It’s your first teaching gig!
How ridiculously wonderful and absolutely terrifying at the same time!
At last you get to put into practice all that you have learnt for your very own students.
While it feels as though there is still so much you need to learn, about your students, parents, and school, not to mention about teaching, there are the ‘MUST’ haves of the classroom to help you make it through the first few weeks and live to tell the tale!
At least a week before school starts get yourself into some good habits that will support your wellbeing during the transition from study to work.
Get Into A Regular Sleep Habit.
The life of a student tends to be fairly erratic and most students are not in much of a routine.
That’s fine when you are at uni, but when you start teaching you will need consistent quality sleep.
You will not believe how tired you will be!!
The uni lifestyle is not particularly conducive to regular or healthy eating habits and of course you can pretty much eat whenever you like.
At school, you are regulated by set break times and bells so it is vital that you start the day with a healthy breakfast to keep you going till a break.
Take A Healthy Lunch.
Be prepared with food you can take for snacks and lunch to ensure that you actually do eat, and that what you eat is healthy.
If your school has a canteen, this can be a useful backup but if you forget to order or the canteen is not particularly healthy, you may end up eating food that doesn’t give you the energy you need to get through the day.
All school canteens operate in different ways and vary as to how useful they are to teachers.
Dress Like A Professional.
Make sure you have some appropriate clothing for school. You need clothing that looks professional and presentable because during the first week, you will be meeting new colleagues and parents, as well as your students.
First impressions last, so even if your dress style becomes more relaxed, what you wear in the first few weeks will set the tone for how others view you.
Besides, if you look the part, you will feel the part!
Get In Early.
Check out the school and the physical layout of your classroom/s before school starts.
If you are in primary school, arrange to have access to your classroom at least a week before school starts so you can set up your room.
Being prepared with name tags on desks, display boards up, desks in formation, names on books etc. will help you feel much more confident before the students arrive and makes you look professional and organised.
If you are a high school teacher, setting up your desk in the staff room and checking out the room/s in which you will teach can give you a sense of confidence and calm.
Knowing the layout of rooms will help you determine how you will use the space to the best effect and what is possible.
It is also important to check out the school’s IT capabilities so that you know how things work.
There is nothing worse than preparing a technology dependent lesson only to find out that the school system or your classroom isn’t set up for it. It is best to try things out first sans students so that you don’t have the class sitting and waiting for you to get things working.
That is a sure-fire way to have bored, fidgety students who then easily become disruptive.
Organise to have extra books, pens, pencils, texts and exercise books available for your students so that there is no excuse for no work.
At the beginning of the year you won’t know your students well enough to know why they don’t have equipment, so simply assume that there is a good reason and offer your support.
First Things First.
If I was to only give you one piece of advice it would be this: set clear, observable expectations for your students from the very beginning.
Decide in advance the behaviour you want to see in your classroom and engage an effective way to teach this to your students.
Think of as many situations that could arise with your students before you have your first lesson, for example, what will you do when a student is out of their seat, when they call out or when they won’t do their work?
For more classroom management tips download 10 Ways To Manage That Tricky Kid ebook.
Ask Your Students.
Include your students in a class meeting to discuss the appropriate behaviour for the classroom.
Allowing them to have a say, increases the likelihood that they will comply with your class agreement.
First of all, decide on the guiding principles, for example, ‘respect others’ can refer to the way students speak to each other and to you, to the way they approach conflict or another student’s property.
Set Up Processes.
Devise routines for handing in homework, how students will ask for assistance, work in pairs and groups, work independently, move between activities, ask to go to the bathroom, and pack up at the end of the lesson/day.
Get To Know Students.
Use part of your first lessons to get to know students and for them to get to know you and each other.
Creating a positive classroom culture depends upon your strategic and purposeful action at this stage.
Let students know that you encourage risk-taking in learning and that you expect that they will make mistakes in their learning.
Be well-prepared for your lessons with additional activities for any number of contingencies. Students may finish the work early, it may be too difficult, or too easy.
The beginning of the year is a good time to provide some open-ended tasks to get an idea of students’ literacy levels.
Check out our upcoming Teacher Wellbeing Workshop, or consider booking us to provide Teacher Wellbeing Staff Development for your school
Ask For A Mentor.
If your school doesn’t offer you a mentor, seek someone out. Ideally this is someone who is not your supervisor, whom you can go to for assistance and ask questions and access professional support.
Debrief At The End Of The Day.
Talking with a trusted friend or colleague can stop you feeling isolated and overwhelmed. It is helpful to find other first year teachers to talk with so that you know you are not alone. Sharing beginning teacher stories helps you realise that everyone goes through similar experiences.
If there are other teachers with whom you can plan, and perhaps team teach down the track, get involved so that you can reduce your workload and increase your ideas.
Your first year as a new teacher will be full of rewards, surprises and challenges. Keep your head up and enjoy the ride!