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Tips for Your First Year as a Teacher: Embrace the Journey!

Jul 4th 2024

The moment you’ve been working towards is nearly here — you’re about to teach your first class as an ECT. How exciting! It’s a big milestone, filled with a mix of anticipation and, of course, some nerves. Looking back, there are so many things we wish we had known in our first few years of teaching!  So, here are our top tips to help you navigate your first year.

Setting Up Your Classroom

First impressions matter. Start by arranging your classroom to be welcoming and organised. During transition times, provide opportunities for pupils to create work that can be displayed when they arrive in September. This helps them feel like they belong and shows that you value their contributions.

Creating a reading culture in your class is a fantastic way to foster a lifelong love of reading and improve literacy skills. A well-stocked classroom library with diverse books—including different genres, interests, and reading levels—ensures everyone can find something to enjoy. Include graphic novels, non-fiction, poetry, and magazines to provide a wealth of options. Designate cosy reading corners with cushions, bean bags, and soft lighting to make reading time pleasurable. Charity shops can be goldmines for finding great texts and cosy accessories to enhance these spaces.

Mastering the Art of Planning

Planning can feel overwhelming, but the best advice is to start at the end. Think about what you want the final outcome to be. For instance, if you want your pupils to write a persuasive leaflet at the end of your English unit, identify the key skills they need to learn to be successful in their writing. Then, plan opportunities for them to build and practise these skills before the final write. Think of it as a journey toward the final outcome.

It can also be really helpful if you have access to examples of previous work so you know what you should be aiming for. Your school may already have exemplification materials or they may have kept some samples of pupils’ books from previous years.

Remember, not all lessons will run smoothly, and that’s perfectly okay! Having backup activities ready can take the pressure off when you need to think on your feet. It’s also okay to stop your lesson and go back to basics if your pupils are struggling with a concept. Often, revisiting an earlier skill is the best way to move forward.

Making the Most of Your Time

We all know time is precious, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day, so planning your time wisely is crucial. Your ECT time is a great opportunity to develop yourself as a teacher. Spend time reading relevant research or articles to support your understanding and improve your practice. Here are some useful places for current guidance and research:

Chat with your mentor about your time and plan to observe other teachers. This is a fantastic way to get support with a particular focus or to widen your experience with different year groups.

Finally, lists—while it may sound simple, a list can help you stay organised and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Be realistic and prioritise what needs to be done each day and what can wait a bit longer.

Building Positive Relationships: The Heart of Teaching

Building rapport with your students is key, especially in your first year. Before the school year starts, take the time to learn about your class as a group and as individuals. Chat with their previous teachers to uncover their interests and learning preferences. Knowing their interests not only helps you to learn about your pupils, it also helps you to stock your classroom library with appropriate books and guide your choice of reading material to engage your class.

During transition times or in the autumn term, take the opportunity to find out about your pupils’ lives outside the classroom. This not only fosters a strong, respectful relationship but also helps you understand their backgrounds and context, enabling you to better support their learning journey.

Remember, you set the tone in your class. Little gestures, like greeting each pupil individually at the door in the morning, show that they’re welcome and that you’re happy to see them.

Now, let’s talk parents! It might feel daunting at first, but making yourself visible and approachable to parents is crucial. Invite them in to meet you and see the classroom if possible. Starting off on the right foot helps parents feel comfortable coming to you if any issues arise later in the year. Never underestimate the power of a quick chat on the playground at the end of the day to let parents know what their child has done well. It makes a world of difference!

Finally… Welcome to teaching! Embrace the journey and remember, every teacher has been where you are now. You’ve got this!


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