There are few things as scary as giving your first lessons. No matter how much preparation you’ve had, the first time you step in front of a classroom is still like plunging into cold water headfirst. But your first day will be a lot less scary if you keep in mind these three simple tips:
#1 – Embrace preparation AND improvisation
“Victory loves preparation”, as the saying goes. At least for beginner teachers, this is very true. There are very few things that will make you feel secure in those first weeks (or months or years), but preparing a thorough lesson plan is certainly one of them. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve in your lessons and the steps you need to take to get there will help to ground you and relieve the anxiety most new teachers feel.
However, equally important is to keep in mind that very few plans end up getting realised flawlessly. So, improvisation is exactly as vital as thorough preparation. If you want to become a great teacher, you need to understand that your goal is to teach people and not your subject. That means you should be aware of what is happening in your classroom and actively respond to the changing situation. Having a lexicon of various time-filler activities or ice-breakers to encourage your students is a must.
#2 – Stay true to yourself
There is plenty of teaching advice out there and it is, of course, important that you become familiar with the best practices in pedagogy. However, that doesn’t mean you need to completely lose yourself in your quest to become the perfect teacher. It’s important you synthesise your understanding of what works in teaching with your own strengths and values. If you’re not a fantastic disciplinarian, you will probably end up making both yourself and your class feel bad if you try to force that role upon yourself. Instead, try to figure out a role that works for you.
At the end of the day, you are the one standing in front of that classroom, so remember your training, trust your gut, and try to achieve a good relationship with your students. That’s as close to a golden rule in teaching as you can get.
#3 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Remember that every teacher has had to start from somewhere and many have felt as insecure as you do now. So if you feel out of your depth, don’t be afraid to turn to your seniors for help. If you haven’t made that many new acquaintances at school yet, there are also plenty of online forums and message boards where you can find help as a new teacher. But more often than not your school management are more than willing to support you on your way. After all, they have a vested interest in you successfully teaching their students.
Bonus – You’ll make mistakes – relax
It is almost a given that you are going to make mistakes in your starting years. (And probably for much longer, too.) But mistakes are a part of life, so don’t worry about them too much. Just remember to own up, learn, and then forgive yourself. It’s important that we teach our students to fail and what better way to do that than to lead by example!
Any new start is scary and teaching is no different. There will certainly be mistakes made, so just take a deep breath and prepare for them now, so that when they do come they don’t take you by surprise. But you can avoid some of the most common mistakes by over preparing until you feel comfortable to take a more relaxed approach. And when preparation fails, feel free to rely on improvisation. But the most important part of advice you can remember from any guide is to remain true to yourself and go where your gut leads you.