5 things that I wish I had known as a new teacher
Updated: Jul 18
When I started my teaching career, I had already been a tutor for 8 years or so. I felt I had a good grasp on how to teach content in an engaging manner for one-on-one teaching, but I was pretty scared about teaching entire classes on a consistent basis. While I read plenty of articles before stepping into my first lesson, I wish someone had complied a more real and practical set of advice items for me to read before I launched into my first busy year as a full-time science teacher.
1. Project confidence (even if you don't feel it)
Students have always tended to respond well to my teaching when I am confident in what I am doing. Whether I am certain about what I am doing or even if I do not know exactly what my next steps will be in the next few minutes in the classroom.
Confidence in your own ability to manage the classroom or deal with whatever situation comes up whether real or faked can help you to truly get through those difficult times.
This leads into my second point.
2. It is okay not to know everything
It should be made clear that projecting confidence does not necessarily mean you need to know everything or be able to answer every question the students put to you. Some of the best discussions and problem solving experiences I have had with students is when I don't immediately know the answer to a question and we have to figure it out together.
3. Reach out to other teachers
Reach out to other teachers for emotional support, teaching routines, advice on students, getting acquainted with school processes. Your colleagues can be your biggest asset. When I was working as a first year teacher I would learn so much from other teachers, their support and understanding got me through many tough spots. I also learned many different techniques, games, routines and methods of teaching from other teachers whether they taught the same subjects or different subjects, it doesn't matter. You can learn from almost any other teacher in school and they are often happy to support you so eventually you can give back in the future, whether that is giving back to them or giving back to new teachers once you are more experienced.
4. Prioritize yourself and then others
During my first year as a teacher, I worked 5 days a week in school and 1.5 days a week at home on the weekends. I knew that this was unsustainable and that I needed to build up my resources, skills and knowledge for this period and that the following year(s) they would be better. About halfway through my first year, I shifted to ONLY working 6 days a week (1 full day on the weekend) and made sure I took one full day off on the weekend. I did this even if I did not quite get as much done as I would like, as much prep, as much completed work or feedback. While it might make you 'less complete' as a teacher, it keeps you whole as a person and therefore able to function as a teacher.
Having seen the difficulties that come for students when teachers burnout mid-year, it is better for them and for you to keep your sanity. Don't let your wants to help students as much as possible take over your need to do self-care.
5. Communication in email is golden
Some situations may be challenging and communication with parents, students and colleagues when written in emails can be a game-changer in terms of protecting you from any fallout. Phone-calls and conversations are completely admissible in terms of I-say / they-say, but emails are clear, recorded and semi-permanent as long as you keep copies. While I am not saying you need to walk around constantly worried about your communication at all times. Communicating early when students are struggling or suggesting different support mechanisms can not only lead to your being a better all-around teacher, it also helps protect you against accusations of complacency.
The only problem with email communication is that tone is omitted and you need to consider that when writing them, be careful and aware of this fact and you'll be right as rain in your coming years.
Do you agree or disagree? Then please let me know in the comments or reach out if you would like to suggest any edits, additions or your experiences with these points.
Thanks for reading - Oliver
(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)