New teachers: 5 things you need to know before you start teaching

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As a new teacher or a student teacher, life can be super exciting and filled with promise. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer but not everybody can survive the first few years of teaching. However, if you come with the right expectations and mindset you'll succeed and here are my 5 tips for you before you start your first post:

TIP ONE: TEACHING IS HARD WORK

Okay, so I'm not going to patronise you here and assume you think teaching is a bed of roses but if you're not clear what I mean by hard work let me explain. Teaching is busy! Juggling a thousand things busy! It will stress you out by how busy it is and at the end of the day you'll be beyond civil conversation you'll be so tired. Few jobs require you to juggle quite so many things 'at the same time' (other professions are of course demanding but teaching requires all of your brain power at once to multi task nearly all day). Most mornings for me are speaking with up to 30 children at one time (late assignments, homework missing, somebody doesn't feel well etc) AND parents who have arrived to discuss an 'urgent' issue right then. You are in demand all the time by everybody.



TIP TWO: YOU WILL WORK AN UNLIMITED NUMBER OF HOURS

Yes it's not 9-5 (if you didn't know that then go back to Go and do not collect $200). You'll be at work from anywhere from 7.00 am and won't leave until after 4 pm (after meetings that is and if you're super organised!) and when you get home you'll probably put in another 3 hours of lesson preparation and marking. Most weekends will be spent marking or creating resources. Sundays will be a thing of the past, left to enjoy over school holidays. I'm not even counting all the time you'll be mentally trying to 'fix that child' in your class (showers seem to be the place where I problem solve!). You're on salary now and there is no 'overtime' so learn to manage your time wisely. 


TIP THREE: NOT EVERYBODY WILL APPRECIATE YOU

Teachers are not, on the whole, respected by the community. Parents' expectation will be high if you're at a good school and if you're in a disadvantaged school you'll find it hard to find the parents at all. Education is an expectation for children and that expectation begins and ends with you the teacher. We know that's not correct and it's not fair but that is, sadly, the way society is moving. You'll be expected to work the impossible with students and that's okay but not always realistic. Be the best you can be and let the rest sort itself out. 



TIP FOUR: YOU CAN'T SAVE EVERY CHILD

You became a teacher so you could have that positive influence in a child's life and make a difference. However, your first few years of teaching will slowly reaffirm for you that you can't save them all. There are children that don't bring lunch, don't do homework, have a bad attitude, turn up late, turn up tired, are over stressed and generally falling apart. All you can do is try your best and remember you're not the only adult in their life, you might be fighting some very challenging circumstances at home. Go easy on yourself. Try your very best and hope the best for that child as they move on to a new teacher at the end of the year. Don't beat yourself up if you feel they didn't achieve all that you felt they could. You may have had a more subtle influence on them than you realise.



TIP FIVE: IT GETS EASIER!

It does get easier the longer you teach. Multitasking will be easier and you'll have ready answers for parents with those questions at the start of the day. You'll learn to be kinder to yourself for making mistakes and you'll stress less at the start of each school year. You'll start to build yourself a teacher toolbox of ideas, resources and emotional reassurances that will help you get through each day. Stick with it and ride out those difficult first few years and you'll be in a job you'll enjoy for the rest of your life! Teaching is addictive! Why? Because you do make a difference!


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