We all make mistakes. What’s important, however, is learning from them and reflecting on ways to avoid another one! Think of it as an opportunity. It’s not the end of the world when you make a mistake (although it sure can feel that way sometimes). This list gives you some helpful tips to avoid mistakes and to recover from an error if you need to – with your dignity and sanity intact!
Not Asking Questions
When you start teaching it is incredibly overwhelming. The amount of information you need to be on top of is unbelievable. Ask questions CONSTANTLY. In a meeting – Do I need to know this? If not, switch off. What is that acronym? What do I need to do for……? (ILPs, PDPs, PT interviews etc). I have worked with new teachers who ask none or very few questions. They make many mistakes. Those that ask lots of questions are on top of their game and rarely make errors. Which teacher do you want to be?
Not Asking For Help
If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, asking for help is imperative. Experienced teachers don’t mind taking on some of your responsibilities for awhile; we all remember what it was like to be new. Enlist parents to help in the classroom with tasks like pencil sharpening and book covering. Ask those that live with you to take over some of your tasks for a period. Remember to thank those who help!
Saying Yes To Too Much
When you first start teaching you want to make a good impression. You also want to increase your chances of a permanent position. It’s easy to take on too much. Look after what you really need to and do it well. Only take on something extra if you feel you can cope and understand what sort of commitment you are taking on.
Not Switching Off
To be a great teacher you need adequate down time and rest. If you need to work on the weekend (and most of us do), lay firm boundaries around this. Only Saturday morning, or only 2 hours. Stick to it! You need to rejuvenate and feel mentally ready for the next week’s challenges.
Digital and hard copy filing is essential. Create a system that is easy to navigate and update it regularly. At first you won’t have lots to file but it mounts up quickly. Dedicate 15 mins a week to filing both digital and hard copy resources to keep on top of it.
Don’t get me wrong – being friendly with parents is fabulous. They are not your friends, however. Don’t share confidences, socialise with them, add them to your social media etc. Keep firm boundaries. My pet hate phrase is ‘open door policy’. No one who is emotionally healthy has an open door policy. Parents cannot enter your classroom whenever they want, nor can they talk to you whenever they wish. Set boundaries so you are not taken advantage of.
Choosing an activity rather than a focus.
I’m sure you learnt not to do this at uni, yet once we start teaching it’s easy to forget. There are so many lessons we need to plan each week, it’s tempting to find a good activity and work backwards. Stick to setting your Learning Intentions and Success Criteria (or whatever you use) and work forwards!
Socially, emotionally and academically, children are at different levels for a variety of reasons. It’s easy to worry that people will judge you for not sending on children to the next level ‘all ready’. It’s impossible and an unrealistic expectation that will do your head in. In my first year I had Prep. Socially they were atrocious! It wasn’t until a kind colleague reminded me that some kids just don’t ‘get it’ until they are older that I let go and was kinder to myself. I felt a lot better!
Shaky Behaviour Guidelines
From the very start of the year you need to make your expectations for behaviour clear. Model, practise, model, practise! If you’ve set standards, don’t accept less. Children get confused if one week they can forget ruling a margin and the next they can’t. Different behaviours and needs will arise throughout the year too. It’s fine to implement new or altered guidelines as a result of this.
Lack of Reflection
I think reflection and feedback are the most important tools to improving your practice. Regularly allow time to reflect on lesson content, delivery, behaviour management, boundaries etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for input from more experienced colleagues if you are stuck on how to improve. Sometimes we know something isn’t working but are unsure how to fix it. The staff you work with have had many years of experience and will most likely be able to give you some tips.
What mistake have you made? How did you recover? We’d love to hear from you!