When you’re in your first year of teaching, you might feel overwhelmed by the career path. It is exciting, yes, but you have to adjust to the environment. You also have to take note of the advice given by tenured educators and, more importantly, accommodate the developing needs of your student. These things won’t intimidate you or throw you off if you know what to expect and how to handle your first year as an educator.
Dedication Matters in Preparing for Your First Teaching Experience
As a new teacher, you have a lot of things to learn before becoming a great instructor. Tenured educators can show you the ropes but, ultimately, the tasks of adjusting to your career and catering to students’ needs fall on you.
If you want to make a positive impact in the lives — or the education, at least — of your students, you have to be committed to your career. It doesn’t start when you first enter a classroom and greet young students. It starts when you first sign a contract with the school.
Your preparation as a first-year teacher begins way before the first day of classes. And here is a guide to what you should do prior to meeting your students.
1. Do your research.
If you are just starting your teaching career, you should take advantage of the teaching resources immediately available to you. And this does not necessarily mean going to the library.
Do your research by asking colleagues about what to expect from the students in your school. Ask them about what they wish they had known when they first started teaching. And ask them about anything they might want you to know now that you’re in the industry, too. This way, you’ll have a general idea of what works and what doesn’t.
2. Define your goals.
After doing your research about the school and students in general, start working on your goals for student learning. Know what you want to achieve during the academic year.
When you have a general idea of what the students in your school are like, you will have an easier time defining your goals for the class. These include the type of content you plan to teach, the teaching method you plan to use, and the assignments and exams that you plan to give. Finalize these details and you are one step closer to being prepared to meet your class.
3. Set your expectations.
A syllabus lets students know what to expect for the rest of the term, or academic year, with you. But before you start preparing a syllabus, you have to establish your expectations first.
Set realistic expectations that match the lessons you wish to impart and the manner by which you plan to teach these. But, remember: students will rise to the occasion and meet your expectations only if you are ready with the proper tools and teaching techniques that they need. Your goals for student learning must be directly in line with your expectations.
These things help you prepare for your first day of teaching. But they aren’t the only things you have to do. When you finally meet your students for the first time, keep the following in mind:
1. Gauge the atmosphere.
You never know what to expect from a class on the first day. Some might glance at you nervously when you walk in the door, while others might ignore you and remain boisterous.
To start off on the right foot, be observant. Gauge the classroom atmosphere and match the energy of your students — or rightfully adjust your demeanor to what they seem to need. This is when you have to be most careful because the wrong impression might negatively affect your students’ interest in learning.
2. Set the tone for the rest of the year.
Nobody becomes a great teacher within a day. It is a continuous process that requires dedication to your students. So, encourage them to do their best and you will too.
A great teacher is one whose passion is ultimately reflected in the attitude of the students. Be confident in your students; have high yet attainable expectations of them and encourage them to reach those expectations. If they feel that you are passionate about their learning and confident in their skills, this sets a positive and encouraging tone – and helps the class move along smoothly for the rest of the year.
3. Explore all possible teaching methods.
Although colleagues have briefed you on what to expect once classes start, keep in mind that every batch of students is different. They react to teachers and courses differently.
Students have different learning preferences and you won’t know exactly what those are until you start interacting with them. Some students are more receptive to a hands-on approach, while others might prefer verbal and visual explanations. So, before classes start, look into various teaching methods that you might have to use.
Your teaching certification does not define your abilities as an educator. Rather, your dedication to the craft will set the baseline for your teaching experience. If you are passionate about education and student development, then all your efforts will be worthwhile.
Be Passionate About Student Growth and Development
If you wish to make a mark in your students’ lives, you have to show them from the get-go that you are genuinely interested in their growth and development. They are as nervous as you are during the first day of classes — if not more so. Keeping that in mind, help your students step out of their comfort zone and become active learners.
1. Have a strong opening.
First impressions are lasting so think carefully about how you want your students to perceive you. And think of the best way to catch and retain their attention during class.
By choosing a strong and confident opening for your first class, your students are sure to remember you and remain interested in your class. For example, you can raise some interesting questions or challenges about your field that the students might be curious about. You can also be more traditional and clearly explain what you wish to accomplish in the class.
2. Get to know your students.
Students will be more interested in your class if they feel comfortable being in it. So, you have to get a little personal with them — and this goes beyond simply knowing their names.
On the first day, you can start the class by sharing something about yourself. After that, you can ask the students to introduce themselves. Or, to encourage student interaction, you may divide them into pairs, give them a few minutes to get to know each other, and then introduce each other in front of everybody else.
3. Let the students sample your approach.
Once the students are comfortable in class and you’ve clearly stated what the class hopes to accomplish by the end of the term or the school year, let them know what to expect from you.
Many teachers dedicate the first day to preliminaries, such as personal introductions and syllabus distributions. Let students know that you are serious about the course by discussing some materials or presenting some information on the first day. Besides, testing your teaching style on the first day lets you know whether you should make some adjustments.
Your teaching career is only just beginning. You know you’re off to a good start if you make an effort to understand the school culture and build supportive teacher-student relationships without sacrificing your personal goals. So, when classes commence, keep a positive outlook and foster an active learning environment for you and your students alike.
Your Teaching Experience Is a Learning Process
Students are not the only ones who might feel nervous on the first day of school. Educators may also feel the same — especially those who are new to teaching. But no matter how well you prepare for your first day, remember that the teaching profession is a learning process. You’ll develop your skills as an educator as you move forward in your career.