Teaching strategies. 3 Common Mistakes New Teachers Make.
In this series of posts I talk through several teaching strategies. In this post I discus the 3 most common mistakes new teachers make. At the start of your career there seems to be an almost insurmountable amount of things to learn and do. It’s easy to focus on the wrong things or not realise what is important. If you find yourself making these mistakes be honest with yourself and work to change them.
Mistake 1. Classroom Persona.
We’ve all taken bad advice in the past of who we should be and how we should act in the classroom and around the school. Antiquated teaching strategies like ” Don’t smile till Christmas”, “The classroom is no place for jokes” or “Don’t be too friendly”. We follow advice of veteran teachers at the start of our career because they are the experts right? Wrong. They are their own person doing things their way, if you do the same things you are pretending to be them. In short, you should be yourself. Students will see through an act straight away. Your classroom persona should be 100% YOU!
Students need consistency and to know what is expected of them, they need to know what the boundaries are. I always start the year by getting students to write my class rules in the back of their books. Mine are usually:
- Respect everyone in the class when they are speaking.
- Be the best you can be.
- Have the correct equipment.
- Be good to future you by finishing tasks and getting notes in your book that will help you when you look back on them.
Once students know what the base level expectations are you can start to be yourself. Remember, the goal is to make the students want to be in your classroom, if they know where they stand with you and you are engaging they will learn more.
Find more student engagement tips in the link below.
Mistake 2. The Ratio Between You Talking and Students Doing.
Students learn best when they are actively doing something and learnt least when they are sat passively listening.
At the beginning of my teaching career I found I was talking a lot, I didn’t realise until a friend told me. She suggested that I focus on getting the students doing a task, this worked hugely well. I found I had more time to circulate the class, making sure students were on task, challenging misconceptions and giving feedback on work done.
There’s no magic ratio, some classes will respond better to talk than others. Some topics need more explanation than others but I always focus on getting them doing something as soon as possible, getting them engaged and working rather than them getting bored of listening and then drifting off.
If I talk for 5 minutes them I expect them to be working for 15-20 minutes independently but this is a rule of thumb not a concrete ratio.
Mistake 3. Focusing on Perfect Resources.
Planning takes ages at the beginning of your career. I used to spend hours scripting the perfect PowerPoint, sculpting flawless worksheets and working out exact timings. What you need to realise is that the lesson you just spent 2 hours creating has been taught before a billion times, other teachers have written those lessons. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel everytime. Sometimes you may need to adapt a lesson or use bits from multiple plans but it’s already been done. Use them.
You are a teacher because of what you know not what it says on the Powerpoint or worksheet. It is good practice to have a rough timing plan but don’t stick to it so rigidly that the lesson suffers.
If you find yourself obsessively trying to make everything perfect any interruption to that will floor you. Internet connections can go down, photocopiers break and your lessons will be interrupted by someone.
Whilst you should never just wing all your lessons, I find it a good exercise for a new teacher to practice what would happen if you have no resources available. Challenge yourself to do a lesson with the only preparation being knowing what you are going to teach. Master this and you will be bulletproof!
There are many pitfalls in teaching but you are a professional educator, you have trained hard to get where you are. If you master these 3 common mistakes everything else will be easier. Just don’t forget to take time for yourself.
If you have anything to add please comment below. Please share this post on your social media if you know anyone who would benefit from it.
You may also benefit from other posts on my blog.
I found an excellent teaching strategies post on teachertoolkit.co.uk with 4 quick reads for new teachers. Click the link below.
Thanks for your time,