Top Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Teaching

  • 10. Not every student will be interested every minute. No matter how much experience you have or how great you are at teaching, you will encounter times in the classroom when no student is interested! The solution is to change your tone of voice, move around the room, or switch from lecturing to some other activity. Maybe you can even use a manipulative to increase the students' understanding and, possibly, their level of interest.

    9. If a lesson is going badly, stop. Even if you have planned a lesson and have a clear goal in mind, if your approach is not working—for whatever reason—stop! Regroup and start over with a different approach, or abandon your planned lesson entirely and go on to something else. At the end of the day, be honest with yourself as you examine what went wrong and make plans for the next day.

    8. Teaching will get easier. Maybe not tomorrow or even next week, but at some point in the year, your job will get easier! Try to remember your first day in the classroom. Were you nervous? Of course; all of us were. See how much better you are as a teacher already? By next year, you will be able to look back on today and be amazed at how much you have learned and how much easier so many aspects of teaching are!

    7. You do not have to volunteer for everything. Do not feel that you always have to say yes each time you are asked to participate. Know your limits. Practice saying, "Thank you for thinking of me, but I do not have the time to do a good job with another task right now." Of course, you must accept your responsibility as a professional and do your fair share, but remember to be realistic about your limits.

    6. Not every student or parent will love you. And you will not love every one of them, either! Those feelings are perfectly acceptable. We teachers are not hired to love students and their parents; our job is to teach students and, at times, their parents as well. Students do not need a friend who is your age; they need a facilitator, a guide, a role model for learning.

    5. You cannot be creative in every lesson. In your career, you will be creative, but for those subjects that do not inspire you, you can turn to other resources for help. Textbooks, teaching guides, and professional organizations, such as NCTM, are designed to support you in generating well-developed lessons for use in the classroom. When you do feel creative and come up with an effective and enjoyable lesson, be sure to share your ideas with other teachers, both veterans and newcomers to the profession.

    4. No one can manage portfolios, projects, journals, creative writing, and student self-assessment all at the same time and stay sane! The task of assessing all these assignments is totally unreasonable to expect of yourself as a beginning teacher. If you want to incorporate these types of exercises into your teaching, pick one for this year and make it a priority in your classroom. Then, next year or even the year after that, when you are comfortable with the one extra assignment you picked, you can incorporate another innovation into your teaching.

    3. Some days you will cry, but the good news is, some days you will laugh! Learn to laugh with your students and at yourself!

    2. You will make mistakes. You cannot undo your mistakes, but berating yourself for them is counterproductive. If the mistake requires an apology, make it and move on. No one is keeping score.

    1. This is the best job on earth! Stand up straight! Hold your head high! Look people in the eye and proudly announce, "I am a teacher!"

    These tips are from the series Empowering the Beginning Teacher in Mathematics, by Cynthia Thomas.