If you’re new to teaching this year, you will already have noticed the enormous difference between being a trainee teacher and having your own class.
On the one hand, having your own class means that there’s more freedom for you to plan the activities you want to do, to set your own expectations and to unleash your sparkling personality on your class.
But on the other hand, once you’re responsible for your own class, it becomes clear that there’s A LOT about being a class teacher that you just didn’t learn as a trainee.
In your training, you learned about the big stuff: the work of leading educational theorists; how to plan a balanced curriculum; identifying and supporting children with Special Educational Needs.
However, you soon realise that the day-to-day reality of being a primary teacher involves more of the smaller, organisational stuff like looking for PE kits, trying to calm crying children and remembering to photocopy homework.
It’s fair to say that almost every new teacher will feel overwhelmed the first few weeks. Don’t panic, that’s totally normal.
(RELATED: 6 Reasons Why It’s OK To Cry Your First Week)
To help you get settled into the job, we asked a panel of Education Experts what they thought the most common mistake was made by new teachers and how you can avoid falling into these common traps.
Their answers may surprise you… Because not one of them is about teaching!
Let’s meet the panel:
Founder of Total Primary
Founder of Teaching Ideas
Founder of NQT Life
Founder of Opportunity Unlocked
The biggest mistake I see new teachers making is using bribery or threats to try and control children’s behaviour.
On the one hand, it’s sort of understandable that new teachers resort to these methods because there’s such an emphasis on getting through the curriculum that there’s just no time in the timetable to help children learn to manage their own behaviours.
But on the other hand, if we don’t make this a priority, we’re going to end up with a large portion of children who can’t recognise that they are responsible for their own behaviour or who will only do the right thing for reward.
For their own sanity, new teachers should make it a priority to address poor behavioural skills in the same way as they address poor learning skills: by picking apart what the barrier is and then working out how to overcome it.
The biggest mistake new teachers make is forgetting to take care of themselves.
Teaching can consume your life during term time (and even holidays if you let it), so it’s important to make time for yourself too.
Block out some time in your calendar to switch off. Go to the cinema, have a nice meal somewhere or find a quiet space to read a book.
It’s not easy but taking the time to rest and relax will make you feel refreshed and excited about a busy day, week, term and year in the classroom!
I would say that the biggest mistake is becoming more relaxed with behaviour management before it is wise.
Never try to be ‘friends’ with your children. Be friendly, of course, but they need to remember where that line is and not to cross it.
There is often a lot of criticism about using wit/banter/humour in the classroom, but it can diffuse a problem very quickly.
The real technique is knowing when that sort of approach will work and when something else is needed.
Pick your battles – you’ll hate the sound of your own voice if you don’t and so will the children.
Most importantly, remember that children are human!
We all make, and learn from, mistakes so they must be allowed to make them and you must be prepared, and willing, to guide and encourage them on how to learn from each situation as it comes about.
Lindsey is an academic empowerment coach who specialises in helping children leverage their curiosity to learn more about maths, science, and engineering. You can find out more about Lindsey at Opportunity Unlocked.
Many new teachers try to do everything all at once.
As a new teacher, you are confronted with having to make decision after decision. It is too easy to turn into a whirling dervish.
Breathe. Count to ten.
Express gratitude for every student in your classroom early and often.
We jump into frenzied activity when we’re nervous. The kids in your classroom will always do better when you can calmly stay in the moment.
Get on top of your daily schedules as quickly as you can so that you can stay present with your students.