Hi lovely readers! Today I have something a little different on the blog. Rather than talking books we are delving into my other passion: teaching. Most of you will know that I’m a teacher because I do mention it occasionally. If you follow me on Twitter then you will definitely know as I tweet about it a bit more frequently than I mention it here.
This September sees the beginning of my seventh year of teaching (not including my PGCE) and I can’t quite believe we are already on year 7! I teach in quite a large secondary school in South Wales and, even if I am slightly biased, I think I work with the best colleagues and young people in the world. They inspire me daily and I still love my job just as much as I did on day one all those years ago. I may write a little more about my own teaching journey in a different post (if you’d be interested? let me know!).
For today, let’s get on to some tips I have. This post isn’t the be all and end all of teaching. I know that every single teacher will have their own way of doing things and that in itself is a beautiful thing. I know a few people who are starting their NQT year next week (eek!) and thought why not share some tips that are relevant both to new and experienced teachers as a refresher for the new term. I have experience as a student teacher mentor and after 6 years of teaching would like to think I can offer something to those who are also in the profession. Remember: this is just my opinion and my advice, it is not law!
- Get to know your pupils: nothing is as valuable in this job as knowing our pupils. Whether that be your class of 30ish in primary or the many hundreds you could teach at secondary. Find out something about each pupil and slip it into conversation. If tricky Jon loves football, why not make a few football references? That little bit of effort in the first few weeks really goes the mile!
- Take opportunities: in the wonderful world of teaching many opportunities will likely come your way. Whether it be to lead an initiative, speak at a training event, help out in an extra curricular club or on a trip – if you have the time and feel able, get involved! It makes such a huge difference to take your teaching experience away from the classroom. (On a side note, especially to new teachers, don’t be afraid to say no!)
- Be collaborative: asking for support/help is not a bad thing. Teaching is a collaborative job but sometimes we can feel very alone. If you’re finding something difficult, be it behaviour or planning, ask a trusted colleague for help. More often than not a fresh set of eyes will be all you need. It’s also a great way to divide up workload – some of my best units of work are ones that me and a friend collaborated over!
- Experiment: teaching is a beautiful profession because things are constantly changing in education. One thing I loved about moving from being a student teacher to an NQT was the freedom to do my own thing. If you want to experiment with new ideas, go for it. If you’re unsure, talk to your line manager to double check but only if this is to reassure yourself. Your classroom, your way.
- Be firm but kind: I am absolutely not a shouty teacher yet I often get asked how the pupils have so much respect for me. It’s simple: I have a set of rules that I share with my classes, they know where the boundary is and the consequences of passing it. I am very firm with my classes but I am also incredibly positive. I constantly boost their achievements, I treat them as individual people and I respect them. Just because we are teachers, we don’t automatically get respect. It’s something we work on by gaining it. The same goes for trust.
- Contact home: due to the nature of my role I make contact with home every day of the year but even when I was a classroom teacher I would always make the effort to contact home. Most importantly, I would ensure that the majority of that contact home was positive. If pupils had worked hard for a term I would send home an email at the end of it. Contact with home is a vital part of the job and if parents know you are there to give them the good news, it really won’t be as bad if you ever need to deliver the bad.
- Work/Life balance: oh boy, I’m not sure that any teachers truly have this one down but I am getting better. Teaching is not a job, it is a lifestyle and that is something that I maintain to this day. It is very easy to get swept up in the neverending to-do list (I recommend you make these often) but wellbeing and mental health are so important. If we are not well, we cannot do our jobs properly. Find a routine and stick to it: for me, I have a cut off point in the evening where I have to stop working and do something else like watch TV, go for a walk or read a book.
- ENJOY!: teaching is by far the most rewarding job in the world. I know that I will never do anything else and even though at some point we all have a little moan, it is so important to remember how privileged we are to work with amazing young people and to impact on their lives. Enjoy every second – even the bad moments can usually be laughed off in the staff room!
Whilst writing this post I’ve realised that I could easily write forever about teaching. It really is a huge passion of mine and I will never not feel incredibly proud to be part of such an innovative and hardworking profession. These are just 8 little reminders and simple things to be mindful of as we start the new term. I hope you’ve found something in here to help ease the back to school anxiety/nerves/excitement/whatever it is you are feeling!
I’ll be back soon with some Tips for Building Positive Relationships!
What are you most excited about for the new term?
What tips do you have for fellow teachers? Share a teaching highlight with me!