7 Things New Teachers Should Know
By Bruce Van Stone
1. Pace yourself
The early inclination in a teaching position is to do too much, too fast. Pace yourself and remember that your first responsibility is to your classroom, not to supervising extra-curricular activities, sitting on committees, etc.
2. There are no stupid questions
Ask questions and don’t be afraid that others will think they are silly or “dumb” questions. There is a lot to know as a new teacher and you have the right to ask. Besides, asking a question is better than the alternative, which is pretending to know what you’re doing and making a colossal mistake.
3. Borrow resources from others
Teachers that have been around for a while have a plethora of resources at their disposal. As a new teacher, sometimes people think they have to reinvent the wheel and “wow” everyone with the brilliance of their lesson plans and their own resources. Although this is commendable, remember that others have more experience and can not only help you save time, but can give you great ideas and lessons that you may never have thought of.
4. Keep it simple
There are so many demands on your time that I strongly recommend in your first couple of years to keep your lessons simple, to the point, and as easy to deliver as possible. Additions such as technology, Smart board games/activities, experiential activities and other add-ons are great, but you need to learn how to teach the “basics” before you add such things.
5. Avoid negativity
Most teachers are very helpful and very positive. Some however, if you give them the opportunity, will suck all of the positivity and high energy that you have out of you. They will talk about how parents can be difficult, how students have changed since a decade ago, or other negative things that as a new teacher, you simply don’t need to hear. Avoid them and keep the positivity and high energy going!
6. Keep healthy
It is often a cliché to tell people to watch their diet, to exercise regularly, and to live a balanced lifestyle, but in the first two years of teaching, you really need to be aware of how important this is. Too many times I have seen new teachers working late, eating on the run, not getting exercise, and focusing almost 100% of their waking hours to teaching. It is great to recognize that teaching is an important job, but it is not the only responsibility in your life. You need to be responsible for yourself too, so by eating right, exercising consistently, and living a balanced lifestyle (taking time for you), you will come to your classroom every day with high energy and free of the fatigue and malaise that can wear even seasoned teachers down.
7. Be respectful but not deferential
As a member of the school staff, it is important to always be respectful of others and of their input. However, do not just defer all ideas and planning to seasoned teachers either, as you have a wealth of your own background experiences and skills that you can apply confidently as you discuss school-related issues with other teachers.
This is an excellent list, but I don’t agree that it is “hitting the nail on the head”. The list is certainly very helpful to new teachers, but I think a few improvements are possible.
I find Number 4 problematic, given #3 and #7 as a tempering for trying new things, and also because technology is usually second nature to new teachers (not using IT would be foreign to young teachers – please do stay in the 21st century when making pedagogical decisions, without becoming overwhelmed).
The list might also be incomplete. For example, what about “be yourself” as teaching is an act of identity (see Palmer’s book, “The courage to teach).
Perhaps other readers, would have other ideas, to make this a “top ten list” for new teachers. And also have a look at many “Intro to teaching” texts used in pre-service teacher education programs, where lists of this sort are often included.
I wish I had read this when I first started teaching. This is a perfect guide for new teachers! You hit the nail on the head. Well done!