Teaching for the first time is not so dissimilar to having to stand up at a public speaking event to perform in front of a group of people who are loud, judgemental, and practically impossible to please—petrifying!
Buuuuut, you mustn’t let that put you off! Because once you’re over the initial fear, it can become one of the greatest jobs that you will ever have. If you listen to the advice of seasoned educators, throw yourself into the experience with a positive attitude, and have the confidence to succeed, you will have an amazing time!
You can get paid to positively impact and shape the lives of others, whilst enjoying some of the most pure and genuine moments that you will cherish forever. How awesome does that sound? YES, most of the time you’re going to want to throttle the little buggers; but sometimes they’ll make you laugh until you cry and that is something that no amount of money can buy.
If you’re thinking about teaching but you’re not quite sure if it’s the right decision for you, you may benefit from what these seasoned educators have to say:
– “Honestly, there isn’t just one piece of advice I would give because teaching isn’t simple or binary. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world to do well, but it’s also one of the most enriching and fulfilling jobs as well.”
– “Treat your students as you want to be treated, aka #respect. Don’t forget they are just as vulnerable, as strong, and as beautiful as you are—even when they aren’t behaving that way. Work as hard as you can to make this happen and give them every possible avenue to find the solutions themselves.”Brandon Na, US.
– “Genuine care for students is the most important thing in this job.”Anelia Memova, Thailand.
– “Don’t be afraid to not know all of the answers.”
– “Always plan too much with some ‘false endings’ to lessons.”
– “Consider the weather & time of day: snowy, wet & windy days make children behave like animals.”
– “Teenage boys are always hungry, so make the lesson before break/lunch/end of day active.”
– “Every day is a new day, so don’t hold grudges.”
– “Remember how difficult your teenage years were.”
– “Be aware of your non-verbal communication & personal space bubble – never point directly at someone…let the other three fingers go alongside – same outcome, much less aggressive.”Anonymous.
– “Keep an open mind.”
– “Always have a plan A, B, C, and D.”
– “Have plenty of games ready, in addition to your class material.”Richard Kuusk, Vietnam.
– “Have fun and high-five everyone all the time! Positive reinforcement helps when retaining knowledge, especially when learning a language.”Lucy Rance, Vietnam.
– “You are not alone. It’s important to remember from the outset that you are part of a team and whatever you are facing for the first time, your colleagues have also faced – use them. Their pearls of wisdom and golden nuggets are there for the taking and will help you deal with countless situations where you might suddenly feel out of your depth. They have the battle scars; they’ve got the T-shirts, and they have plenty to share. The surest way to fail in teaching is to DIY which is why your colleagues won’t let you work in a silo.
– “Don’t drop the ball. In the first few days of having your new class things will go well and you will feel confident that being a teacher is the best thing since sliced bread. It is, but it is easy to get complacent and you start to relax perhaps a little too much. This is when things can unravel. If you think you have the perfect class, then you don’t – there is no such thing. Any deviation from your carefully planned routines and procedures can backfire and misbehaviour creeps in. Stay in the zone at all times.”
– “Be friendly, not friends. When starting as a new teacher developing trusting relationships with your pupils is key. As you get to know your students and make personal connections everyone becomes more at ease and these positive vibes influence behaviour. The thing to remember is that students are not your friends and they need to know that too. Focus on being professional, friendly but also slightly distant when the moment calls for it, so pupils see you as their teacher, mentor, and role model.”
– “Be yourself. You will have so much nervous energy inside you when you first start that you might find the advice ‘just be yourself’ hard to do. But being who you are is crucial to children and adult students alike. They don’t want pretence or an imposter, they want the real you, so show who you are by sharing a little of yourself and your private life. They will want to know about you because we are naturally curious. If you reveal nothing or very little, then although that might give you an air of mystery, it also creates a barrier.”Alan Jenkins, UK
– “Even though it may seem like a good idea at the time, it’s not OK to kick children.”Pete Glover, UK.
– “Learn your students’ names as quickly as you can!”Daniel Raffo, Vietnam.
– “Let the kids get to know you and take time and care to know them in return. Relationships are key. It’s OK to spend your first class explaining YOUR story. What are you about? Where are you from? Who are you around here? Take time to know THEIR story too. They love the investment and it’s useful to know should you need it at a later date.”
– “It gets easier. Over the years you will add to your bag of tricks and not have to spend hours over a lesson plan. Over time your lesson plans will be a single word in your Google calendar.”
– “Use your time effectively. If the staff room is a distraction, go hide. Teachers love to talk so get in early when no one is there, get your stuff done and leave when you can.”
– “Home is home. It will be tricky to not bring work home in the first year or two but try your best to separate the two. Work should stay at work.”
– “But again, the biggest thing is building relationships. My amazing kids performed a Haka before I left for maternity-leave and I balled my eyes out, which really sucks when you’re an ugly crier with a belly full of baby!”Abbie Louise Thalari, New Zealand.
– “Remember that everyone feels the fear before teaching for the first time. If you are teaching children online like I do, know that they will laugh at literally everything that you do, and it will instantly make you feel at ease. Have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously, and you’ll soon find teaching to be a pleasure.”Tamara Yoxall, Vietnam.
– “My biggest piece of advice I would offer any new or current teacher is respect. Having respect from any child will make them want to learn from you. They admire and trust you. They want to listen without distraction. With respect comes discipline. They will act and react with how you manage behaviour. If it is unfair then children question the behavioural management. Firm but fair. Passion too. You have to want to teach! I have seen lots of teachers simply apply no effort, do the bare minimum, and go home. Teaching isn’t simply a job. It’s almost a lifestyle choice. You never switch off, always thinking about what you could do next.!”Vinny Williams, UK.
– “Like your students and respect their feelings, never belittle them. Remember that you have the power to make or mar their day. A smile and a word of encouragement are the most effective weapons in your armoury.”Anita Bickell, UK.
And there we have it! Some quality advice from a variety of teachers. Whatever form of education you are looking at, whether it be language or curriculum both online and in the classroom setting, these pearls of wisdom will apply.
Remember, just because you are a teacher, it doesn’t mean that your learning experience is over. Always be asking questions, listen to your fellow educators, and share what you learn along the way. Being a teacher is one of the most admirable things that you can do with your life. Even if this is just a means to an end whilst you travel the world, it is something that will impact you on a profound level. You are going to make a difference in the lives of others, and for that we salute you.
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If you are a teacher and you have something to add / would like to feature in our next ‘pearls of wisdom’ blog post, please feel free to add to the comments or contact us directly.
Have a great day and stay safe!
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