When I was taking college courses to become a teacher, I thought everything I was learning was going to help me become an awesome teacher. I was an eager learner and really enjoyed my classes, but they didn’t prepare me for all the internal and external influences that are involved in your every day teaching. I have so many things I wish I would have known before going into teaching, but I tried narrowing them down to my top 10. So……….here’s my list in no particular order:
- Behavior Issues–Class management was a class we took in college, but it was very vague and didn’t provide real-life scenarios to brainstorm how we could resolve behavior issues with students. The class focused on behavior charts, how to write class rules, routines and procedures, and how the classroom should be set up. What we needed to learn was how to react when a student throws things in the classroom, refuses to follow the rules, hits, uses foul language, and talks back (Yes, this will definitely happen no matter what grade you teach). I learned you need to firm, repetitive, and consistent when it comes to rules and expectations. There are cases when a student will need an individual behavior plan or will need to be referred to the school’s behavior support team in order to provide more assistance and strategies to promote positive behavior. Note: Your admin may not always back you up. Document, document, document!!
- You Are Always “On”–When you are teaching, you need to be ready to perform all day. It’s exhausting! Students know when you’re unprepared. If you don’t have your day planned, don’t have your activities organized, and don’t have smooth transitions, you will begin to lose your student’s attention. It only takes a minute or two to lose control of the class. If you don’t believe me, just have someone come in your class or call you on the school phone during a lesson, and your students will begin fidgeting and chatting up a storm. Before you know it, your class’ noise level is up the charts. It’s important to be ready for students as soon as they enter the class in the morning, after recess, and after lunch. It’s all about keeping things moving along and keeping your students engaged.
- Teaching is not a 9-5pm job–There is ALWAYS something to do. Planning has to be done, assessments need to be analyzed, bulletin boards need to be updated, activities need to be prepared, and the classroom needs to be tidied. My school would ask teachers to vacate by 4pm in order to lock up the school. If I didn’t get everything I wanted to get done by that time, I’d end up taking work home. Sometimes, I’d even recruit my own kids!! I’d ask them to sort out the Scholastic book order forms, alphabetize assessments, or cut things out for me. Your teacher brain is always on. I’d have dreams of being in school, I’d go to the store and see things that would be great for my students to use, and I’d always be on the computer looking for activities and lessons to keep my students engaged. Try to set boundaries early on in order to avoid falling in that trap of taking work home all the time. This is definitely something I wish I would’ve known before going into teaching.
- Scheduled Restroom Breaks–When you’re a teacher, you need to schedule your restroom breaks before class, during recess break, and during your lunch break. If you have a medical condition, make sure you get documentation from your doctor so the school can make accommodations for you. You can’t just leave your class full of students to go to the restroom. I was lucky to have a class that connected to another class by an adjoining door. My colleague and I would watch each other’s class if we needed to use the restroom outside of our designated break times. For the most part, your body adjusts to going to the restroom on demand. Make friends with your room buddy!
- You Need to be Flexible–Lessons and activities won’t always go according to plans. You just need to let it go and adapt. If things are not going as planned, don’t force it. It will only frustrate you and your students. Use the lesson or activity as a learning experience and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses. Also, something to note: Lessons will get interrupted due to fire drills, assemblies or other unexpected events. Just go with the flow, and make the best of it. If it’s something you really want to teach or an activity you want your students to do, you can always try it again the following day.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this blog. I didn’t want to bombard you with all 10 things I wish I would’ve known before going into teaching. I hope you found this information of value. Let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to hear from you!
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