So it’s your first year teaching. You’re fresh out of college or grad-school and you’ve decided to take on today’s youth. Welcome to one of the best professions out there and the only one that still boasts three months of paid vacation as one of the perks! Teaching isn’t easy, but it’s definitely easier if you begin with the idea that a great teacher (or what we in the field call a, “veteran teacher”) is like fine wine or cheese…it needs aging to perfect the process. Let’s take a look at some tips for your first year that will make the aging process go a little more smoothly, and perhaps see you still perky and enjoying teaching at the end of it.
1. You’ve got to be cruel to be kind.
It’s always important to be on your guard and to be very, very strict for the first three to four months of school. That sounds like a long time to go without cracking a smile, but it will be worth it in the long run. Children need rules, and if you don’t set them and keep them, they will learn to walk all over you. It’s really better to be strict in the beginning and then lighten up down the road then to try to do things the other way around.
2. Seating charts are very smart.
Many new teachers balk at seating charts because they set up a regimented existence from the beginning. Understand that you need to have a seating chart your first month so that you can learn names. After that point it’s a matter of housekeeping. Students should have to prove that they can learn anywhere in the classroom and not be distracted by their peers, the window, the sounds in the hallway etc. Until they can prove that to you, don’t let them choose their own seats.
3. Don’t be too cool for school.
Every new teacher wants to be liked. It’s a normal human instinct to want to impress and/or please those eager faces looking up to you for enlightenment. However, keep in mind that you are a public servant and you are there for them. You are not there to be the, “sage on the stage” and put on a one man (or woman) show. The children should be the stars of your classroom. You are there to facilitate their learning. Children cannot learn from someone they do not like, so be likable, but gain their respect first.
4. Mind your p’s and q’s.
If you are going to teach students to succeed, they need to be organized, efficient, cooperative and all those other great interpersonal and personal skills. Remember, the best way to teach is by example. You should be a model of organization and efficiency. Get those papers back quickly and know each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Above all, if you expect them to turn in assignments by a certain deadline, make sure you set one for yourself as well.
5. Do what you love and love what you do.
This one really speaks for itself. If you don’t love teaching, get out fast. The work is hard and the rewards are few. However, students can tell if you love them and your subject matter and that love will be contagious. So, make sure that spark is always there and that you are as teachable as you would like them to be.