Dear Beginning Teacher,
You are just starting out on a career that will be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. The children are fantastic and you will love them even as some of them frustrate the heck out of you. However, being a teacher is never as simple as teaching children. It is complicated. There are other stakeholders involved, families, the government, other teachers, support staff, and management to name a few. Navigating the early years of your career is challenging (in fact the first two years of teaching is the time when the most teachers decide this is not the career for them… don’t be one of those). I have been reflecting a bit about my own teaching journey and all the mistakes I made and all the things that I have done that I cringe about now. I should really say sorry to all my past (and probably present) co-teachers and managers for being such a naive pain in the ass! But, maybe I can spare you from some of my growing pains and share with you some of the lessons I learned along the way.
- You do not have the big picture, and you’re not going to (not yet anyway). Your manager is going to make some odd decisions, prioritise weird things, and simply put, you’re not going to understand and you may even feel angry about it and rant on about ‘the children’ * disclaimer – there is nothing wrong with advocating for children just watch you don’t slip into self righteousness (after all it’s about the children, not you being right). (What kind of a BT was I?!?!?). The lesson here? You and your manager are on the same side, you can’t know everything (it’s just not practical) and a little bit of trust goes a long way (it will save you a lot of stress and heartache too).
- Focus on the work and everything else will follow. Teaching is by its nature a political act and there are plenty of politics that surround teaching. Sometimes this distracts us from our primary purpose and we can be led down the rabbit hole into a land of endless frustration. My tip for if you find yourself getting caught up in office politics is to put it down and return your focus to the children. Everything else will shake out over time. We are all here for the children and whatever disagreements we may have can be overcome through the daily practice of working together for the children. You will also earn the respect of your fellow teachers and families more through your fantastic work with children then you ever could by playing at office politics.
- Remember why you’re here. You have put yourself through three challenging years of teacher training most likely for one reason. You want to work with children. Don’t lose sight of this.
- Find someone to bounce with. Remember that great quote about catching the ball the children throw us and tossing it back to them in a way that makes them want to continue the game? It’s the same with your co-teachers. Jump on board with their ideas. Share your own ideas and allow others to jump on board, because remember it is always better together. You will have some much more fun in your work if you are doing exciting things and the most exciting things happen when you collaborate.
I am sure there are plenty more hints and tips for beginning teachers, but it’s getting late and I can not think of them right now. Just keep on keeping on and being your awesome self. You’re going to be great.