1. Take it slow: There is a tendency to rush during your first year. You have waited ages at university for this moment. You have been on teaching rounds and had to observe and teach other peoples grades. It is new and exciting. However, you need to make sure that you slow it down and think things through. Making the right decision will help set things up for your year, class and career.
2. Make it a priority to build a relationship with your students: It sounds obvious I know. However, with all of the information and learning that is racing through your mind, you need to remember that you are here to teach the kids. They come first. With everything happening, knowing your students will help build a successful year.
3. Do not get involved in existing staff conflicts: Most schools have staff members who clash. That is workplaces in general. It is vital that you do not take sides or get involved. Looking back, I wish that I knew this. Other teachers would make comments or share the history of situations with me and I listened and nodded. Putting distance between yourself and those previous issues will ensure that you are not seen as taking sides.
4. Make sure that you are organised: Being organised and learning to prioritise tasks will ensure that you do not drown in paperwork. There is a huge amount of hidden extras involved in teaching that are not really shared at university or on rounds. Make to do lists, do the most important tasks first and accept that you cannot do everything that you would like. I had so much enthusiasm that I think I burnt out in the first year.
5. Listen to others opinions for a while: this is something that I wished that I had been told the truth about early on in my career. In your first year, you want to show that you know things and that you are capable of doing the job. I cringe when I look back at some of the things that I said or shared during my first few years of teaching. Accept that with experience does come some wisdom. In addition, you will not know some of these things yet. I am not saying don’t share anything at all. I am saying that be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Watch, see how things work and find what suits your situation.
6. Make an effort to know the parents: This is the one thing that I am proud of. I think that it helped to set my relationships on a positive track early on. Parents are often worried or anxious about having a graduate. What will they be like? Will they have enough wisdom and knowledge to help my child learn? Can they control the class? These are all of the things that I have heard parents say when they hear that their child has a new graduate teacher. Building relationships with the parents and working with them can eliminate that. When they get to know you, anxiety can be eased and relationships built on. Remember parents are your partners, not your enemy.
7. Build relationships with all staff members: I often laugh at how people underestimate support staff and office staff. I am sure that our wonderful office staff secretly run the school. Building relationships with your team and leaders is vital. However, you also need to take the time to get to know all staff members. Nobody should be considered more valuable or “working for” someone else. The treatment of support staff and office staff have often disgusted me over the years. They are not slaves. It is not their job to do the work that you do not want to.
8. Set up clear and consistent classroom expectations and rules. I have watched too many teachers have a negative year because they did not remain calm, clear and consistent at the start of the year. You need to make sure that for the first few months you really stick to your guns and set up clear and consistent routines and expectations. If you do this from the start, kids will get the message that what you say you mean. It also means that routines are developed and it is easier to maintain for the rest of the year. The start of the year is so exhausting because of this but it is certainly worth it.
9. Use your mentors and colleagues to ask those questions: When I stop and reflect, I wish that I had asked more questions. I held back because I did not want to appear incompetent or stupid. However, there were things that I was not taught in university. Looking back, I wished that I had the courage to ask those questions. It would have meant that I learnt certain things quicker and more effectively.
10. Enjoy it! You only get one first year. This is the year that will be one of the most memorable. In all the stress, new learnings, relationship building, hurdles and things to do, there is a point when you hopefully, realise that this is what you wanted. You were meant for this job. There is an enjoyment knowing that you worked hard to get to this point. That the name of the door is yours.
I hope that you find my tips useful and worthwhile. You only get one first year so make it positively memorable!