New teachers come into the educational system every year. They are usually recruited to teach new or heavily subscribed subjects, or to replace experienced teachers who have gone on leave, become ill, changed professions, been promoted or retired. Veteran teachers are hard to replace because of their many years of proven pedagogical experience and their mastery of the subjects they teach. Their usual ability to manage and control their classrooms is also the product of years of dealing with all kinds of students. New and inexperienced teachers generally need time to develop the necessary knowledge and skills and in our system most of them are not yet professionally trained. Mere possession of a university degree does not mean that you know how to teach.
New teachers, however, often bring new energy, enthusiasm, updated knowledge of their subjects and commitment to the school. They come without any baggage and can be coached and shaped by the principal and other administrators to fit into their vision for the school. Many of them become excellent teachers over a period of time. Here are 12 tips which will help new teachers to get a head start in the profession.
1. Accept the fact that teaching is not an easy way to earn a living. You must be qualified and professionally trained and you must be willing to work hard every day amid many frustrations and challenges. You will spend many nights and weekends correcting scripts and planning lessons. Chunks of your holidays will be spent in professional development sessions. You are accountable and your work is often supervised.
2. Planning and preparation are vital to good teaching. You have to draw up your schemes of work and your lesson plans. Never go to classes unprepared. That is a recipe for failure and an invitation for students to become disruptive, for lack of meaningful intellectual stimulation. Reflect on your teaching every day. Determine what worked, what did not work, and why. This helps to improve your teaching.
3. Get a mentor if the administration does not provide one for you. A good mentor will help you to become an effective teacher more quickly. Ask your mentor many questions and get permission to visit his classroom to observe his teaching. He will visit yours and give you valuable feedback on your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. Ask for help when you need it.
4. Maintain discipline in your classroom. Very little learning takes place in chaotic classrooms. Penalize students who commit minor offences and report those who commit more serious offences to the administration. Post a few rules governing behaviour in your classroom and enforce them impartially. Be firm, fair and consistent in all matters of discipline. Praise and reward students for good conduct and work as well.
5. Make use of every professional training opportunity you get; whether it be in-house or external. This increases your knowledge and skills and shows that you are committed to your job.
6. Correct all written assignments and homework promptly. Timely feedback is important for students and they will lose interest in your subject if you take too long to correct their work.
7. During lessons ask students a lot of higher order questions. The type of questions that make them think critically and creatively. They need to learn how to think critically in today’s world. Do not spoon-feed them. Remember, students learn by doing, so reduce the amount of lecturing you do and give them written assignments, oral presentations and projects to measure what they have learned.
8. Maximize teaching time. Be punctual and regular in attendance. Do not end classes before the scheduled time.
9. Build positive relationships with your students. Treat them with respect and they will return that respect. Punish them in a reasonable manner when they break the rules. They expect it. Get to know them individually, show them that they can trust you and they will not want to let you down in any way.
10. Contact parents when students do positive things; not only when they break the rules.
11. Dress soberly. A school is a workplace and students are watching you. Do not wear the latest fashions or clothes which are too tight, too casual, or which show too much flesh.
12. Keep calm in all situations. This allows you to remain in control no matter what happens in your classroom. It defuses challenges from difficult students and it allows you to think clearly and make the right decisions.
There are many more things for new teachers to learn and they will become aware of them as time progresses. However, these 12 tips for new teachers provide a good starting point.