Whether working in the Northern or Southern hemisphere, there’s one thing the teaching community has in common: new semester nerves. And we know how these nerves are only amplified when it’s your first semester ever!
Know any new teachers? Maybe you’re one yourself? To help ease the butterflies and help your kick start your first semester with a clear mind and heart, we’ve compiled our favorite tips.
Right from the start: Set high standards, be clear in your expectations, and create a classroom culture, rules and routine that students can understand. Remember, it’s far easier to rein in as the semester progresses than to up the ante.
Lesson planning won’t always be so arduous, and it’s better to have fall-back activities than to draw a blank with 15 minutes to go. Soon you’ll have a better idea of how long different types of exercises take.
Be patient with yourself
Just like in any new career, in your first year as a teacher you’ll make mistakes. Know that you’ll improve. Picture yourself being confident and give yourself time and understanding, just as you would anyone else.
Own your before-class time
Whatever time class starts, try to set a routine that puts you in a good teaching mindspace. Always arrive with enough time to clear your head (however that means to you) maybe by having a cup of tea, organizing your materials, taking a quick walk outside, or chatting to a colleague.
Start forming your network
You can’t teach in a vaccuum. Early on, reach out to anyone else you see rocking their classwork. Likewise, stay away from complainers.
Don’t be shy about getting support
If you are overwhelmed, turn to your director of studies and senior teachers for advice. If you’re not overwhelmed, ask them about opportunities for professional development. Remember: supporting their teachers is part of their job!
Take action when stuck in a rut
Shake it up and have the courage to try new things. (Here are a few ways to get started.)
Say “I’ll get back to you”
Don’t improvise answers to left-of-field grammar questions. Instead, admit that you’re not 100% sure, and promise to get back. Then, stick to your world: Research and return with an answer. This way, you’ll both learn—and no one (um, you) will be caught gasping for an answer at the front of class.
Get to know your materials
Don’t assume the coursebook is completely perfect. You may find typos or grammar sections that are poorly explained—and it’s best to bump into these before class starts.
After each class, do a quick self-evaluation: Identify three things that went well and three things that did not. Highlight why the successes worked and give yourself techniques to avoid the difficult moments. If you want to take this to another level, get into an end-of-semester self-evaluation habit.
- Just be real
Find out how you teach. Don’t emulate someone else.
Learn to leave work at school
Experienced teachers name this time and time again: Decide on a time to go home and do it. There’ll always be more to do and your teaching won’t benefit if you have zero down time. (Here are more tips on work/life balance as a teacher.)
Get students talking
Discover and harness techniques to get them communicating quickly, often, and with a variety of their peers.
Don’t go overboard on materials (digital or paper)
Don’t take anything personally
Know that your job isn’t to never make a mistake: It’s to be a supportive and positive teaching influence (and adult influence in the case of young learners), preparing and giving the best chance you can to all your students.
Those first few days and weeks can be nerve-wracking. But always remember that this too will pass. In the meantime, a few tips to start your teaching career off right are always welcome. Good luck—and welcome to the club!