George Lucas Educational Foundation

Soon-to-be Teacher

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I am in my last semester of classes, and I am starting to get very anxious about going out into the work force. I have had quite a bit of experience in a wide variety of classrooms thanks to my Education classes, but I still feel like there's something missing. I feel very unprepared for the whole process of getting a teaching job. I'm trying to get into substitute teaching so that I can have even more experience, but it's difficult to get into when I only have one day off a week. I want to build a strong knowledge base of teaching methods that are tried and true, but I am also really interested in keeping up with what's new in the classroom. I love all of the resources available online, but there are so many! How does a new teacher find the time to go through all of the resources available and find the ones that really work? I feel overwhelmed and I don't even have an offer yet. I just want to be one of those teachers that students remember as being influential and encouraging. Any tips or thoughts would be much appreciated!

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Katherine Judd's picture
Katherine Judd
College writing and communications teacher

Emily, I understand your confusion. There is a plethora of information regarding all aspects of education. Simply trying to read it all would take a lifetime, let alone implement what you read. Keep in mind, what works for some teachers does not work for others. Too many variables can change that equation. So here's the advice I can give you! Hope it helps.

1) KNOW your subject inside and out! This sounds dull, but it's what you know and can fall back on when a lesson plan fails for some reason.

2) Assess your environment! Where do you want to teach? Urban area? Rural area? Intercity? Private school? Each of these carrys its own trials and triumphs! To succeed, you must know what YOU want to do. Once you have made a decision and are committed to that decision, you are ready to begin.

3)Most schools have rules and regs you must follow, but your true bosses are your students! They decide if you are a good teacher! Therefore, LISTEN to your students. They will annoy, harass, upset, and inspire you! You cannot teach them unless you understand HOW they want to learn. They will let you know. Some students I teach want paper, pen, and time to work and question. Others want discussion, both class and groups, to assist them with their learning. BE FLEXIBLE!

4) From listening, you will learn their likes/dislikes, hobbies, and interests. USE that knowledge to create a fun, useful, learning environment that incorporates not only your subject matter but the interest of your students.

5) Inspire them to reach beyond what you are teaching! Don't fall for the "extra credit" work ploy! This is a student ploy to get out of working on their education. Instead, provide "extra project" work that engages their minds to problem solving. Be careful here! While you want to maintain an open mind to their ideas and solutions, you must not allow them to use these projects to get out of the work required for your class by the admin types. Make sure they understand this and agree to it.

6) Finally, understand that you WILL have bad days! You cannot avoid them, and it's useless to try. It's tempting to fall back on busy work, but that only contributes to their disgust of public education. I always have a back-up plan for bad days. It may be a "quiz show" over work already done. It may be an open debate over a current events topic. I even allow them to write and discuss WHY this is a bad day. Inevitably, the class ends on a higher note than it started! :)

Bayyinah Abdul-Aleem's picture
Bayyinah Abdul-Aleem
New Teacher Coach

Hi Emily,

You're making a wonderful decision to enter the career of a lifetime!
If I can suggest two fundamental things that you make a priority - please make concrete connections with your students and their parents. It will be very easy to be superficial and avoid dealing with the nitty-gritty issues in your classroom, but the truly committed teachers will tell you that knowing your students, and crafting a relationship based on honesty and trust, will make all the difference. Tied with that, please take the time to establish a connection with your students' parents/guardians as soon as you can - don't wait for a serious issue to develop. Parents can be your most qualified and priceless resource.

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