I know exactly how you are feeling, the night before your first day as the teacher of S13. 32 children in a mixed year 5 and 6 class. You are excited and looking forward to getting to know your children. The classroom looks immaculate with bright displays. The book corner looks fantastic so make sure to thank your future wife for her artistic skills! The pencils are ready, the books are ready, the classroom is ready. All that is missing is the children.
So why are you feeling anxious, struggling to sleep? You are excited but you are also worried. Stacey is the first name on your register. Do Stacey’s parents know what they are letting themselves in for? Do they realise that in year 6, their child will be taught by a complete novice? By someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing? How can I possibly know what I’m doing when I’ve only been training for a year? I’ve only scratched the surface of such a complex job. I’ve never seen another teacher that either looks like me or behaves like me. Surely the school will realise the terrible mistake they’ve made and come to their senses?
The main thing you’re worried about is how the children will respond to you. Will they like you? Will they listen to you? Will they respect you? You are worried about their behaviour. Well, stop worrying please mate! What you don’t realise is that the children are more worried about what you will think of them than what they’ll think of you. They want you to like them, to listen to them, to respect them. They want you to be kind. They want you to be fair. Most of all, they want to build excellent relationships with you. Some of them don’t like school but they want to like school – they want to learn, they want to succeed. Your first day is going to be excellent. You will feel a sense of relief and all that hard work and preparation and organisation will pay off. Your first day will be the start of an amazing and fantastic learning journey.
You will love your job but I’m going to give you a few tips to make sure you always remain positive ok.
- There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ teacher
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will have good days and bad days. You will make mistakes and not everything will work out in the way you expect it to. So always focus on the long-term. If you keep doing your best every day, the children will make great progress over time. You will look at other teachers and think they are amazing and that you will never be as good as them. No two teachers are the same and no teacher is perfect. Just keep learning from every experience and be the best teacher that you can be. It is a fantastic job because you never stop learning and never stop improving.
- Don’t get pulled down by negativity
You won’t always agree with others and they won’t always agree with you. There is a possibility that people may be negative towards you, negative towards others, negative towards the children. Remember that the only person you are in control of is yourself. If you focus on negativity, it will take precious energy away. Remember that the best part of the job is the time with the children. Take every opportunity to focus on them, get to know them and understand them. The relationships you will build with them be central to you supporting them to learn and grow. Make sure your classroom is filled with love, laughter, fun and positivity.
- Ask. Ask.
You don’t know everything and don’t need to pretend that you do. The most important thing for you to do is to trust your colleagues and make sure you ask when you don’t understand something. Even if you think it is the simplest, most straightforward question, make sure you always ask. You will feel better for having done so. The more you ask questions, the more you will learn, the more you will grow and the more confident you will become. It will also enable you to build open, trusting relationships with your colleagues in your team. Take every opportunity to watch others teach and learn from them.
- Never stop learning
I know how much you enjoyed your PGCE. You loved the action research you participated in and the readings you had to do. You are worried that without these opportunities you will stop learning and progressing as a teacher. Rest assured please. You will get further opportunities and you will take them. You will drive your own learning and your career. You know that teaching is a job you will never completely ‘crack’ and you will be determined to always learn and be open to new ideas. You will remain humble and dedicated to your own professional learning. Don’t be afraid to begin your Masters in your NQT year. It will be fine and you will manage the workload. You know that all the learning and hard work in your first few years of teaching will be an investment in your future.
Keep calm, keep believing in yourself and keep learning. Don’t worry too much about the setbacks or mistakes you make because they will also be really valuable learning opportunities.
Dr Kulvarn Atwal
Head Learning Leader in London, author of book ‘The Thinking School.’