It’s back to school season and teachers up and down the country are returning to the classroom after the summer break. For some of you this may be the first time you have stepped into the classroom with your own students. All that studying and hard work has finally paid off! These are exciting times! However, for many new teachers, taking charge of a class for the first time can be daunting and a little overwhelming at times. Here I’ve put together my top tips to help you along the way in your first year!
1. Be Consistent
Establish your classroom management system and be consistent when implementing it. Giving students a secure, stable environment where they know where they stand and what to expect will save you and your students a lot of frustration in the long term. Children learn best when they feel safe and secure and having a consistent classroom management system is key. So establish it, implement it and make sure you follow through with it!
2. Just say no
Do not feel guilty about saying no to extra responsibilities. As a new teacher (and an experienced one!) there are so many things to learn in terms of managing your class, planning lesson, assessments, parent communication and so on and these can often seem daunting on their own, never mind taking on extra roles. Do not be afraid to say no to running that after school club or organising that science week. If you feel ready to take it on, then go ahead, but do not feel pressurised into going above and beyond. You are a new teacher and learning how to manage your class is your number one responsibility.
3. Use your planning time effectively
Try to get as much of your work done in school as you can. Before your planning time starts know what it is that you want to achieve. This could be getting next week’s planning done, making copies, marking a set of books etc. Try not to get distracted and stay focused on your task. Try to find a quiet place to work (not always easy in a school, I know!). Try to have all your resources ready, i.e. planning templates, worksheets to print out on a storage device etc. so you are ready to go. This time is yours, so make the most of it!
4. Don’t struggle alone
Find a trusted mentor and ask them for advice if you need to. If you are struggling with a particular child or you are looking for ideas about how to teach a particular tricky concept, don’t be afraid to ask for help. While googling is great for this too, it doesn’t beat talking through ideas face to face. Find someone you trust and don’t be afraid to ask. In the UK you should have an assigned mentor during your first year and this is what they are for!
5. Learn to draw a line under your work
It took me a few years to accept that there will always be something else to do when it comes to teaching, but it’s fine if I don’t manage to do it all! Teaching is a practice where there are many ways of doing things and there is always something else you can do to improve, but the quicker you learn to accept this and be ok with it, the better. Your students would much rather have a refreshed teacher who is well rested than a tired, frazzled teacher who has been up all night planning and replanning a lesson because there was ‘something else that could be done’. Learn to draw cut off points and stick to them.
6. Go to staffroom at lunch
You need a break away from the classroom during the school day. Make sure you make time during lunch to spend in the staffroom. Get to know your colleagues and spend time with them. You will feel ready for the afternoon session after a decent lunch break!
7. Go with the flow
I used to get frustrated when that lesson I’d carefully planned was interrupted by a surprise visitor or an extra singing practice for the school concert. Learn to accept that this is school and things often don’t run as expected. So don’t worry and just pick up where you left off tomorrow. At least all your prep will be done!
8. Make time for yourself
As much as you can, try to leave school work at school – where it belongs! You need to make time for yourself and be able to relax and spend time with your friends and family. This can be harder than it sounds (see point 5), but it is important to step away from work and make time for yourself so you are refreshed when you step back into the classroom. Make sure that you make time for your own hobbies and interests away from school.
Have a great year!