1. Get used to the nerves.
I am about to embark on my third year of teaching and I am sorry to tell you this, but it is quite never like any of the jobs you’ve had before, I can assure you that most teachers still get nervous and even anxious about the new academic year. In fact I can tell you how relieved I was when a very experienced Biology Teacher and Head of Department, told me that she felt anxious even after eight years of teaching. She also said that they are not necessarily a bad thing but that she would ask herself: Have I forgotten how to teach?
When I heard her saying this, I immediately told her that I felt exactly the same, only much more often and looking back, I think I felt this every single Sunday evening during my probationary year. Although nerves will be with you for a fair number of years, anxiety doesn’t have to be! I am going to share as many tips that I can actually remember in order to make you feel more at ease.
2. Own your classes- You are the teacher now!
I know placements can be really hard and intimidating. Most of us didn’t get the experience we were hoping for. Whatever your experience of your placement, please take the best and leave the rest behind. YOU ARE NOW IN CHARGE !
A good way to start is by owning your classes, in my placements I was criticised on my contrived mannerisms and not being confident enough. I think this was because I was being observed and I felt that I lacked a sense of ownership. This changed the minute I was the only teacher in the room. You have earned this moment and you deserve it, so don’t let unruly kids steal your thunder!
Here are five tips on owning your classes:
- Create a routine. If you are changing classrooms, create a dictation routine or if photocopying allows, bring mini hand outs.
- Check your posture and tone of voice. Practise in front of a mirror if you need to but you need to exude confidence.
- Make discipline your friend and the kids won’t be your enemy.
- Learning Outcome and Success Criteria. Tell them what you expect from them at the beginning of the lesson and how you will measure it.
- Be an expert on the language they are expected to produce in their next test/exam
If like me, you feel that confidence and mental attitude is something you have to work with, please look at the video below and send me and e-mail or comment in the posts if you would like me to write more about it.
3. Crucial Teacher Admin
Hooray! No more staying up until ungodly hours typing lesson plans! However, being responsible for the academic success of children is no easy feat. You will soon see how quickly days turn into weeks and feel a knot in your stomach when you realise that you have not prepared your pupils on some specific topic.
Mark in your diary ( a wall one preferably) all the assessments that each class needs to take. Ask your mentor or head of department when will the pre-lims and oral exams take place. Are there any other important deadlines?
Once you have this, try to work backwards and ask other teachers if preparation time allocated you’ve allocated for the orals would be enough! Don’t forget to get pupils to write it in their own diary and if appropriate send parents’ letters as well. Kids will prepare and perform better when you have the parents on board.
Scheme of work
Print your scheme of work and ask your mentor the following…
a) Is this up to date and if you have the right version? The amount of times I have wasted valuable time on this.
b) What are the most important topics to cover? Schemes of work are sometimes taken straight from the book, however not all chapters are pivotal to sit the exams. Ask a Teacher you trust, if there are any topics the students struggle with the most?
c) If options a and b are something you feel you cannot ask, then print the exams/tests that your students need to sit. Make yourself a cuppa and answer every single exam. Are the instructions crystal clear? What instructions need to be given orally at the exam? What vocab do they need to cover? Are there any tricky parts?
Marking books and folders in your Teacher Drive
Are there any ready made mark books that will help you plan your academic calendar? Most schools have a way of e-mailing pupils lists so don’t waste time hand writing or typing them in. Ask for help with this.
Maybe another teacher has a marking grid in excel ready made, look in the drive and ask your colleagues.
The reality is that you will not have time to mark in your grade book who’s been naughty or nice with the homework you set. My advice is to get kids to swap jotters and ask a brave one to read the answers or write them on the board. HERE is where you are likely to spot fear in those that haven’t done their homework. You can play naughty or nice, but for the first few classes, be tough!
Once the drama is out of the way, get kids to mark each other’s homework and give each other oral feedback for two minutes. It will take you three periods to get this ritual understood by the pupils.
Reports and Parent’s evening
My fabulous colleague Jenny Hegarty Owens, gave me this awesome tip:
Take your class jotters into parent’s evening. Let parents see how kids work in class, those less dedicated will have messier jotters. Are these kids giving themselves their best possible chance by studying from the work they produce in class?
Take the jotters a few weeks before reports are due in, think about the child in question and ask yourself: Where are your students at the moment?, What do they need to achieve? , What do they need to do?. Specific recommendations are much better than good buzz words.
P.S. Check child’s spelling and personal pronouns ( James is a bright pupil, her efforts are always welcome in class!)
4. Admit your failures and own your mistakes
Pupils and colleagues will -on the whole- understand when things go wrong. My biggest piece of advice is not to punish yourself for the mistakes you make or spend time trying to keep it from your mentor or head of department. Honesty is always the best policy with colleagues and pupils alike.
If you have made a mistake whilst recording important information, or you think you may have done something wrong, please tell the teacher you trust the most. They will probably tell you that there is an easy fix.
When it comes to students, they are much more forgiving that we give them credit for. If you don’t know the answer to something or you got it wrong , just admit it. Explain why you think you have made this mistake and tell them that you will sort it or look into it.
5. Don’t try to be perfect, be yourself!
This the biggest thing I have learnt. Mainly after reading two books by Brene Brown. I cannot recommend them enough and I was absolutely delighted when I saw that the GTCS has it in its reading lists for probationers.
In our placements we were forced to teach a certain way, now you get the chance to try it your own way and it is the most amazing learning curve I have had the honour of riding, however, in one of her books, Dr Brown talks about how putting your entire self-esteem on your job will limit your performance to that specific framework. However, if your self-worth is based on being content or engaged in what you are doing, then we allow yourself the chance to be happy and creative in your teaching practice.
What was way more than I had originally intended to write. Please add your comments, questions or just simply type the number of the tip that you liked the most!
Good luck in your probationary year and let me know if you would like to write a post in this blog!