1. “Believe you can and you’re half way there”
― Theodore Roosevelt
When you enter the classroom on the first day of school, your confidence is your shield. Walking into an unfamiliar room filled with high expectations and critical minds is a challenge for even the most experienced professionals. While you may believe yourself to be a great teacher, we’re not all built for the stage. Confidence and self-belief will provide you with the tools you need to unleash that greatness. Remember your struggle to get where you are now, and consider every morsel of wisdom that you have to impart. We’re all guilty of underselling ourselves, but once you set foot inside that classroom, leave all doubt at the door.
2. “An attitude of positive expectation is the mark of the superior personality”
― Brian Tracy
Surrounding yourself with a positive energy will open a lot of doors for you in your teaching career. While we as teachers have a responsibility to ensure discipline and cooperation, we often forget that you get what you give. Remember that the environment you create in that classroom depends on the attitude that you bring in. A positive attitude is contagious, so bring it with you on that first day, and see where it takes you.
3. “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”
― Herman Melville
While we new teachers greatly appreciate any advice our colleagues have to offer, it’s important to remember to be yourself. By all means, take every ‘tip to this’ and ‘step to that’ on board when trying to find your feet, but don’t underestimate your own originality. Come up with your own ideas about what makes a great teacher, and try them out. By trusting yourself, you can find a way to engage your students that works for you.
4. “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”
― Winston Churchill
No matter what you’re starting out at, experiment is key. I have often described teachers as scientists in the classroom, carrying out tests on a daily basis, and forming results based on reactions. Every teacher that you ask for advice has started somewhere, and they more than likely got to where they are now through experiment. Never be afraid to fail, as this is the most effective form of learning. Keep trying new things and learn through trial and error. Don’t discard the ideas that fail, they may well work with certain learning environments, but not for others. Then, once you’ve decided on a few methods that suit you, try a few more. The best teachers are always learning.
5. “Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well”
― Jack London
Although many educators may disagree with me on this one, I sincerely believe that bluffing is an art that all teachers should master! Yes, you should know as much as possible about your subject, your syllabus, your curriculum, your students… But the myth that teachers know it all? It’s always a good idea to get to know your subject area as well as possible, but don’t forget that you can’t curl up in your comfort zone forever. As an educator, you will be expected to teach anything and everything. While there’s no shame in admitting your ignorance to certain students on various topics, for all of the other times… bluff.
6. “All things are ready, if our mind be so”
― William Shakespeare
I personally despise the mantra of “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” that we new teachers cling to for dear life. In the first few years of a teacher’s profession, there’s so much emphasis on planning and preparation, and not half enough on the power of spontaneous engagement. It’s true, I do plan and prepare to an excessive level, but no matter how much you do, a teacher must always expect the unexpected. Having a back-up plan is great, but how much preparation can one actually put into every single lesson? Some of the greatest teachers I have ever met, were those who could trust their own imaginations. When all else fails, don’t freak out. You have a mind full of creativity that’s been constrained by endless plans, think of this as a perfect opportunity to experiment. Come up with an idea, and give it a try. If it fails miserably, you’ve learned something new, which is the essence of a successful lesson!
7. “Don’t confuse having a career with having a life”
― Hillary Rodham Clinton
As a teacher, it’s extremely hard to pull yourself away from the classroom. Undertaking a responsibility for every single student is a personal challenge, and one that can leave you desperately searching for answers to the riddle of perfection. Of course you want every single student to succeed, and you will try your hardest to make this a reality, but tearing yourself away from the job is not only necessary for preserving your own sanity, but for keeping you rooted in that fresh, enthusiastic, new-teacher mode. In order to give yourself the best possible chance at moulding a happy and successful career, and to provide your students with the best possible education, you must find that balance between working and living, and adhere to it.
8. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
― Helen Keller
As much as I encourage originality, the best ideas come from collaboration. By sharing and exchanging ideas and resources with like-minded teachers, you can form new ideas, and find out what has worked and what hasn’t worked for others. Perhaps even more beneficial than sharing resources is sharing your fears. If you’re worrying about setting foot in that classroom for the first time, I can guarantee you there are hundreds of new teachers who share your concern. Sharing this fear can significantly lighten the load for you and for others involved, and really make you start to feel like part of the teaching community. If you don’t know any new teachers, get to Twitter. By getting involved in chats like #NTchat (New Teacher Chat), set up by Lisa Dabbs, or #Nt2t, you can unload your fears and your ideas and join a teaching community based on support and collaboration. The bonds that you form here will help you a lot more than I ever could.
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About the author:
Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter.
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Image credits: Kiran Foster / CC BY 2.0