Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Advice for New/Beginning Teachers

Day 6 of the Reflect and Renew Blog Challenge from Reflective Teacher @TeachThought 

I can clearly remember my very first day in my first classroom - and that was in 1999!  It was so exciting and just a little bit terrifying.  I was now responsible for the learning progress of 28 little people, and also for making sure they had the best year ever!  I was also incredibly lucky to have the most amazing mentor from whom I learnt so much.  My role models and mentors in my final year at university had an impact on me as a teacher that still stands to this day as well.  I'll always be grateful for the start these wonderful teachers gave me.

From the extremely fortunate start I had and what I've learned over the years as I've taken on the role of Mentor Teacher, this is my list of what I believe is important for Beginning Teachers:

1.  Spend time getting to know your students.  This might sound very obvious but it's about knowing them as human beings, not just as the students and their learning needs.  The more you know what drives your students, what their hopes, dreams and passions are, the more you can connect with them, develop strong relationships and really get that learning sparking!

2.  At the start of the year, set up and get one curriculum area running well at a time, e.g. Get your reading programme flying, then maths, etc.  Cross curriculum links and integrated learning happens more effectively if each area is strong.  This was the best advice I've ever received I think.  I'm a terrible one for wanting to have everything perfect all at once.  Not a good way to be.  It just stresses you out and can waste a lot of time.  

3.  Always ask for advice and be open to new learning - no matter how long you've been teaching - but don't be afraid to share your knowledge, passion and excitement for your new profession.  You have a lot to share from your learning and experiences.  

4.  Take time out for you.  We can work every waking moment on our teaching but it's too easy to burn out too quickly.  We don't do ourselves or our students any favours by exhausting ourselves.  (This is the hardest lesson I've had to learn over the years and I'm still a work in progress!)  Exercise is often the first thing to go, but it can be the one thing that can help manage the stress of the job.  Walking is great and excellent for clearing your head.  I'm a runner and I know I'm a pain in the neck if I don't get out at least every second day.

5.  Get support from those around you.  Don't struggle with things on your own.  There is no such thing as a 'dumb question'.  Ask, and if you don't get the support / answers you need, then ask again.  Keep asking.

6.  If things are not working out with your Mentor Teacher and you're not getting the support you need or you've tried to address the issue/s with your Mentor, then talk to someone sooner rather than later.  This could be another teacher you trust, or the Principal or someone else in the Leadership Team.  We're here to support, guide and encourage our BTs.  We don't want to lose them through a lack of support.

7.  Develop your Professional Learning Network - Twitter is great for this or the Virtual Learning Network if you're a New Zealand teacher.

8.  Reflect, reflect, reflect!  This is so important so that you can develop as a teacher and learner.  If you are constantly reflecting on your practice, it helps you clarify your thinking and develop your ideas of best practice.  You are also modelling being a learner to your students.

9.  Have fun!  Teaching is hard and there are so many pressures but it's also the best profession on the planet - in my very humble opinion.  Enjoy it.  Don't lose your sense of fun and don't be afraid to have fun with your students.  They'll thank you for it.

10.  Connect with parents / caregivers.  They're your support team.  Learning is all about teamwork.  Develop those relationships and encourage open communication.

Below are some other resources you might be interested in...

Edutopia - Best Resources for New Teachers

                                                         Education World - Advice for First Year Teachers

                                                         Excellent ABC List!

This is an Australian site which has great advice and resources

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