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20 Things Teachers Wish They Knew In Year One

TeacherThe first year of any job is one of discovery, excitement, and, yes, sometimes discombobulation. And almost no profession can catch you off guard in that “they didn’t train me for this” sort of way than teaching. Recently on Reddit, the question was asked of teachers: What was the one key thing that you learned during your first year of teaching that your training could not have prepared you for? Here were some of the most memorable responses:

1. “For me, in the first year, I knew all the theory and I created what were probably pretty good lesson plans. But my mind was so overwhelmed by the new situation that I (1) never really felt comfortable and (2) wasn’t really able to respond properly to the situation (teaching the lesson plan, not the students). After a year or two, that went, and teaching is invigorating rather than exhausting. It’s a relief when you realise that you’re on that side of the hill. Just stick with it if you’re like I was in the first year!”

2. “A family friend works with elementary age kids, but isn’t a teacher. She mentioned that when you start working with little kids, be prepared to get sick (mainly sinus infections) a lot the first year or two.”

3. “The biggest thing is getting to feel comfortable and confident managing a class. For a long time, teaching was a bit like acting. I would assume a persona between 8 and 3 each day. It took a few years before I reached a point where I felt just like me when I was teaching. You’ll get there; I promise.”

4. “Lunch is important. For you, just as for the kids, low blood sugar makes people crankier and worse at thinking. Also, school lunches are often kind of expensive and not that great. Learn to make big dinners and package up the leftovers for the rest of the week – soups, stir-frys and pasta things are great. Also, when I go out to eat, I make myself stop eating when there’s a lunch-sized portion left – restaurants give you so much food that you really can get two meals out of it. Keep snacks in your desk, too. I like dried fruit, almonds, and crackers.”

5. “Have back-up plans for the following scenarios: You’re 10 minutes from the end of class and only halfway through your planned lesson. You’re 15 minutes from the end of class and two minutes from the end of your planned lesson. One kid finishes an assignment way before the others and is bored. (Don’t just give him more of the same thing to do!) The technology you planned to use (projector, DVD player, CD, whatever) is malfunctioning.”

6. “Have some sub plans at the ready in case you wake up one morning too nauseous to stand, let alone write up a detailed explanation of what you were planning to do. It is totally okay to have a sub show a video now and then. In your sub plans, explain the standard format of the class (things like where the kids sit, how they ask to go to the bathroom, etc.), where to find necessary materials, what to do if kids misbehave, how to use the DVD player, and who to contact if something goes wrong. At the end of the plan, ask the sub to tell you how it went – asking specific questions like ‘Were any children especially helpful?’ or ‘What questions did they ask at the end of the harmonica video?’ will get you more specific answers.”

7. “Don’t turn your back.”

8. “Make friends with the custodial staff and the office staff. Too often they are ignored and these people can always help you in a pinch.”

9. “When you issue equipment (scissors or whatever) count them all out and count them all back.”

10. “I guess … the message is that getting better at teaching isn’t so much about getting advice from others as it is about getting information from everywhere and integrating it into a way of teaching that suits your students. … Don’t be shy, [other teachers] are normally flattered to be asked if you can come into their classroom. And you can ask them how they do their preparation, keep their notes etc.”

11. “Hershey’s Kisses are great motivators.”

12. “Learn to say No, don’t take on a lot of extra curricular/committees.”

13. “Teach them something that is not in your curriculum. IE=I teach them (high school age) how to tie a tie. Years later, they may not remember anything else in the class, but they remember that is where they learned to tie a tie.”

14. “You can always ease up, but it’s impossible to be a hard-a** after being their ‘friend’ instead of their teacher.”

15. “Don’t judge them. You have no idea what or where that kid is coming from. Assume that they have a bad home life, and you may be the only positive of their day. Being at school may be the only RELIEF that kid may get … from being cold, hungry, abused, etc. They may smell because they don’t have running water, or electricity, etc. Guidance counselors usually have information on everybody … I have hung up the phone after talking to one about a student before, I just had to sit there in amazement that this kid is even here the days that he was, or even alive.”

16. “You do not have to take a grade on EVERY assignment.”

17. “What works for one lesson/class won’t work with all. Don’t be afraid to shutdown something that doesn’t work. A coworker of mine could never get this down. He would keep bulldozing his way something that was obviously not working because he wasn’t quick enough to switch his plan, or think on his feet.”

18. “Don’t argue with students – they are not rational people. And before I get yelled at, I don’t mean when you are having a discussion about something. I mean when they are trying to get out of something, most likely when they screwed up.”

19. “It doesn’t matter how you set up your group work dynamics (leader, writer, whatever, …) if the work the kids are to do isn’t interesting or useful. I’ve stopped carefully designing group structures for my students to work in, but I make sure that everything I give to them that is group work requires a group, and is interesting (while being a useful activity) to the students.”

20. “Always have more planned than what you need for the day. I can’t count how many times I had students breeze through a lesson that I thought they might struggle or struggle greatly with a topic that I thought might be simple for them. I always had an extra lesson ready to go so if I had extra time I could fill it up. I also teach 90 minute classes for LD/ED Middle School English so I can not afford to have any extra unstructured time left.”

In Summary

Education can only take you so far when it comes to mastery of a career. Teaching is one of the best examples of this reality. But by talking to those who’ve gone before you, you can drill down into the heart of what makes a great teacher/worker/employee. Best of luck!

[Image via Teachers.net]

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's work appears regularly here at 4tests.com and across the web for sites, such as The Inquisitr and Life'd. A former high school teacher, his passion for education has only intensified since leaving the classroom. At 4tests, he hopes to continue passing along words of encouragement and study tips to ensure you leave school ready to face an ever-changing world.

Website: http://aricmitchell.blogspot.com/

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