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Ten tips for your first year of teaching

The first year of teaching is full of many different emotions and experiences- laughter, tears, confusion, joy, adventure and boundless learning opportunities. Here are ten of the top tips I wish I knew before starting my teaching journey.

I will never forget my very first moment alone in a classroom without another teacher in the room. Suddenly, I was the teacher and not just for one lesson but 6 hours! I was the one in charge of 33 ten-year-olds who were all gazing at me waiting for my first instruction. I was nervous and excited – all I could manage was a giggle and a big grin hoping someone else might make the first move. Until I realised it was me who had to do it. Luckily, I found my voice and my confidence! Each year after that, I learnt many new things, made many changes, made many mistakes and fell in love with teaching.

  1. Learn How To Ask Powerful Questions

    It is important to remember that every teacher was once a beginning teacher. So, don’t feel like you are alone. It would be beneficial for you to approach your leadership team and ask them about how they promote mentorship in your school. This mentor will be someone who can provide you with guidance, support, feedback and a soundboard for any of your concerns. I found it helpful to pencil a time every fortnight to meet with my mentor to discuss my goals and any questions. I also asked questions every day, all day to everyone. Asking questions is how you learn. Questions will deepen your understanding of the culture of the school. The more questions you ask, the quicker you will begin to understand how everything works. Questions are also a sign of curiosity and a desire to learn, so don’t be afraid of asking them.

  2. Spend Time On Learning Routines

    Solid routines and consistency are essential. Spending adequate time on learning, practising and consolidating routines is vital in creating a positive classroom environment. It’s important to develop routines, so they become second nature to the students. Make a list of all of the day to day activities your students will complete including the morning routine, afternoon routine, transitioning between lessons, even something that may seem simple like going to the toilet. The more time you invest in establishing your expectations for these routines, the smoother your school year will be. I often spend the first week of school rehearsing our routines and perfecting them, so the students know my expectations even when I am not in the room.

  3. Build Meaningful Relationships

    Building relationships with your students is a game-changer. We can often forget within all the profession’s pressures that the most important part of teaching is the students!

    By implementing small actions during the day, we can show the students that we value and appreciate them. As a result of these actions, I discovered students are more open to learning and take risks in the classroom to extend themselves. I started to collect information about my students by collecting their feedback throughout the learning process, capturing their end of lesson reflections and giving them time to set personal goals. By doing so, I had snapshots of each student and could check in about meaningful and relevant topics. It is essential to let students know you see who they are and value what they need from you as a teacher.

  4. Invest In Good Shoes

    You will learn quickly that you rarely sit down during the hours of 9-3 (I can confirm this is not an office job). You will 110% win any step challenge you participate in; I averaged 15,000- 18,000 steps a day without even thinking. Teachers don’t just pace the room but also squat, dance, kneel, point, reach. Name a verb – you will be doing it! So, buy that pair of shoes that may be slightly out of your budget. Your feet will thank you at the end of the day.

  5. Laugh Every Day

    Teaching is a job where you will catch yourself frequently saying, “In what other jobs would this happen?” I have had many moments where I have laughed myself to tears, and it is those moments you need to cherish. Hold those good moments in your heart, jot them down, take photos and let yourself laugh with your students. You must celebrate those lightbulb moments, save positive emails, and keep those heartwarming letters from students. An e-portfolio is the perfect place to store photos, messages, documents, and track your achievements, and is particularly valuable where this can be made a regular part of ongoing teaching and learning practice (see Virtuoso’s integrated ePortfolio solution for example). I find myself reading these special keepsakes when I need a confidence boost or reminder of why I love teaching. Teachers have the ability to change someone’s life; not many professions have that privilege. So, embrace how fortunate you are to be a role model and inspiration to many in your care.

  6. Don’t Assume That Ready Made Resources Are Suitable

    Assumptions are risky. I learnt the hard way on several occasions when I assumed all internet resources were of high quality. I downloaded a worksheet from a generic site without pre-reading every question. Because the title matched my lesson outcomes, I assumed everything on the page would be perfect for my students. I was wrong and had to stop the lesson just because of this assumption. My suggestion to you would be to try and create your resources or tasks to accompany your lessons. This way, you know precisely the outcomes you want the students to achieve, and you can anticipate questions and challenges they may have. Virtuoso’s resource pool is a space where you can access pedagogy-driven materials created and reviewed by fellow teachers, which maintains high-quality control and contributes towards ongoing professional development. Within the Virtuoso learning enablement platform, you can design resources effectively, efficiently, and collaboratively to adjust to suit your curriculum outcomes.

  7. Technology Can Make Life Easier

    Technology helps to ignite our students’ passion and curiosity for learning and enables teachers to become learning activators and ‘experience’ designers. Sometimes as a new teacher, you may feel out of the loop and out of your depth. However, with the assistance of technology, you are instantly connected to all school areas with an online platform – you have access to meetings, curriculum, school directories, resources and data. I found that having everything I needed at my fingertips helped improve my organisation and inspired me to create engaging learning experiences for my students. I had time to teach because I was not overloaded with administrative tasks.

  8. Find A Balance

    Everyone always says we must get the perfect ‘work-life balance’, but rarely does anyone provide any tips on achieving it. Teaching is a profession where you could work every hour of the day because there is always something more to do or create. As teachers, we are very passionate about educating, and as a result, we can often become burnt out because we forget to take time for ourselves. My tips would be to schedule personal and social events in advance. Our mental health is so important, and by allocating time in our week to spend time focusing on ourselves instead of our students, we have the chance to recharge. Another tip is to prepare nutritious lunches ahead of time. Spending some time on a Sunday to prepare can set you up for success throughout the week and ensure you fuel your body.

  9. Get To Know ALL Staff

    Learning everyone’s names and positions within a school can be overwhelming. It wasn’t until eight weeks into Term 1 that I started to put names and roles to faces during my first year teaching. Remember to get to know other school community stakeholders, including administration staff, canteen staff, maintenance staff, IT staff and the cleaners. As a result of being kind, courteous and respectful to all school community members, they will look after you. People will go out of their way to answer the questions you have. They may even help enhance and improve your teaching too. In the past, the caretaker helped me build a shelf I wanted, the administration staff assisted with my photocopying, and the canteen staff helped me out on the days I forgot my lunch. After all, kindness is contagious! Virtuoso connects everyone in your school community as partners of learning transformation and quickly helps you collaborate and communicate with all staff.

  10. Above All, Be Yourself!

    Always remember to be yourself. Teaching is such a fulfilling career filled with so much joy. Every day is different, and you will never be bored. The ball is in your court; you have the power to inspire many minds to become something they never imagined they could. You get to be a role model for hundreds of children, that will look up to you. I will always remember how genuinely happy the students were just to see me. Their beaming smiles were enough to motivate me. You may be the reason that the child smiled today – cherish that!

Bonus Tip – Glue Sticks Are Gold!

The glue mystery is a phenomenon I have never been able to solve. I do not know if there is a magical black hole where all glue sticks travel too or if the rumours are true and children eat them. All I know is that they are like gold in a school so be wise, limit the amount you release into the classroom and order a large quantity at the beginning of the year because you will, without a doubt, run out!

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