Taking a class of your own for the first time? You are not alone! Fiona, one of our teachers, has put together some great advice to help you cope.
I moved from Australia to London at the beginning of the summer term to take on a class of my own for the first time. Needless to say, I had a lot on my plate for a couple of months while I adjusted to a new job, along with everything else that comes with setting up in a new place.
If you’re new to teaching, it can be really difficult to manage the workload. There are so many tasks requiring your time and attention that it can be quite overwhelming. It’s really important that you can learn to prioritise or you will feel like it’s just impossible.
First, there’s the planning and preparation, which might also require some research if you’re not really familiar with the lesson content or the curriculum. Before coming to London I had worked as a daily supply teacher for a couple of years since graduating. My only experience planning lessons and units of work was at university, where I had the guidance of faculty staff or a supervising teacher. By the time I arrived in London I was well out of practice, and working with a different curriculum. The simple fact that everything was new meant that planning took me a lot longer than it would for an experienced teacher. The same goes for preparing resources. Over time you learn little tricks to save time, such as adding learning objectives to worksheets before photocopying, rather than sticking them individually into each child’s book. You’ll also develop routines and habits that save time, and learn how to use the help of your teaching assistant or parent helpers most efficiently.
Next comes the actual teaching part of the job, and all the challenges that come with that. You need to deliver your carefully planned and prepared lesson to a class full of children, all with individual learning needs. At the same time you could be dealing with behaviour issues or social problems, and fielding requests to go to the toilet or complaints of feeling sick. You will constantly be reviewing and refining your classroom management techniques!
Finally there is assessment and reporting. You need to mark every student’s work, use the results to inform your planning and consider going over concepts with individual students. You’ll need to use the marked work as evidence to assess each child’s attainment and progress across the curriculum. You will need to create and analyse data in order to report back to senior leadership within the school and to parents. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg really – you’ll never feel as though you have enough time for everything.
My advice to new teachers:
Stay up to date with marking as much as possible. Mark some books while the children are working if you can, and use break times and lunch times to finish off. As a general rule, don’t go home until marking is finished. This is easier said than done, and I have broken this rule many times, but it is so much harder to catch up once you allow yourself to fall behind. Find a system that works for you and stick to it! In assessment weeks when there are lots of paper based tests I like to take them home and mark in front of the TV.
PPA time is precious, use it well. Depending on your school, and whether or not you’re an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher), you will be given anywhere between a couple of hours to a full day of PPA time each week. This is time out of the classroom for you to plan and assess. Anything you don’t get done now will have to be done in your own time after school or at the weekend, so you’ll want to put your head down and work as efficiently as possible. By all means make yourself a cup of tea, have a quick chat with colleagues, and take the occasional toilet break, but make sure you use your time wisely. If you’re lucky, you may share PPA with other teachers from your year level so you can divide up the planning and share the load a little.
Delegate tasks to TA and children. You may have a to do list that is never ending, and sometimes it feels impossible to get everything done, but your TA is there to help you, so make sure you are using his/her time efficiently as well. It may take time to develop a good working relationship, as well as for you to learn what is going to be most helpful to you, but knowing how to delegate well is one of the best skills you can possess as a teacher. It doesn’t stop with your TA either. You have 30 little people who can help out and make your job a whole lot easier. You might like to assign monitors for certain tasks, such as sharpening pencils, putting down chairs, tidying the book corner, or anything else that is going to make your life easier. It has the added benefit of teaching responsibility, and from my experience the kids love it! You can also make sure students stick their own work into books and have systems like in and out trays for managing marking. Put your hand up to supervise a work experience student, say yes to parent helpers, and have a list of tasks that you can ask them to help you with. In time you can have your classroom running like a well-oiled machine.
Look after yourself! The worst thing you can do is allow yourself to become burnt out and stressed. You need to be at your best, physically and mentally, in order to do your job well. Make sure you stop and sit down to eat lunch – even if it’s just for 15 minutes. If you are starting to feel stressed or over tired or ill, go home a little earlier, take a walk, spend time with friends and family. Do whatever it is that you enjoy that will take your mind off work for an evening. Go to bed early. Most importantly, ask for help if you need it. Talk to a trusted friend or colleague, or to your head teacher. Everyone has bad days and it might help just to be reminded that you’re not alone.
Do you have any tips to share? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know!
If you are thinking of becoming a teacher or would like a new role, register with us today and let us help you find the right school for you.