Teaching

20 Things That I Wish I knew

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I started my teaching career in 2001. By this stage of my life, I was a mum who had two children, both of whom were at school. As a mum, I had a few tricks up my sleeve when it came to dealing with children and I was aware of the antics that they would try and pull on me.

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Fast forward 15 years, and I am now a Head of Faculty in a large High School. I have collected a lot of experience over the years, and most of it was born out of failure! I started my career as a casual teacher (substitute), and did this at 3 different High Schools over the course of 6 years. Each of my schools were a challenge in many ways, but despite the challenges, I loved my job. In 2007 I started work as a permanent member of staff, and then worked my way to relieving Head Teacher, Acting Head Teacher and then finally landed my current position of permanent Head Teacher Creative and Performing Arts.

During this time I have had the pleasure, and  displeasure of sharing my experience with pre-service teachers or Prac Teachers/Praccies, as we call them. Some experiences have been positive, but more than often they have proven difficult for a variety of reasons.

A young friend of mine is currently completing her 4 week Practicum at a High School as an English teacher. She had just completed one week with her classes, and is not coping with the challenges of a real classroom. She has been given a Year 8, Year 10 and a low ability Year 9 all male class. Now those of you who have experience would know immediately that the one that she will have trouble with is Year 9! It is a difficult year group at the best of times, but a low ability, struggling readers, can barely write group of adolescent males who have to be taught Romeo and Juliet, is just cruel! This group is apparently very vocal, loud and they like to use profanities every second word—and this has thrown up red flags to the young praccie.

I had a quick chat to her about the difficulties, asked her some key questions and gave her some ideas for future class activities as well as some discipline strategies to use. This is all fine, but what concerns me is that I have seen too many young teachers come into teaching with an idealised view of what a classroom looks like, sounds like and will actually be like. These young teachers probably have a lovely view that every student wants to learn just like they did, and that every lesson will just go to plan,I started my teaching career in 2001. By this stage of my life, I was a mum who had two children, both of whom were in school. As a mum, I had a few tricks up my sleeve when it came to dealing with children and I was aware of the antics that they would try and pull on me.

Fast forward 15 years, and I am now a Head of Faculty in a large High School. I have collected a lot of experience over the years, and most of it was born out of failure! I started my career as a casual teacher (substitute), and did this at 3 different High Schools over the course of 6 years. Each of my schools were a challenge in many ways, but despite the challenges, I loved my job. In 2007 I started work as a permanent member of staff, and then worked my way to relieving Head Teacher, Acting Head Teacher and then finally landed my current position of permanent Head Teacher Creative and Performing Arts.

During this time I have had the pleasure, and  displeasure of sharing my experience with pre-service teachers or Prac  every time. Well, that is just not true!!!!!

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So I have some real advice for those young teachers, hopefully it will help 🙂

  1. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more, each and every lesson
  2. Have a back up plan of activities that you can do if everything goes south—games, jokes, fun stuff
  3. Have a back up plan if technology goes out the door, and it will! Make sure that you can teach your lesson using old fashioned methods, along with all the whiz bang technology that is out there
  4. Have a really clear idea of what your class room management will look like, and communicate it to your classes, research strategies and ideas that will work with your style
  5. Follow through with your discipline—make sure that you do not give idle threats, the students will see through you and will call your bluff
  6. Be clear about lesson objectives. One of the best ideas is to simplylist the lesson activities on the board, and have a fun activity as a goal—tick off as you go as a visual reminder
  7. Have some sort of bribery!!!! I know that a lot of educational research says not to over use extrinsic rewards, but they do work, especially with really difficult classes. Try and find out what their “currency” is—it might be something as simple as time outside throwing a football around, or the perennial favourite—lollies/candy/sweets!
  8. Pick your lessons and what you will achieve in each one. By this I mean simply, look at the timetable and choose when they will learn best with certain activities, and plan accordingly. For example, I have a Year 7 class every second week on last period Wednesday. This class comes to this lesson totally “off their chops”—very unsettled. I choose to do some more hands on learning in this lesson and not a sit down and listen to me lesson—these lessons are kept for Monday morning first period!
  9. Catch your students being good—acknowledge them when they do what you want them to. There are plenty of websites out there that give you ideas on this—search them!
  10. Accept the fact that not every lesson will be amazing. Some lessons will be absolutely terrible, and you will scratch your head at the end and ask yourself what went wrong! I still have this happen to me, even after 15 years of teaching experience with very difficult classes.
  11. Accept the fact that you do not know everything about teaching, and never will. Research changes, and ideologies change, we can only do our best in the moment with the tools and resources at hand.
  12. You will not have the perfect looking classroom, and you won’t have all of the equipment that you would like to be able to do those wiz bang lessons. The reality is, each school has a budget, and money only goes so far—learn to make the best out what you have and become really resourceful and creative!
  13. Learn to create resources that work for your students. Don’t rely on resources out there—create your own. I learnt very early on in my career that it was easier and more engaging for my students to create resources using what was available to me.
  14. Accept the fact that not every student wants to learn, every lesson. Each and every student will have a bad day every now and then—just like us.
  15. Ask for help from those around you. Seek out the support of staff who are willing to give you their time and help you become a better teacher. Those with experience have a lot to offer, they will have strategies and ideas that are just there ready to be used at the drop of a hat!
  16. Be prepared for when a student says no! Often young teachers find this one quite difficult to accept. Students will tell you, often with a few colourful adjectives, that they are just not going to cooperate with you and will not do what you asked them. Have a contingency plan for these situations—know what you will say when this does happen.
  17. Be prepared to eat on the run, hold off going to the toilet and being able to juggle 50 things at once.
  18. Try and keep your paperwork up to date. I know I didn’t realise just how much paper work was involved in teaching—they didn’t tell me this at University! You are accountable for everything, and need to keep records of everything, and I mean everything.
  19. Make sure you dress appropriately. Don’t make the mistake of trying to look like you do on your days off—you need to look professional and older than your students.
  20. Lastly, enjoy the ride and relax. Teaching is a great occupation that has so many rewards that far outweigh any of the pitfalls.

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Good luck and

Happy Teaching

Julia from Jooya

 

 

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