With the benefit of hindsight, any teacher who has been in the job a few years can tell you off the top of their heads, a few things they wish they’d known or done differently in their first year of teaching.
I know I have quite a few, some of which would probably have gotten me a bit further up the pay scale than I am now!
They definitely would have made me a better teacher.
Whilst we can’t go back and change our own past, we can help those who have just started their journey. Ultimately it doesn’t just make the life of a new teacher easier, it also benefits the students right?
I mean, that’s what we are here for, isn’t it?
What follows is a list of 59 things, teachers from around the world have told me that they wish they’d known when they first started teaching. They have told me these in Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter and the staffroom.
59 Essential Things Teachers Wish They Knew In Their First Year.
1. My number one bit of advice is to get to know and be kind to office staff, cleaners, teaching assistants and catering staff. They will make your life easier…trust me!
2. You are replaceable. Sure enough, we may all be replaceable for our bosses/schools. However, for one child you may be the most important, irreplaceable person with the power to change his/her life.
3. Don’t react too quickly. Sometimes it’s better to take a bit of time. 9 times out of 10 the solution will be better with a bit of time.
4. You need to get used to not having everything completed as there is always another job to do.
5. Not to care what other people think about you. Know that you’re a great teacher regardless of management’s opinion and especially school inspectors too!
6. That teaching is such a BIG responsibility as literally EVERY DAY matters, where you could make a difference to at least one child’s life, so you have to be consistent in your approach even if your house fell down as you left. You can’t let it get to you and affect your mood or your attitude for the rest of the day. Tough but true in my opinion.
7. Relax. We’re responsible for the whole child, not just their results.
8. That you never actually nail it. The job constantly evolves and you need to move with it, don’t resist the changes.
9. That there’s no magic potion. Just because it went right once doesn’t mean it will again. Be prepared to change and learn with your students.
10. As with adults, students have a whole life that you don’t necessarily know about, remember this. Having a calculator, for example, may not be the first thing they think of putting in their bag if they are making lunches for other siblings because mum and/or doesn’t wake up in time/works nights.
11. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
12. Adults can be the biggest bullies.
13. To-do lists don’t NEED to be empty.
14. It’s a thankless job at times, but the rewards always come.
15. You can’t please everybody.
16. That not everything will be smooth sailing! We all make mistakes and that’s okay.
17. Remember to prioritise. Some things don’t need your immediate attention. Someone once told me “Ask yourself “If I don’t get to this today will it negatively impact the kids?” If the answer is no then it is okay to put off for a day or two”.
18. It’s the adults you spend time with you need to figure out, not the children.
19. Your own mental health comes first!
20. That you can’t do everything!
21. As much as we love the children in our care it is a job.
22. There is always a to-do list as long as your arm; at some point, you need to know when to stop and take time for you.
23. That not everyone is as passionate about the job as you are.
24. You learn more from badly planned lessons than good ones.
25. It is completely acceptable to say no.
26. Look after yourself, make sure you get a work-life balance if you want to last in this job. If something feels wrong to look elsewhere. Do not stay in a toxic environment through loyalty, there are jobs out there with children that will need you just as much. You can give more when you’re happy.
27. Pace yourself
28. The pendulum just keeps going back and forth, It might not be the done thing this time, but wait a while and it will be back.
29. Comfortable shoes are essential!
30. That it’s not about teaching them what to learn but teaching them how to be learners. It’s the learning, not the teaching that is most important.
31. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s ok to adapt other peoples resources rather than invent everything from scratch!
32. It is ok to ask for help.
33. What is a big deal for them must be treated as a big deal by you. Friendship issues that may seem trivial to you may be heartbreaking for them.
34. Your mood affects their mood. You may have woken up on the wrong side of the bed/had an argument with your spouse/had to clean up cat sick before work but carrying this mood into the class will have an effect on your students. Game face is required!
35. Always give motivation in your lessons and deadline to finish tasks in an enjoyable way e.g. an online timer/countdown or the first one to finish gets an ace point etc.
36. That I’m replaceable so I need to look after me and work to live and not live to work. It’s a job just a job.
37. That it’s vital to find a school you love and you’ll sing your heart out every day on the way into work.
38. All children need is your unconditional acceptance.
39. Buy shares in glue stick companies!
40. Not every kid will get it completely. And that’s okay.
41. That not everything will be smooth sailing! We all make mistakes and that’s okay.
42. Don’t worry too much. If it won’t matter in one, five or ten years, it doesn’t matter now.
43. Don’t spend your own money on work!
44. How much parents appreciate knowing what’s going on in class, what support their child is receiving etc.
45. I learnt it is possible to keep a straight face whilst laughing hysterically on the inside.
46. Always ‘recharge your batteries ‘ and don’t become a slave to the job! A happy teacher means a happy class.
47. Be able to teach if the computer network goes down. Innveviateably, the wifi/computers will go down at some point. Practice being able to teach with no resources (only a title).
48. Remember they are kids, look through their eyes not the eyes of an adult.
49. Build relationships, they will go far when you need to discipline.
50. Work hard during the week, the weekends are yours! Work hard during term time, the holidays are yours! Do not deviate from that!
51. Understand you are committing to a lifestyle, not just a job. You have to ensure at times you are selfish or you will never last.
52. The kids must always be your priority within the politics and if you are worn out they don’t get the time, energy and commitment they need from you.
53. Speak up for yourself, don’t be afraid to challenge practices you think are detrimental to the students, regardless of how new you are to teaching.
54. Assuming that because I spend several hours a week with a student that I know what is best for the child over their parents.
55. Be clear about your behaviour management strategies. If they are consistent, your students will follow them.
56. Don’t spend time over whether a kid has a pencil/pen, yes they should have one but don’t waste learning time for it, just give them a spare and get teaching (don’t spend your own money on them though (kids always leave some behind, collect these as spares).
57. Choose your battles, both with the kids and colleagues. It’s not worth your time (and sanity) jumping on every little infringement.
58. Students might not remember the lessons ten years down the line but they will remember how you treated them and made them feel.
59. WEAR COMFY SHOES! (I know we did this one earlier but it’s essential).
So there you go, 59 things veteran teachers wish they’d known in their first year of teaching. If you think it would help out a new teacher you know, share it on your social media. Thanks.
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