1. Don’t talk over the kids
If there is one piece of advice I could give you, it is this. Never talk over the kids. You might have to wait a long time for their attention and on occasion you might have to stop and wait. Be patient. Allowing the kids to talk over you is telling your students that you do not expect them to listen to you.
2. Your students’ mistakes are not a reflection on you as a teacher
It can be easy to internalise every bad action your students make as a reflection on your teaching. Especially if you have another adult tut-tutting your students misdemeanours. While modelling and guiding behaviour is important, it is not your job to prevent every bad decision from happening. It is far important to make sure the kids put things right after they muck up.
3. Never be afraid to admit your mistakes.
Don’t be afraid to let your students know that you are a human being too. You will make mistakes. If the stuff up effects someone – a student, a colleague or parent -acknowledge the mistake and move on wiser. Accept any apologies that come your way with with grace and kindness.
4. Learn from your colleagues
Make the most of your PRT time, you’ll miss it when it is gone. Visit other classrooms. Ask lots of questions. It can be easy to get into a habit of eating your lunch in your classroom and go through a day without talking to another adult. Stop into the staffroom from time to time. So much incidental PD happens when you are unloading the dishwasher.
5. Have a life.
Teaching can consume your every waking moment. Start new hobbies and interests outside of school. Maintain friendships with non-teachers. Keep learning. It’s like they teach us on airplanes. Adults need to put their own oxygen masks on before helping any kids travelling with them. A tired and burned out teacher is not effective in the classroom. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.
6. Be bold
Don’t be afraid to do something different but don’t expect everyone – other teachers, parents, the kids – to be enthusiastic about your zany ideas. Remember road blocks are not put in place to stop you from doing new things. They are there to stop bad ideas from being implemented. Back yourself you know more than you think. Find mentors who will guide you into making your classroom vision a reality. Be prepared to have your ideas fail and move on the wiser.
7. Keep in contact with the parents
Take time to contact parents about the good stuff their child does. Flick an email to parent with a photo of their child in class or telling them a time when their child went above and beyond. If you have concerns, pick up the phone and call. Texting can be a fantastic way to reach some of those hard to reach parents.
I’ve written at length about the importance of edublogging. Blogging has helped forge friendships and some incredible learning opportunities for both myself and my students. Use the expertise of the global network of teachers to make your classroom more awesome.
9. Look after your support staff
Support staff are the unsung heroes in our schools. Make sure you always acknowledge the work that they do. Buy some bevvies for your caretaker. Take the time to say thank you to the teacher aides and librarians. Bring in something nice for the office staff.
10. Focus on what really counts
When all is said and done your students aren’t going to remember how to draw a factor tree or that they achieved their national standards. They will remember how they felt being in your class. Build a classroom culture that supports mistake-making and kindness. Schools can be highly political workplaces at time. Don’t waste your time and energy on things that don’t matter. Always remember you are paid to be brilliant in the classroom.