Did you know I almost quit after my first year of teaching?

I was struggling so much that I thought teaching was something I simply couldn’t do.

What sometimes made it worse was feeling that others had it all figured it out.

It was an isolating time filled with doubt, uncertainty and a lot of hard work. I found gradual success through the support of mentors, books, professors and other colleagues.

It’s one of the reasons I wrote Unleash Learning and why we run New Teacher Induction Programs.

It’s so that new teachers, mentors and their support providers have the tools, resources and networks to support early career success.

Here are 3 things I wish I’d known as a new teacher:

1. CREATE POSITIVE RITUALS

Consistent processes that are positive and life affirming (Processes for starting or closing the class; collecting or returning assignments; greeting students as they enter our classroom) help the classroom run smoothly. Establishing these positive rituals are essential.

2. HAVE A CONSISTENT PREPARATION TIME

Schedule one or two sessions a week that are dedicated to lesson planning and stick to it. This isn’t time to grade assignments or answer emails. Find a quiet spot at your school, close the door and focus on planning.

3. CREATE A SUCCESSFUL SEATING PLAN

Many distractions happen due to where students are sitting. Some students become the “class clown” or become distracted simply to show off to their friends. Over the years I’ve found that the seating plan is one of the most important components of an effective classroom. Establish your seating plan from day 1 and stick with it.


A QUESTION FOR YOU:

What’s your best piece of advice for new teachers, advice you believe will help them reach early career success? Please add your comments below to inspire others!

8 Comments

  • Nancy Farnan says:

    Get to know your students. Let them know that their success is important to you and that you are here because you choose to be here–to help them mature, learn, and be successful. This doesn’t mean being their friend. It means being a concerned, sincere, and knowledgeable “other” in their lives, someone who is there by choice–to guide, support, and encourage them. After that, there are many things that teachers need to do to ensure their students are successful, but establishing a sincere and supportive relationship is #1. It allows all else to work.

    • William DeJean says:

      Thanks Nancy for your wonderful advice. Building those relationships is indeed key to classroom success. I especially like the idea that you don’t need to be their “friend” to make that happen. I think it’s something new teachers struggle with at the start of their profession. Thank you.

  • Dana Kerford says:

    When I first started teaching, I found the beginning of the day to be hectic. I’d be pulled in a million directions and kids would be saying, “What are we doing today?” I realized quickly that just having my day plan on the board wasn’t enough. I needed to get them engaged straight away. A brilliant teacher friend of mine (Matt Heibert) taught me about Brain Rise – which changed my life! The way Brain Rise works is… Every student has a ‘Brain Rise’ notebook in their desk. Each morning, after they arrive in the class & get organized, they know to pull out their Brain Rise book and work on the challenge on the board. I would write a fun, challenging question for them – brain teasers – activities requiring problem-solving, critical thinking, etc. The kids were excited to see the Brain Rise question each day and it allowed me time & space in the morning to collect forms, talk to parents, etc. Brain Rise helped me start my days off in a calm way, while immediately engaging kids in learning as soon as they walked in my classroom.

    • William DeJean says:

      Hi Dana. You’re response speaks directly to putting rituals and procedures in place. For so many new teachers, learning how to do this is the hardest thing. You give such a great example of the impact putting such a system into place had for you and your students. I’m sure they will really appreciate reading your experience. Thank you!

  • Sadaf Haider Khan says:

    Thankyou William. Spot on. We need to stay positive, plan and prepare to be effective. I think one of the problems that I got into as a new teacher was trying something that I thought would work and realising in the first few minutes of the lesson that it wasn’t working and yet continuing with it. Experience teaches you to let go of what’s not working by sensing the pulse of the class and moving forward with something that is relevant to them. E.g I once came to class intending to continue my lesson and found a few of them rehearsing their project presentation speeches for the next day. And so I stepped in, picked up the pulse, and we all polished our speaking skills needed for a public appearance. Once I came in and a girl was crying because a boy had snubbed her and instead of moving on, I spent the lesson addressing the issue, using the school’s discipline policy and some counselling to the victim, the bully and the bystanders. And then once, in the heat of summer, there was the first rain storm, the kind you know will last for half an hour and move away. And I just took my Year 7s and we ran in the rain, came back and wrote poems on their experience. So my advice would be, learn to pick up on the pulse of the class and go with it. This will come with experience if you allow it too. And help build bonds that will make your students know you’re supportive and that you are there for them. Best wishes, xxx

  • Dianne Gibbs-Jones says:

    The best advice I could give to a beginning teacher is to not beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned. See mistakes as a learning experience – just as we like our students to do.

  • Meg Gardiner says:

    My advice for early career teachers is to not take things that happen in the classroom personally, and allow time for yourself. We know you will be planning like crazy, that you will be trying to negotiate the staffroom, the classroom and all the places in between, and that you will be nervous as all get out trying to manage all this. You will always know more than the students in your area of specialty (if not, they will teach you!), but you will never work as hard as you do in these first few years as a teacher. Be kind to yourself, you will make it and you will learn all their names (eventually!). Good luck.

    • William DeJean says:

      Hi Meg, thanks for providing such wonderful advice, especially when it comes to not taking things personally and to be kind to yourself. Thank you for sharing it with us here. Cheers, William

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