Teaching is an extremely rewarding profession. (The best in the world, in our humble opinion!) But it can also be quite stressful. Pressure from parents, schools, and governing officials can create the sense that your best simply isn’t good enough. And without the ability to prepare and organise your teaching plan effectively, deadlines can easily get on top of you.
Our aim is to create resources that help every new teacher love what they do, because a teaching career you love truly is within your reach.
To that end, here are the top 10 tips that we’ve seen make the biggest impact for new teachers.
#1: Be yourself
This advice might sound cliché, but it holds true for anyone working with young people. Yes, ‘being yourself’ is easier said than done—especially when you’re nervous. But kids connect most strongly with adults who drop the pretence and present themselves as they are, without pretending to be someone different.
No matter the age of your students, it’s a virtual guarantee that they’re trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. Teachers who reveal very little about themselves create an unconscious barrier between themselves and their students.
When you show up as your real self, you’ll serve as a good example and form strong bonds within your classroom.
#2: Don’t over-plan
You probably already know that it’s important to plan, but new teachers are often tempted to plan every moment of their lessons in excruciating detail. Over-planning leads straight to exhaustion and burnout—not to mention the fact that even the best-laid plans simply go astray sometimes! Leave enough space in your schedule to be flexible and to respond to the needs of the moment.
Learning isn’t always predictable, so don’t make the plan more important than the process or your students will suffer.
Also, don’t reinvent the wheel. Leverage school resources, existing curriculum plans, and local hubs. If you can’t find good resources locally, there are loads of high-quality teaching resources online. This doesn’t mean you aren’t doing your own legwork, but existing resources give you a place to start so you aren’t building from the ground up every time.
#3: Avoid labels
Lots of labels get thrown around these days when it comes to learning ability and style. Research even suggests that some children are misdiagnosed with special educational needs (SEN) due to pressure from parents. But terms like ‘dyslexic’ and ‘hyperactive’ can be extremely damaging if they are misused, so try your best to avoid using them.
Don’t treat a diagnosis as gospel. Be objective and always use your best judgment on what will work best for each student.
#4: Work smarter, not harder
The most effective teachers know how to outsource tasks to achieve maximum efficiency. Your students should be busier than you are, so if you’re talking and moving most, take some time to recalibrate.
Talk less and pause more. Sometimes, do nothing at all—students will step into the silence with breakthroughs in learning that they’ve achieved all on their own.
It’s been said that too much teaching kills learning, and we’ve found that to be true. The right balance is a skill that teachers develop over time. As a new teacher, test out a few moments to see where taking a step back allows the students to learn more while you do less.
#5: Maintain your work/life balance
It’s very easy for new teachers in particular to fall into the trap of working seven days a week. It doesn’t take many months of working at this pace to feel the effects of burnout, so decide what working hours suit you and stick to them. That way, you’ll be well-rested and able to do your best work over the long haul. Teaching can be a very stressful job, so don’t let it take over your life!
Some quick tips for effective work/life balance:
- Write a to-do list each day, and identify your top three priorities. It won’t all get done, and that’s okay! You don’t need to do everything: just the three most important things on your list. Everything else is a bonus.
- Set aside time for yourself and your family each day. If you’ve got hobbies, keep them going during the term. They will help to keep you centred (and sane) on the days when school gets tough.
You won’t always get this balance right, and that’s expected. Perfectionism and teaching do not make good bedfellows! Allow yourself a few blunders, and learn from them.
#6: Foster relationships
Build strong relationships with your NQT mentor and with other teachers. Your mentor isn’t simply there to observe your lessons and offer feedback. They’re there to give you advice and serve as a friendly ear if you should run into any problems you aren’t sure how to solve. They can also help smooth the inevitable bumps in the road during your first year, so developing a good relationship with them is very helpful.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Keep lists of questions each week to bring up in your mentor meetings. This will make efficient use of your time and ensure nothing is forgotten.
- Meet up with fellow NQTs after school to debrief on the day.
- Create a group for new teachers on social media where you can share advice and funny stories, and even meet up regularly to offer support.
- Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes and ask for help if/when you need it. (More on this last point in #10.)
#7: Think of your classroom as a small business
Effective classroom management gets a lot easier when you think of it like running a small business. You must manage your ‘employees’ (students), resources, and work schedules to meet your objectives.
Leverage the resources you have to help you manage day-to-day classroom tasks. For example, have students help take the register to the office, collect papers for marking, etc. The students will enjoy the responsibility and you’ll save time.
Also, create defined and consistent routines. Most students like to know what will happen during class and what’s expected of them. By setting expectations and adhering to them consistently, your classroom will run much more smoothly.
#8: Meet the parents
Get to know the parents of the students in your class, and make sure they get to know you, too. (And remember Point #1 above: Be Yourself.)
Some parents are a bit wary when a new teacher joins a school, so put them at ease as quickly as you can. If your school has a ‘meet the teacher’ evening near the start of term, try to speak with as many parents as possible. Don’t feel like you need to promise the moon, either; just be professional, capable, and engaged.
Forming positive relationships with parents also makes it more likely they’ll offer help in class or on school trips. And frankly, it’s much easier to engage about academic or behavioural issues if it isn’t your first conversation.
#9: Challenge your students
When the going gets tough, it’s tempting to assign work that probably won’t stretch your students academically, but will create a more manageable classroom for the day. In fact, a lack of challenging work can often lead to frustration and disruptive behaviour.
The key here is supported challenge. Offer up relevant, challenging work that encourages students to go beyond their comfort zones, but support them by answering questions and providing guidance as needed. Students will finish with the satisfaction of achievement, and you’ll have the satisfaction of a job well done.
#10: Speak up if you’re stressed
Last, but certainly not least: teaching can be very stressful, especially for new teachers. It’s more than okay to admit when you’ve made mistakes or are struggling.
Try to be proactive and speak to someone for help before things get on top of you. That way, your mentor or other colleagues can offer strategies to help you avoid challenges. It’s often a massive relief just to hear that another teacher has been where you are and survived to tell the tale.
Wondering where you can put your new teaching skills to use? Book a call with Ashley today.