When I was going through my student teaching I really thought I was learning about how to be a teacher. In reality student teaching didn’t prepare me very well for all the pieces of the job. I think that is an impossible task.
Now that I’ve taught for many years and had conversations with many colleagues about this topic, I have gathered their advice here. What would you have wanted to know when you were first starting teaching? What do you feel it took you too long to figure out? Read on to find out.
#1 - It’s Okay to Say No
Most teachers, myself included, have trouble saying no. Teaching is a profession where a lot continually gets piled on our plates. When we don’t say no, the people piling on the work don’t realize we are overwhelmed already. It’s okay to speak up and not take on those extra duties that are not mandated by your contract. If you feel it’s not okay, it might be time to move to another school where it would be okay to say no.
#2 - Not Every Teaching Position Is a Good Fit
My second advice from teachers is that sometimes a grade level or school is not the best fit. My teaching journey has been a crazy one. I am now at school number 8 and have tried 4 districts. Every school and district are different. I’ve loved some and felt not so much love for others. If you are really struggling, sometimes switching grade levels or even schools can make a tremendous difference. Don’t be afraid to try out a new placement.
#3 - Leave Work at Work
This advice from teachers is incredibly hard so I would say 90% of the time I try to leave work at school. There are times (especially in summer) that I work from home on classroom setup - laminating and labeling items. Throughout the year though I try to leave work at work and focus on my family when I’m home.
We all need time to decompress. Teaching is difficult and demands a lot of our mental health and energy. Taking time in the evenings to unwind and focus on yourself and family and friends will make a world of difference in how you are in the classroom.
#4 - Focus on Student Relationships
When we focus on getting to know our students and build relationships first it improves our classroom management. Throughout the year, focus on building a positive relationship with your students and families. Start the day off on a positive note. Take time to ask students personal questions about their family or favorites. Comment on their new shoes or the character on their tshirt. Show them you are interested in them.
#5 - You Are Not Irreplaceable
The last advice from teachers is that you are replaceable fairly easily. We hate to think it since we pour our hearts and souls into teaching but the minute we leave there will be someone else to fill our shoes. When we are out sick, they make it work without us there.
Teaching is a job. It’s a wonderful, meaningful job but it is still just a job at the end of the day. Remembering this makes it easier to leave work at work (#3) and focus on ourselves sometimes (#1). If you need time off for your sanity, take it. You may not be irreplaceable to your school, but you ARE irreplaceable to your family. Put them first over the teaching job.