Teacher to Teacher: What I Wish I Would Have Known (Part 1)
In preparation for the upcoming school year, we asked veteran teachers across a variety of grade and subject areas what they would tell a new teacher who was entering the education field. These are their responses.
You Are Not Alone
It is natural to feel overwhelmed at any point of your teaching career, especially in the first few years. Many teachers recommend finding a fellow teacher in your school or department who can act as your mentor. Some schools even have programs where they match new teachers with experienced teachers to act as their mentor and coach throughout their first year of teaching. Even if your school doesn’t have a mentor program, find a teacher who teaches a similar subject or grade, or even a teacher you have formed a close connection with, and use them as a resource. It is important to remember, you are not the only new teacher or the only teacher who is struggling, even though it may feel like it at times. In those particular moments of exasperation or anxiety, go to your fellow teachers for advice and support. Your mentor teacher can help you find a way to get through the tough times, and can also help you focus on your passion for education and your students. You can also find support outside of your school community. Rely on friends and family for support and join teacher groups on social media platforms where you can share your experiences and gain inspiration from fellow teachers.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
By far, the most consistent piece of advice experienced teachers offered was to ask for help. Regardless of years of teaching experience or academic level or discipline, nearly all of the respondents recommended asking for help when needed. This suggestion complements the previous recommendation to find a mentor. Whether you are placed with a mentor teacher or have simply bonded with a particular teacher, don’t hesitate to ask questions and go to that individual for advice or leadership. Rely on the veteran teachers and administrators who have many years of education experience under their belt. They did not become the teachers they are today by doing everything themselves and refusing to ask for advice or help when needed.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Just like you should be comfortable asking for help or advice when needed, you also need to be prepared to accept that help. Similarly, you should be willing to offer help to others when called upon. Teachers and administrators need to be willing and able to help each other to create the most cohesive and effective learning environment possible. Remember, you are all there for a unifying purpose: the students.
Whether you are in a large, multi-teacher department or a small, single teacher program, it is important to foster a team-minded atmosphere with those you work around. The more you can align your curriculum and establish a cohesive flow of classes and lessons, the easier it will be for your students to transition from grade to grade and subject to subject. Not every teacher in your department or school will have a similar teaching style to you, but that does not mean either of you are wrong. While it can be challenging at times to work with teachers who have different styles or methods than you, it is also an opportunity for you both to learn from each other. Yet in the end, it is your classroom. When working with a mentor teacher, accept the advice and assistance, but be willing to adapt the suggestions to fit the needs of your students and your personal teaching style.
It’s Okay to Fail
Failure is inevitable. However, overcoming failure is what will determine the worth of a teacher. If you are willing to accept failure as part of the learning process, both on your part and your students, you will be much more prepared to address the cause of that failure and adjust and adapt to overcome those shortcomings. There will be times when the lesson works perfectly during 1st period, but 2nd period it is a complete disaster. You need to be flexible in your teaching and be willing to adjust to the differences in each period.
Once the failure is recognized, it can be compensated for. No lesson, project or activity will ever be perfect, but if you are willing to be innovative in your approach and humble in your shortcomings, you can work to overcome the areas you and your students need to work on.
Relationships are the Key to Success
Almost every teacher we polled for this series insisted on the importance of fostering relationships to increase student learning and motivation. Regardless of grade level or subject area, the majority of students are not motivated by grades or awards. Instead, they are driven by relationships and feeling understood and valued. If a teacher can establish a connection with a student based on more than external factors, such as test scores or academic honors, they will be to create a more comfortable and effective learning environment. By building a relationship with your students, they will feel valued and respected, which will make them more willing and able to learn from you.
Get to know your students. Learn about their passions. Find out what their hobbies are. Ask them about their goals and future plans. Remember, the relationship isn’t a one-way street. Be willing to share with them as well. If you are willing to be vulnerable with them, they will be more willing to be vulnerable with you. Some of your students don’t have a support system at home. It is important they have one at school.
Team iCEV is passionate about helping teachers find the most innovative and effective ways to engage students to prepare them for educational and career success. We recognize learning does not end with the completion of a degree or program; rather, it is a life-long process. The goal of the “Teacher to Teacher” series, is to connect education professionals and provide them with tips and tricks that are based on real-world experiences. We hope the “What I Wish I Would Have Known” edition will give new teachers recommendations and inspiration that can assist them as they adjust to their careers in the education field. The follow-up to this post will be published next week; be sure to check it out!
Special thanks to the respondents who provided their expertise and feedback to this series. Thank you for all of your efforts to expand the knowledge of your students, as well as the next generation of educators. iCEV truly appreciates your passion and dedication to the field of education.