As a new teacher, you’ll be looking back over the last year and feel as though you’ve been through a whirlwind. You’ve learned so much, you’ve come so far, but you may still feel like there’s a mountain to climb.
I asked the teacher community on Twitter, “what piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the start of your career?”
The post had an incredible response with nearly one-hundred comments. It was a hard job to summarise them all down, but I have.
Always have a plan B
Sometimes your lessons won’t go as planned. Actually, your lessons will never go as planned! Have a plan B. That could be another (calmer) activity in mind if the students are too hyper for what you’d planned today, or going back and repeating part of the previous lesson if it’s needed. This becomes easier over time as you build up a bank of lessons and a deeper understanding of the curriculum.
Be kind to yourself
As teachers, we are naturally ambitions for ourselves and our students. However, you’re not always going to be feeling 100%, some days you’ll be tired, some days you’ll just get through rather than excel – and that’s ok.
You’re human, you’re trying, give yourself a break.
Knowledge is more important than results
In the real world, outside of education, a person’s knowledge and skills are as (if not more) important than their results on a test. As such, your job is so much more than just pushing students into their exams. Remember this. Try to avoid getting bogged down by exam pressure – particularly for non-national tests. For your students this is the process of life-long learning, not just an exam grade.
Nothing will ever prepare you for your first safeguarding concern – report everything
As teachers, we are on the front line of a young person’s life. We will see them more than anyone else and are responsible for reporting things that don’t seem right.
Report everything, even if it seems trivial to you, fill in that form or contact the person in your school responsible for safeguarding and let them decide how important it is.
Work to live, don’t live to work
One of the biggest causes of burnout is not taking a break when you need it. Your job does have limits, learn what they are and don’t exceed them. You don’t need to mark every book all the time, you don’t need to do assessments every week. Doing more than is necessary is a recipe for burnout.
Everything will change
Sometimes things can be going really well with a class, maybe they’ll be great for weeks, and then, everything will change. Be prepared for it, try something new, and keep trying new things until you find something that works… for a while until you’ll need to change it again.
Every day / every lesson is a fresh start
This can be difficult, but the students you’re teaching now aren’t responsible for the frustrating lesson you’ve just had. You need to take a minute, let that go, and give them the fresh start they deserve.
Often, following a difficult class, I’ll plan a starter activity that can be done in silence, even if it’s silent reading. That gives me ten minutes to calm and focus on giving my best to the incoming class.
Don’t plan five active lessons or five assessment in one day
You are in charge of your classes’ pace. With that in mind, don’t plan five lessons in which you need to be full of energy back to back – because they’ll drain you. By the same token, don’t plan five assessment lessons as the marking load will be unmanageable.
Keep a well-stocked survival kit in your desk, classroom or office
What you put in this depends on you, but for me, paracetamol, a can of coke, tissues and hand sanitizer are completely essential.
And finally, ask for help when you need it
Teaching is a collaborative profession, even that teacher who seems to have been the school for their whole life started somewhere. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are struggling with something, or finding something hard. Use the resources available to you, whether that’s your NQT mentor, Lead Practitioner in your department or other teachers you know.
In the research of this article, Rachel Walker (@mrswalkerteach), posted a link to post on her blog. It gives 30 short bits of advice, some of which I have included above.
Is there any essential advice you think I’ve missed?