As any teacher will testify, training college involves a lot of hard, work and effort to reach the point of being given the responsibility for looking after a classroom of children.
However, no matter how hard you train, newly qualified teachers are likely to receive quite a surprise once they are finally doing what they have worked so hard for.
To help prevent any surprises, here are five things which teachers who have been there and done wish they had known before they started out.
1) Master of the Universe
Regardless of whether you are teaching English or Maths, Science or PE, your children will expect you to know every possible fact about every subject under the sun.
Therefore, it’s a great idea to bone up on lots of different things so you have a good working knowledge of topics you never thought you would ever have to talk about.
But of course, there will come a time regardless of how many facts and expertise you have acquired, that a student will ask you a question you simply have no idea how to answer. When this happens you have two choices.
Firstly, you can try to bluff it. Note: this approach works much better with young children! Trying to blag it doesn’t mean making up facts in order to appear knowledgeable but instead developing a way of appearing to know the answer whilst simultaneously moving the class swiftly on. Another approach is to set it as a homework question – depending on the question of course!
The second way of dealing with it is much easier once you get past the inevitable psychological barrier. Just admit you don’t know the answer.
Many teachers feel as if they should hold the answers to every question their students could possibly pose and not being able to provide the information can make you feel like a failure. But telling your students that you don’t know is incredibly liberating and teaches children a valuable lesson: you don’t have to be perfect.
2) Actions speak louder than words
OK, OK, this may be a bit of a cliché but after you have been in the classroom a while it will ring true in ways you never imagined before.
Every teacher has some difficult students and faces behavioural problems at times. This can mean you find it challenging to get certain children to listen and take notice of what you say.
However, an alternative classroom management technique is to be aware of your actions at all times. Children may well tune out some of your words – especially if they think you are saying something they don’t want to hear – but they will be well aware of every move you make and see everything.
By making any actions deliberate and well thought-out you could get your message across without having to say a word.
3) Teaching is just a small fraction of the job
When you started training you may have dreamt of being able to inspire young minds and help them to fulfil their full potential.
Whilst this is certainly possible, in reality this is just a very small part of the job.
Classroom management, lesson content and building trust with your pupils are all integral parts of being a teacher. But you need to be ready for much more besides.
During those school hours, teachers are surrogate parents. This means dealing with medical emergencies and inconveniences; most teachers have had to get on their knees to tend to a child or being thrown up over. Spare clothes are always a good idea…just in case.
You may well end up sewing up split clothing to save a child’s dignity or you could be the one keeping everyone calm when there is a bomb scare, fire in the building or even just a power cut.
For the time children are at school, you will become everything to them. Just be prepared to deal with whatever comes your way.
4) Time for you
In many jobs, the borderline between professional and personal life is very clear but in teaching it’s very easy to find the distinction blurs.
Many people believe that teachers work shorter hours than average but in reality, it’s very difficult to know when to stop working. After the pupils leave for the day, there’s still plenty of work to be done whether it’s marking assignments, creating lesson plans or doing research for the class.
Many teachers are perfectionists and making a decision about when to call it a night and making time to relax isn’t always easy.
However, the responsibility that comes with teaching is a big one and it’s essential that you make time for yourself, without running through lesson ideas in the back of your head. Learning to switch off and enjoy your free time is something that can be surprisingly difficult at first but the most successful teachers learn how to get the balance right.
5) The rewards
Many teachers come to the profession later in life after they have worked in a different sector and making the decision to retrain is often a major event.
And undoubtedly going back to being a student and starting over in a new career can mean that you may be uncertain about whether you are doing the right thing. Whether you are teaching in London, Paris, Rome or wherever, a teaching career has many rewards.
However, once you get in the classroom and find your own style and rhythm you will never be able to fully express just how rewarding it is. You will grow to care very deeply for your young charges – even the ones that can be difficult at times – and you will want to help them in every way you can.
Also read: 37 Ways Teachers Should Use Pinterest
Teaching is a huge responsibility but one you will take on gladly and without question, because when it comes down to it, there is no other job that is quite like it.
Like any profession, being a teacher has its ups and downs and the road ahead can be tough at times. However, if you pay heed to the above insider tips you should find the ups far outweigh the downs and you can discover for yourself what an amazing job teaching can be.