10 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Teacher

Tips for new teachers

Long ago, when I started out as an ELA teacher, I wasn’t aware of the challenges that I were to face as a new teacher. New at school, I started with high hopes in my mind; and quickly filled up my book-of-incidents.

As I reflect over years, I wish I had known a few things, which, unfortunately, caused me a lot of hardship, and had to learn through experiences. I have bags filled with them. Here I list a few of my tips and experiences, again with high hopes that I could be resourceful to new teachers.

 

10 Things I Wish I Knew as a new Teacher

 

  1. Love your (every) students

My first day itself is a memory. I had the most memorable of my experiences. One of the students gifted me a gorgeous little rose. The rest of the class greeted me with their cute little charming smiles. It was such a wonderful experience. I could feel the love and respect in their eyes. I tell you, students do not expect anything from us; they just need to be loved.

What you can do

Caring and affection, they always work. No need to be mushy but be tender in your approach. As a new teacher, your first job is to create a welcoming atmosphere – lighten it up with jokes, share some stories – fill the air with a scent of trust.  Student should feel welcomed around you; in fact, they should feel like waiting for your next class. Know this- loving impressions over young brains go a long way.

 

  1. Students take a note of how teachers behave in the class

My class never forgot an incidence, when I gave an assignment – it was an ELA project; they had to complete, and submit after two days – and forgot to collect it.  Students, happily, took a note of it, and developed a habit of not submitting work on time. It was a horrible experience. I had to work hard (really hard) to bring down this rebellion. It taught me to never to forget my own instructions, and made it a point to maintain a teacher’s diary.

What you can do

Keep a note of your instructions in a diary; and never-ever forget to check it. Even a small error from a new teacher gives students a chance to test their limits. So you got to be very particular about how you behave in the class.

 

  1. Your students will surprise you

It has happened to me quite a lot. Sometimes, students would learn the toughest of grammar topics without any effort; and often – the same students – would make me sweat for the easiest of topics.

What you can do

Be prepared for such surprises- They are real! Praise your class whenever they accomplish the unthinkable, and encourage them when deliver otherwise.

 

  1. WRITE your instructions over the board

When I started, I used to give verbal instructions. I would tell them the homework – sometimes shout it out loud – only to find my words vanish into thin air. I pondered over it for weeks, “What am I doing wrong here? What should I do to make my instructions find solid ground?” A senior colleague helped me out- WRITE.

What you can do

Many new teachers make this mistake. They give verbal instructions, and find themselves in thick waters when students fail to turn up the work. It’s not students’ fault; kids specialize at forgetting verbal instructions. Make it a point to write, all that you want your students to remember – every single point – over the board.

 

  1. Never hesitate to ask for help

I did it, and I did it a lot. When I started out as a teacher- I faced a lot of problems; you see, student behavior can be really confusing to a new teacher. I used to rush to my senior colleagues to solve my issues. They were a great help.

What you can do

Your second most important task is to create relationships. Your fellow teachers can be of a source of inspiration, a source for solutions, and probable best friends. It’s important. Your relationship with the staff is that very tool that would help you sustain your first few years. If anyone needs help- be there; if you need help – don’t hesitate, ask.

 

  1. Understand that you are being expected to be a magician

Be prepared for this. They may be students, but they are kids too. And, kids have a-lot-of-problems-which-none-can-solve-except-the-magician-teacher.

Most of the kids are searching for their own Mary Poppins. They expect you to be a magician. It was so with my second grade. Kids approached me with all sorts of imaginable (and unimaginable) problems –mummy-complains, friend-fights, crossword-puzzles, etc., etc.

What you can do

Listen to the kid inside them. Be a friend. And, never-ever neglect their crossword-puzzles.

Most importantly – and several new teachers learn it the hard way – avoid performing magic tricks. Best you should do is, help them find their own answers. You need to teach your students- ‘how to think’. Help them explore, but never-ever hand-out solutions.

New Teacher

  1. Learn new tricks and games that make lessons fun

I have struggled a lot with teaching vocabulary. Toughest of jobs, I say.  Test after test, kids would return with low scores just because they struggled with spellings. A senior colleague helped me again. She gave me a few tricks – simple ones – and they have helped me a lot.

First, we created vocabulary lists (I had a drawer filled with them.) Next, we searched for suitable vocabulary games for my class. My kids loved scrambles. We played scrambles whenever we could find time. It increased their active participation in spelling sessions, and we had some really memorable times together.

 

  1. Be prepared to teach reading skills

Kids do struggle with reading (whatever their age may be.)

Many students – even in middle school – don’t understand the value of reading. This leads to their trouble with vocabulary, and limits their knowledge bank drastically.

What you can do

Your next job, as a new teacher, is to learn about the books that could interest your kids. Story books have amazing captivating power. You should use them to develop students’ vocabulary and their knowledge bank. Regular reading sessions are necessary for younger kids.

Teach them how to select books, and ensure that they complete a book, and submit their book-reviews on time.

 

  1. When teaching grammar- start small

A big NO to long grammar sessions; do that and your students would soon start cutting corners.

Plan your lessons, as easy as possible. Divide them into bits. One topic per day, that’s the rule that works. Some topics need interaction. A classroom drama can be worth a 100 worksheets. Be ready with your grammar anchor charts, and ensure that students always find a reason to read them.

 

And last, but not the least…

 

Give time to yourself

Make no mistake, as a new teacher, you would be investing insane number of hours in lesson-planning, creating instruction, grading and Google(ing) classroom activities. You’d love it; however, soon you’d realize that there’s never ever anytime left for yourself.

My trick

A day off is a ‘day off’. Read books, decorate your house, go camping, watch movies, hangout with your friends – have fun. It works.

By Mrs. M. Hemnani

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