Advice for New Teachers

I am now heading in to my second year as a ‘real’ teacher. I say ‘real’ because, like many of you, I’ve spent the last four years referring to myself as “a teacher.. well, a student-teacher at the moment”, during many an interrogation by well-meaning relatives and friends into the purpose of my time at university. When I finished university, I went on a glorious road trip up the west coast with my partner.

Within three days of driving into Darwin I had a job (seriously Melbourne graduates, the jobs are HERE!). Thus began the most terrifying few months of my life, during which I learnt more than I have probably learnt in all of my degree and my previous jobs combined. Teaching is a fast-paced, messy, sensory overload. Teaching had me feeling like Coach Carter one minute, and hugging myself in the shower mumbling “I AM enough” through delicious smelling coconut body wash the next.

Teaching is like a drug. It is addictive. You will disappear down the rabbit hole and emerge to return to your friends and family right after the last assessment is marked and the last bell rings. It took me two weeks to ‘come down’ from my last term. Teaching is not for the faint hearted. That being said, teaching will warm your heart like nothing else.

I have compiled some small tidbits of advice based on my first year that I pray might help you stumble a little more gracefully through your first year.

  1. If the kids seem really excited to do something, be suspicious. You have definitely overlooked something. Be particularly suspicious of anything involving iPads.
  1. There is such thing as ‘fangirling’. It can be a verb. Don’t be alarmed if a kid says they’re going fangirling. In fact, we’ve actually already fangirled at The Falls Festival and the time we went to see Vance Joy. We just did not know it.
  1. Year 7s are around 12 years old. They are really sensitive even if they are being turds. You can, and you will, make them cry. Show no mercy even if they surprise you when they get upset. Kids’ gotta learn.
  1. PHOTOCOPIERS ARE ALL POSSESSED. If you need to photocopy something at the last minute, forget that and make a new plan; the demon photocopier knows you’re desperate and is already throwing away it’s staples/toner/ink so that you’re reduced to a shaky mess whilst pulling it apart. It laughs at you.
  1. If you find yourself staring into space after teaching for 5 periods straight and you are supposed to be planning for tomorrow, go and make a cup of tea and try again. Ain’t no time to be wasting time.
  1. You will not sleep much. Get some good sleeping drugs before you need them because chemist aren’t open at 3am.
  1. The ‘fake it til you make it’ thing works when you’re in the classroom and you don’t know what you’re doing. However, if someone nice asks you if you need help with planning/marking/whatever.. You say ‘YES PLEASE GOD ARE YOU FREE NOW?!’. Even if you think you don’t need help, you’ll think of something.
  1. Don’t let those punk ass little Year 7 girls give you ‘tude. Give it right back in the most politically correct way possible. Also, if a kid asks if you’re going shopping in the holidays because you wear the same clothes all the time, respondwith ‘Well, you wear the same clothes every day and I’m not saying anything about that so shut yo mouth’.
  1. Email parents happy emails regularly. You need them to like you.
  1. Pick a time of day (mine is 8pm) and then DO NO MORE SCHOOL WORK after that time. Do something for yourself.
  1. The majority of your students are actually really sweet kids. Even the difficult ones. In fact, I had the most fun teaching the cheeky ones! Getting to know them and their stories, and making sure they know you care is really worth your time.
  1. Network and share. ‘Nuff said.
  1. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. If I have learnt anything this year, it’s how strong you can be when you need to be. But you need to look after yourself when you get home. Hot showers, Netflix, cuddling poodles, chocolate and massages are all proven to help.

Amy Russell.

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