What beginner teachers should know

Shamim Ujjainwala

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As another academic year has begun, thousands of first time teachers are grappling with mixed emotions. They are excited as they have begun teaching in schools after rigorous training at the teacher education college. They believe they are now equipped with all the knowledge and skills that the teaching profession demands.

However, along with joy there is apprehension. The initial excitement is replaced by anxiety and self–doubts. The new teacher begins to wonder whether her decision to join the noble profession and compromise on lucrative corporate salary was truly wise. This is because the one year teacher training course may have been inadequate in really preparing them for the realities of professional life. The truth is teaching as a career is not just about being able to teach a subject well, its also about being part of an organization called ‘School’.

A beginner teacher needs tips that will help her sail through the period of transition from a fresher to an experienced teacher. If you are one such teacher, here are a few things that I feel you should really know.

Handling work pressure
Many young people join the profession assuming it is a part-time job. The high salaries offered by various so called international schools are an additional attraction. But the truth is that today all schools whether government aided or private need to keep up with societal expectations. India today has second generation learners. Parents are literate and want the best for their kids. Unless the schools perform they will perish. In this scenario you are expected to not only teach well but carry out other administrative tasks and co-curricular activities with equal expertise. You need to wake up to this reality and prepare yourself. You have to accept the fact that you will have to upgrade yourself in all respects and spend time on your professional development. Learn to organize yourself. Learn time management skills. A book that may help you in this is First Thing First by Stephen Covey.

Sustaining enthusiasm
cover-story-2 You may want to implement all the innovative methodologies that you have learnt in the teacher education course. You wish to prepare lesson plans with as much detail as you did in the training. But you soon realize that with the actual syllabus to complete that is not possible. Also, each school may have its own lesson plan style. Here you need to set realistic goals for yourself. Depending on the work load one can decide how many classes can be held with innovative methodologies. Also, like any other job a teacher’s job can become monotonous. You can keep the spark burning by reading. Even if you are a post graduate in science, don’t live under the impression that you know everything there is to learn in science. Be part of teacher organizations, attend seminars, conferences, workshops. These will help you constantly reinvent your style of teaching.

Organizational politics
As in any other organization there is bound to be politics in school too. There are the seniors and juniors. There are bound to be differences of opinion. There are going to be ego clashes. Almost all teachers initially feel that they are exploited or victimized. The trick here is to change your attitude from being a victim to being a learner. Instead of wasting time in self-pity look at situations as opportunities to learn. Take challenges to explore your strengths. This will help you move up the career ladder. Identify a mentor for yourself. Sharing your difficulties will not only lighten you up but you will also learn how to deal with them. It also perhaps makes you realize that you are not the only one going through it. Spend minimum time in the staffroom. It will keep you away from being part of useless gossip and politicking. Thus, you will be spared from being in awkward situations. Taking a walk to the school terrace, ground, corridor or simply reading in the library will refresh you.

cover-story-3 Home and work balance
As opposed to other conventional jobs, a teacher’s job does not end with the school bell. There will be annual day preparations and rehearsals which will go on well into the evenings. There will be workshops to be attended on holidays. Families will then begin to wonder aloud what is happening. A teacher’s job is cool. Why is she carrying work home?

Bring in the discipline to complete school work within the school hours. Develop time management skills. Just as a healthy mother is a prerequisite for a happy family so is a well balanced teacher for the school. Cater to your spiritual, physical, social, intellectual and interpersonal needs. Do take good nourishment and enough rest. Only when you are happy at home can you create happy environment in your classroom.

Stress is going to be an integral part of work life. However, you will have to remember that you will need to broaden your vision, understanding the social dynamics in schools, and work with others to create schools that are collaborative and exciting learning environments.

Dos and Don’ts on your first day

Whatever job you may be doing, the first day is a very important and exciting day – though not without its share of anxieties and fears. If you are a teacher, that first day becomes all the more important as you have been given the opportunity to train and mould young minds. There will be not one but hundreds and thousands of eyes gauging you, watching your every move and trying to size you up on your first day. So let’s see how we can make this day just a little easier, with a simple checklist for ourselves.

Dos

  1. First impression is the best impression, they say. Make sure you are well groomed. Wear something comfortable but neat. A well-dressed teacher leaves an immediate mark on students.
  2. Arrive for your class on time. You don’t want to set a bad example on your first day.
  3. Be calm and don’t allow anxiety to get the better of you. Anxiety will make you nervous and will mar your day. Take a few deep breaths and set your mind at ease by thinking of something pleasant!
  4. How you are on the first day with your students is how you will continue to be with them over the next year. So be polite but also be assertive.
  5. Start your first class by getting to know the children better and give them an opportunity to know you. Play fun introduction games to lighten the mood before you begin teaching.

Don’ts

  1. Because you will be teaching children don’t assume that you will have an easy time and can sail through your day.
  2. Don’t come to school on your first day with pre-conceived ideas of teaching. Be open to the stimulating environment around you and adapt yourself accordingly.
  3. Don’t try to please your students by being too lenient. Your students will get the wrong message and you will end up probably with an unruly class.
  4. But do not play Hitler either. Don’t say no to everything that your students say or want to do. You must try to achieve a balance.
  5. Don’t remove your textbooks from your bag and start teaching immediately on entering your first class. Both you and your students should spend at least the first few minutes getting to know each other.

The author is Assistant Professor at Smt. Kapila Khandvala College of Education, Mumbai. She can be reached at [email protected].

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