No matter the age group or the subject you teach, your first year in the classroom can be exciting, but also scary! Here are six dos and don’ts I’ve gleaned from experienced educators that helped me during my first few weeks and months of teaching.
1. Do set clear expectations.
Whether your classroom is full of kindergartners or high school seniors, make it clear what you expect from your students in the way that they behave in class, turn in assignments, and interact with each other and with you. Setting both boundaries and goals at the beginning of the school year will make the rest of the year much easier for you and your students. Remember, high expectations yield high results!
2. Don’t do it all on your own.
Great educators with years of experience do not hoard their secrets. Get help from experienced teachers; they were once new teachers, too. They’re eager to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those who have been where you are and who know how to deal with the problems you’re facing.
3. Do set a time to prepare.
I’ve heard preachers say that if you don’t have a clear, set time each day to walk with God, it probably won’t happen. The same is true with lesson planning. If I don’t have a scheduled time every day or every week that I’m going to prepare my lessons for my classes, it probably won’t happen! I’ll be playing catch-up the morning before teaching a lesson, rather than having everything planned and ready to go. Have a schedule and stick with it—not just in the classroom, but as you prepare beforehand.
4. Don’t focus on being a friend.
It is easy for new teachers to fall prey to the “I am a good teacher if my students like me” mentality. However, being the cool teacher is not the goal, nor does it ensure that your students have a proper respect for you as their teacher, or that they are learning. This is not to say that it’s not important to be friendly, because you do want to be supportive, kind, and approachable. It is only human nature to want others to think well of you, but in order to cultivate an effective learning environment, your students need to see you first as an authority figure—loving and caring, yes, but an authority figure.
5. Do keep learning.
I remember hearing this quote in college, but never really grasped its importance until becoming a teacher myself: “The educator who reads in his field is an educator on the cutting edge of his field.” I realized very quickly during my first year that, despite having completed my degree and being given the opportunity to pass down what I had learned, I had not arrived! Majoring in a particular teaching field does NOT make one an expert in it; there is always more to learn, and true professional educators are the ones who are constantly growing.
6. Don’t forget to pray.
Often, we become so focused on our students’ academic needs—Did they understand that lesson? Are they ready for this test?—that we neglect their spiritual needs. While our students do need our training, they also need our prayers. No matter the type of school, there will always be students in our classrooms whose health is struggling, whose families are suffering, or whose shoulders are far too small for the burdens they carry. It is a part of our responsibility to help them bear those weights through prayer.
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Mrs. Lauren Morris is a graduate of North Valley Baptist Schools and Golden State Baptist College. She is an integral faculty member of her college alma mater and is responsible for training the next generation in the subjects of English, education, and music. Mrs. Morris is also heavily involved in the music ministry of North Valley Baptist Church and has been faithfully serving on staff for many years.