming out of your own budget. Now I know as a beginning teacher I didn’t have extra cash to be spending on roll carts and bulletin board frames. And as a seasoned teacher, I still don’t have the money to deck out my classroom in a Pinterest-worthy style, I got a mortgage and kids. For some organisational tips click here.
Your classroom can still look nice without spending a ton of money. The best classrooms are full of student’s work anyway, you want to make space for that. Kids love seeing their work on display. Some of those gorgeous bulletin boards are very aesthetically pleasing but there isn’t much substance to them. Sure they look great, but what purpose are they serving? Does it help the students with their work? Can they look to it for guidance? If not, don’t put it up.
Also speaking of time management, don’t spend the whole summer break, decorating and setting up your classroom. Take this time to relax and bank up some self-care, because you are going to be busy busy busy when school starts. And if you really want to get prepared, use that time to review the curriculum, get lesson ideas and find out which routines you should teach first. Think about what the first day is going to look like and how it is going to run.
Advice For New Teachers Tip Number #3 Sometimes You Do Need To Spend Some Money
Ok, so I know I just said don’t go broke decorating your classroom, but sometimes you might want to spend some money. I spend money on the things that are going to save me time, or money in the long run. Try to be frugal. Even if you can claim it on tax, you aren’t getting all of your money back. In Australia, you get about 33% back depending on your income level.
So what’s worth spending money on?
Teaching resources that take a lot of time to create yourself. Anything that is going to make your life easier, and give you more time to either spend on your class or with your friends and family. For some great teaching resources check out my shop here.
Good Teaching Tips Number #4 Shut Your Mouth
Ok, this probably got your attention. Remember what it was like being in high school? All the gossiping, rumours, and outright lies? Yeah, teaching in a school isn’t much different. There are still the in-crowd, the nerds, and the backstabbers. So shut your mouth! Don’t tell anybody anything you don’t want the entire staff to know.
At my first ever teaching job, the principal’s favourite line was “loose lips sink ships”. Over the years I found it’s absolutely true. Think you can trust your new work bestie? Don’t be so sure … especially if you are both competing for permanent positions or opportunities to advance your career. I had to learn the hard way not to repeat gossip to someone I thought I could trust. They went running straight to the principal, and guess who got told off? Not the person saying nasty things, but me. In hindsight, I definitely should have just kept this to myself but I thought I was being a good friend by letting this person know what was being said about them.
Just like we tell the kids – if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Teachers Tips #5 Win Parents Over ASAP
It’s so important to build good relationships with the parents and guardians of the students in your class. You want to work together, and it is so important if down the track there are any learning or behaviour issues. It’s a good idea to get in touch with parents in person or on the phone at the very beginning of the year and have something good to say about their child. Nothing sets up the possibility of not having parents on your side when your first interaction is to tell them how their child was misbehaving, not doing their work, or not keeping up with the class.
Make sure to inform parents straight away if there are any incidents or issues at school no matter how minor. Nothing gets parents more upset than if their precious one comes home and says they were hurt or teased and you didn’t let them know. It’s also really good to get on the front foot with any incidents no matter how trivial they may seem to you, as things can really blow up and get out of hand because young students don’t always report things factually.
Teachers Tips # 6 Dress To Impress
It’s so important to make sure you adhere to the school’s teacher dress code or the education departments dress code. Those cute outfits that you look amazing in … it might be wise to keep them for the weekend. I usually buy a “uniform” of teaching outfits, mostly dresses that fit all the requirements (not too low cut, at least knee-length, sleeves, etc) They are not clothes I want to wear on the weekend or after work but I do look professional. This keeps getting ready for work simple too, I don’t have to think about putting together an outfit because I have my work uniform. Also, no one cares if you rotate the same 5 to 10 summer and winter outfits. I also dress extra fancy if it is an important event such as Anzac Day, Meet The Teacher evenings, awards assemblies, etc.
Just because something is technically allowed by a loophole in the dress code, don’t wear it! For example in our dress code we are not allowed to wear singlets, sandals, slip-on shoes, short dresses/shorts, anything too tight, athleisure, denim, but we can wear tracksuit pants. Don’t wear tracksuit pants … they look terrible, on everybody.
Teachers Tips #7 Participate
Do you want another job next year? Do you want to move from relief work to a contract position or even win a permanent position? Make sure you participate in as much as possible.
During staff meetings, make sure to have your input. Even if you feel like you don’t really know anything or feel like you have nothing worthwhile to contribute, say it anyway. Your principal is watching to see if you contribute. If you’re staring out the window waiting for it to be over, they won’t be impressed.
The same goes for when they ask for teacher volunteers, maybe it’s for camp, disco chaperones, breakfast club helpers, helping teachers move classrooms – the list goes on. Just make sure you help out. You don’t have to put your hand up for every single thing but make sure you are seen helping out at least 50% of the time. Remember many hands make light work and one day you are going to be needing some volunteers for something or other I can guarantee it.
Teachers Tips # 8 Know When To Quit
So you have been up all night writing the world’s best lesson plan and today the lesson is going awry. The kids are complaining it’s boring, your EA is confused and that kid is about to run up the walls.
It’s time to quit this lesson and get back on track. Yes, it’s disappointing, but there’s no point continuing a lesson that just isn’t working. The kids aren’t getting anything from it, and you will just be getting stressed out and upset. Even if you have to quit and do some colouring in, or play a game for 15 minutes it’s ok! And that lesson was probably fantastic, it just wasn’t right for your class, on that day. At one point I taught several classes in social studies. There were times when a lesson would go fantastically with one class and totally bomb with another. Think about the students you have in your class and what they need. Reflect on why something didn’t work out. Find out why and how you could make it work next time.
Teachers Tips # 9 Be Consistent
It’s really important to be as consistent as possible in your classroom and with your dealings with others. Students thrive on rules and routines (even though they might think otherwise) If you change things up especially your behaviour management techniques, reward systems, and expectations the kids are going to get confused and nothing is going to be effective. Make sure you stick to one system for at least a term or 5 to 10 weeks. Then if something isn’t working, tweak it, but don’t totally change it.
Be consistent with what the school wants. Most schools have whole-school programs, routines, behaviour expectations, and much more. Even if you don’t agree with them, make sure you are following them. If you don’t your students are going to be confused, you might have to answer to parents or your line manager or principal. So just make sure you are following protocols. When you have more time under your belt career-wise, then would be the time to question things and suggest alternatives.
Teachers Tips #10 Plan And Prioritise Your time
Life as a teacher is busy! There is always so much to do. Make sure to prioritize what are the most important and pressing tasks and focus on those. A lot of graduate teachers I have worked with have focused on tasks that are not as important or not going to have as much of an impact on their students’ learning. You can’t do it all, so you need to do what matters first! Click here to read 5 tips to get S*&$ done in your planning time.
I like to make a calendar of everything that needs to be done and write a to-do list. Then I prioritize what needs to be done first, either because it is due first, or is the most important. Then I work my way down my list. If I don’t get it all done in a day or a week that’s fine. I just write a new to-do list and start again, prioritizing the things that are the most important.
It’s also a good idea to get ahead start on things that take a lot of time to do, like writing reports. In Australia, our first semester reports are due at the beginning of winter. You can guess that a lot of people come down with colds and flus around this time of the year. It’s also a busy time with actually teaching and doing assessments, school events, and so on. If you’re lucky you probably also have your classes assembly scheduled this term as well. Start writing your reports 4 to 5 weeks before they are due. That way if you get sick, too busy or life just happens you aren’t going to be sitting up to 3 am writing your reports the day before they are due. Also, make sure you get them edited.
Teachers Tips # 11 It Gets Easier
Feeling totally overwhelmed as a beginning teacher? It’s ok! You are not alone. I can say hand on heart that I don’t know a single teacher who said teaching was easy in their graduate year or year(s) even. But I want you to know it absolutely does get easier. Once you have been teaching for a while, you know how to deal with things that your teaching degree didn’t cover. You have resources prepped and ready to go. It becomes easier to come up with great lessons. Behaviour management becomes second nature, and you will become a pro at dealing with difficult parents and staff, it all takes time though. So give yourself some grace. Make sure you are still spending time doing the things that you love, with the people you love and all will be okay.
Want to keep reading? Check out my other blog posts here. and here are some links to some other posts that might help you;
For high school teachers click here: https://abetterwaytoteach.com/blogs/news/want-an-outstanding-first-day-of-school-activity-for-your-high-school-students?fbclid=IwAR2wv587IcFM3ONb-ots9y70kXsTWPi0F0ZtDGKHpT3uwP1gC4iMBnqYxcM