This September will mark my 18th year of my teaching career! Wow! How time flies! I was one of the lucky ones who started teaching straight out of university – in fact, I knew I had a teaching job before graduating from the University of Prince Edward Island in 1998. These past 18 years have been a steady progression of learning and have been a great time of reflection for me. I love my job as a teacher and my role as an educator. I have the best job in the world!
Thinking back through all these years, I have learned some important teaching and life lessons that I wish I would have been taught while learning to become a teacher. Yes, the educational courses that I took prepared me for the planning and implementing of lessons, developing teaching strategies, and effective teaching methods, and those are essential to the art of teaching. What I wish I had learned and taken courses on were more on the practical/ interpersonal aspects that are at the forefront of teaching today.
Check out my list below to see if you agree.
I wish I had learned that it takes a minimum of three full years of teaching to get into your “groove”.
This was a huge shock for me when I started my teaching career. I walked into my first classroom and felt like I was flying from the seat of my pants – for the first 3 years. No matter how much planning I did, I never felt prepared. I craved the feeling of routine – but had no experience behind me to fall back on. My internal clock was not set to 60 minutes and I was horrible at keeping my lessons within that time period. I worked by butt off for 3 solid years before I felt like I was in control of what I was doing. Unfortunately, this is a normal part of becoming a teacher. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t and don’t be afraid to abandon what doesn’t. You’re only beginning and the best is yet to come!
I wish I had learned how to deal with challenging students, parents, and co-workers.
When I first began teaching, I wanted everyone to like me. I mean, who doesn’t? I thought I would jump into my teaching career with engaging lessons and fantastic ideas and everything would be just great. Everyone would love me, love what I do, and want to collaborate with me all the time. Well, when that didn’t happen, I had no idea how to manage my feelings AND reactions. I still remember the first time a student told me she hated me, the first time I was confronted by a co-worker, and the first angry parent I had to deal with. These are things that I was not prepared for when I was learning how to become a teacher and I will admit that I handled these situations very poorly. My advice to you is to plan for these situations in advance. Practice how you will react. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress (and embarrassment, and regret) if you do.
I wish I had learned that I don’t need to spend a small fortune on things I think are a necessity, but really aren’t.
When I started teaching, I was determined to have the cutest, most colourful class in the entire school. I spent an enormous amount of time and money decorating and buying bulletin board sets that I thought would inspire my students. In addition, I spent money on tons of resources that I thought looked good at first glance, but really only had 1 or 2 things in it the I could actually use. I went on a buying spree without having the budget to do it and without really having a plan or purpose for any of it. Pinterest didn’t exist at that time and neither did Teachers Pay Teachers, Instagram, and Facebook! With these websites, I learned how to streamline my purchases and buy things that specifically meet the needs of me and my students. New teachers NEED to know that social media is so important to your teaching. Sites like these are open 24/7 and there is always a plethora of teachers out there to gain inspiration from. You don’t need to do it all on your own – and it doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money either!
I wish I would have learned how to balance my life as a new teacher.
There is no way around it but you will spend an enormous amount of time working during your first few years of your career. With that being said, did you also know that many new teachers entering the profession leave it within the first 5 years? There are a variety of reasons why people are leaving the profession, but one of the main reasons is that teaching is exhausting. There is no real university course out there that teaches new teachers how to balance their new roles as educators with their everyday lives. Teachers are leaving the profession burnt out and disillusioned because it is easy to let the roles and responsibilities of being a professional teacher overload them. They have to be told that it is okay to leave the correcting for a night. It is okay not to have your photocopies completed a week in advance. It is okay to have a day where you just don’t want to teach. It happens. It is also okay to head to the gym, go to the movies, sit and have a chat with friends, and it is certainly okay to have a nap! Goodness knows that getting proper sleep is one of the best ways to keep your energy and stamina up – as well as your own mental health.
I am sure there are many other things that other established teachers could share – and please feel free to do so in the comments below!
Have a great day!