It is that time of year where student teachers are accepting their first full time teaching roles. Evidence folders are being prepped and the laminator is churning out more plastic than a cola factory. But taking on your very own class or classes can come with its challenges. If only there was a survival guide full of advice for new teachers!
It can appear that you are in it on your own and you will have to find your own way forward from now on.
In this article, we cover the following:
- Why is observation important in teaching?
- How can teachers support each other?
- How do teachers get a work-life balance?
- Why is time management important for teachers?
- How do you plan lessons efficiently?
However, there will be people around you who are there to support you, provide you with feedback and guide you through this difficult year.
Being under constant scrutiny sometimes can be pressurising and so it is important that you approach the year with the right mentality to ensure you come out of the other end feeling positive, developed and ready for anything!
1. Why is observation important in teaching?
Over the year, you will be observed. But this is something you should not fear! Getting someone else’s ideas and views can be very helpful when it comes to developing your own teaching. But feedback can sometimes feel judgemental and of course, in reality, it is.
Lesson feedback, however, is one person’s opinions on what they liked and didn’t like so much about the teaching and the learning in your classroom. It is always worth remembering that.
It is only ever going to be one person’s viewpoint.
Of course, disregarding all feedback is not going to get you anywhere. Listen, nod and take onboard the most constructive part of the feedback. If there are areas you disagree with, nod, clarify and try to understand the route of what they are suggesting.
You might not agree with having to create another ten worksheets for different learners, but you may agree that you could have personalised the learning better.
How you actually do that is ultimately down to you as the teacher of that class.
Guess what! There will be times when you don’t have a clue what you are doing.
But that is ok! Whether it be planning your first school trip, completing a risk assessment or simply trying to figure out how to photocopy double-sided, there will be times when you need to ask for help.
2. How can teachers support each other?
Build up relationships with staff at all levels (especially office staff (they literally know everything) and teaching assistants) and build your network of people you know you can go to for support.
It can feel sometimes like you are just meant to know how everything works, but as good as University is, it will never cover those sudden curve balls your pupils and school will throw at you. Not to mention, by actively seeking out support, you are showing just how proactive you are. That can’t be a bad thing!
Likewise, while you are asking for support, the school will ask for support form you. You are fresh-faced, eager and energetic. You are the perfect person for the school to ask to take on extra roles and responsibilities – which is great!
Except when you agree to everything under the sun and suddenly find yourself in a stressed, overworked, bundle of mess on a Sunday afternoon.
Teacher can say no!
Learn how to pick and choose the extra roles you want to accept. It can be difficult, but saying no is easier when you are transparent. Explain why you are unable to do the task due to other work responsibilities and deadlines. Compromise with whoever is asking you to take on the extra role. Suggest a different deadline.
If you show your willingness to complete the task under your own terms and deadlines this can allow you to show your skills whilst managing your time effectively.
3. How do teachers get a work-life balance?
This also includes managing the time when you will not be doing work too. Plan time in when you will see family, friends, work out and relax. It is all too easy to skip the gym to mark those books that have been sat on your desk for a week.
In the short term, it might feel great to tick that job off your list but eventually, it will catch up on you. A tired, unwell teacher makes a bad teacher. A happy, healthy teacher makes a great teacher. A great teacher makes happy children – and happy children learn!
So get your diary out, and pinpoint the times where no matter what is happening in school, you will do the things you enjoy the most! Even if it is binge-watching Netflix!
4. Why is time management important for teachers?
In fact, pinpoint when you are going to do most things. By organising your time both at school and at home you will know when you are going to get all those school jobs done.
There is nothing worse than having the deadline for planning in the back of your mind, wondering when you are going to complete it. By noting down in your schedule what day and time you will sit down and get creative, the planning task will not whirl around your head while you stare at the ceiling at night.
Creating blocked and planned times for specific tasks, you will be far more focused on the job in hand as opposed to flitting between different tasks and wasting time watching cute cat videos on the internet.
Being smart about your tasks will also save you time and keep you relatively stress-free. Minimum effort, maximum impact was my motto. And, no it is not about being lazy. It is about asking the question – What is the smallest thing I can do, that will have the biggest impact on the children?
Instead of spending two hours cutting out a game of vocabulary match for each group in your class, place the vocab on your interactive screen and ask your children to write the definition. It will save you time and still have the same, if not a better impact on the children’s learning.
I once watched a teacher make giant toothbrush over a number of days for a healthy eating display only for the pupils to glance at it for a split second on a Monday morning. If it will take you longer to create it, than it will for the children to use, it probably isn’t worth making.
5. How do you plan lessons efficiently?
The same rule applies to planning lessons too. Of course, it may take you longer to plan to begin with as you build your confidence. But the general rule is if it takes you longer to plan than teach, teach it differently.
Spend more time creating the resources that will impact on learning than writing the lesson plan. Working backwards usually works for most people. Create the main activities first and then work backwards to how you will get the children hooked and engaged at the start of the lesson.
Once you have these activities in your head, writing the lesson plan will be much easier and help you pull the activities into a cohesive lesson.
I have a lesson planning video and resources to support the lesson planning process that you may find useful.
Your first year as a teacher will be hard work and will sometimes be stressful but it can also be a rewarding one. I look back at my first year of teaching with great memories. It was a steep learning curve but ultimately, I came out being a better teacher because of it.
If you approach it in the right way by monitoring your own wellbeing, seeking and accepting support and striving to be better, you will learn more than you ever did at University. Hands-on, practical learning isn’t just for your students, it is for you too. Read relevant educational books to fine-tune your craft.
You may even find time to discover better things to do in your spare time!
1. Don’t get too hung up on observations.
2. Build relationships with positive teachers and school staff (especially teaching assistants and the office staff).
3. Maintain a work-life balance at all costs! Learn to say no.
4. Organise your time both in and out of school. Plan when jobs will be done and stick to it.
5. Plan lessons efficiently. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, most of us borrow from each other.