New Year's resolutions (or advice to novice teachers)
One of the bonuses of being teacher is that, unlike normal mortals, you get two opportunities every year to set new year's resolutions, not just one.
As the new academic year draws ever nearer I thought I'd pen a few tips for those who will be joining the profession in September and, as a corollary, remind us old lags of what we too should aspire to:
- Record everything, plan everything. It's easy when you're in a rush to let things slide but don't. Particularly if you're teaching a new course make sure you plan properly and record what you've done (you'll reap huge rewards next year!)
- Reflect, borrow, observe. Don't assume that because you've just completed your PGCE (or have been in the job for 20 years) that your work is done. Be a magpie, pick up new ideas, discard ones that didn't work. Be generous with your time and resources and others will return the favour. And remember altough it's good to have ownership of your own teaching and resources it's not a productive use of your time to reinvent the wheel.
- Protect your time. However hard you work there is always something else/more that you could be doing. A teacher's work is never finished, so be realistic. You owe it to yourself and to your school to maintain your mental and physical well-being: this entails building in down time and not feeling guilty about it.
- Win the discipline battle early on. Make this an absolute priority. It doesn't matter how many hours you spend slaving away over your lessons plans: if you can't keep control, you're stuffed. Remember your classroom is your own: you set the rules, parameters and the atmosphere of the place. Good classroom control goes hand in hand with well prepared, stimulating lessons but if it comes down to a trade off between content and control, control must be given priority. I know of no better source of solid, common sense advice on classroom management than Tom Bennett's blog - subscribe to it now!
- Walk the talk. Nothing will undermine your authority quicker in school than things like:
- failing to dress smartly and - yes, I'm afraid - conventionally
- espousing safe sex and family values in PSHE only to be spotted carousing around the town on your nights off
- using bad language - No one expects you to be a saint, but if, as far as the kids are concerned, you are utterly beyond reproach it will give great strength to your arm
- Smile and greet colleagues and pupils warmly when you meet them both in and out of school. This costs nothing and makes a huge difference to morale (yours and theirs) particularly when it starts getting wet, dark and cold. You're at work for most of your waking hours so you might as well ensure that it's a pleasant place to be.
It's a tough job, but the rewards are great. Good luck and enjoy it!