So you have just started Teaching…
How to survive your first week of teaching! The amount of arguments I have had with people over the years about teaching. The truth is that it is unlike most jobs out there because it is not just one job. Your main job is teaching, we know this, but then there are all of the other parts to your job which you have to do in your own time or PPA time. The planning, marking, detentions, meetings, CPD sessions, parents evenings, parent communication and let’s not forget the organisation of extra curricular events and trips.
It is therefore completely normal to feel overwhelmed and a little apprehensive about starting your teaching career.
What can you do?
In this post, I hope to be able to give you some advice on what you can do to feel more confident about that first week. For those of you who know me, know that I am HUGE on Mindset. It is is the foundation for EVERYTHING we do in life and without it, it is like going into a classroom without a lesson plan. You can wing it but you will do a much better job if you have planned the lesson. However, I know that for some of you, just looking at Mindset will feel a little too ‘woo woo’ for you and so I will aim to give you some concrete ideas and advice too.
First of all, let’s talk a little on Mindset. This might seem inconsequential at the moment. You just want to get into the classroom and get on with the job already. However, from personal experience and being a teacher for the last 12 years, you will need to delve into Mindset at some point.
Teaching is a strange career in that no matter the school, you will be faced with teachers who hate what they do and are constantly complaining about their job. You may think ‘so what?!’ but believe me, it rubs off on you if you let it. When I first started teaching, I was so enthusiastic, I couldn’t wait to start making a difference and I hope that I have kept that enthusiasm going for the most part. However, I know that I have also started to moan more and more over the years and it is so easy to get into that cycle.
Therefore, it is so important from the start, to remember your why. Why did you get into teaching? What is it about teaching that excites you? At the end of each day, remember this. No matter what kind of day you have had! You will have great days and you will have rubbish ones. You will feel ecstatic when one of your students has an ‘aha’ moment and you will feel miserable when you feel that a group has got the best of you. Just remember your why EVERY DAMN DAY! Know that you are doing your best and that you are enough!
I will be talking more about Mindset in future posts but I am going to leave it there for the moment.
So moving onto the more concrete advice. Firstly, ask questions! This depends on your personality. Some of us don’t mind asking questions but some of us hate it as we see it as some kind of failure. It is not. Let me put it this way, you will be a much more successful teacher once you know the school and its systems and policies. You won’t know all of these unless you ask. So ask. You should have a mentor which is a good place to start. If for whatever reason you cannot ask them or you don’t have one, email or talk to your Head of Department. Just make sure a lack of knowledge on the basics is not holding you back from a successful first week.
Smile and Introduce yourself
You are going to be spending a lot of time at this school and there is strength in having a support group at school. These could be people you ask for help with resources or advice or just people to talk to when you have had a bad day. I cannot explain the relief I have felt just talking through events which I thought were catastrophic only to be reassured by my colleagues that they had been through something similar or that it was nowhere near as bad as I thought.
You can only have this kind of support if you give back too. So smile, get to know the people in your team, organise fuddles (for those people who don’t know what these are; they are lunches where everyone brings a bit of food in to share) It sounds simple but it is so good for well-being and a great way to get to know your colleagues.
I don’t want to dictate what you HAVE to do so I am going to set out the reasons for and against and you can trial them and see what works for you. Personally, I have always prepared a seating plan for my groups and here are the reasons why:
- I get to know the names of the students quicker
- It shows students that this space is mine and I am the one in control (students love a good mind game so this is great to set out expectations from the start)
- Great behaviour management tool (you can move people around depending on behaviour)
- It encourages you to look at students who are disadvantaged, students with SEN etc and seat them accordingly for optimum support
Some of the reasons that a seating plan might not work is if you are constantly in different classrooms or if you have vertical tutoring so do what you think is best for you in your school.
The first lesson is crucial. Most people make a snap decision about somebody within the first few minutes of meeting them so it is vital you put on your confident hat (even if you don’t feel it) and make that classroom your space.
One of the best ways of doing this (apart from a seating plan) is through setting out expectations from the start. I have always advised my staff to go in a little bit more stern than their natural disposition. You can always reveal more of your personality and fun side as the time goes but believe me, it is a struggle to do it the other way around.
Setting out your expectations is a great way to do this. Describe what you expect from the students in your lessons. You can then tell them what they can expect from you too. This is a great way to build those strong relationships and show students that you respect them. To show them that you are not going to constantly dictate to them but rather show them that this will be a two-way relationship.
Don’t underestimate the little things
Finally, don’t underestimate the little things which can have such a positive effect on your week. The following points really help to set yourself up for not just a great week but a great year:
- Greet your students at the door. Ask how they are, what they did at the weekend etc. Great opportunity to check uniform too.
- Have students stood up behind their chairs at the start and the end of lessons. This is a great opportunity to show that this space is yours. You can also check uniform and equipment and ensure that all students are in the right mindset for learning. At the end of the lesson, it encourages students to take responsibility for their learning space. Have they tidied up their space etc?
- Take a break! Make sure you DO NOT spend all your day in the classroom. Get out, have a cup of tea, talk to colleagues etc
- Prepare a good, satisfying lunch. Don’t underestimate the importance of fueling your body. Teaching is both physically and mentally exhausting and you will need that fuel
- Photocopying! Don’t be afraid to use reprographics if you have one. You don’t have to do it all. I will do a whole post on how to get around planning and photocopying!
No matter how scared you feel when you first stand in front of that first class, know that you are where you should be. You can do this. You are enough and you are going to be great!
If you want any more support then make sure you like my page on Facebook. Click HERE