Teaching may be a trying, often unrewarding task especially during the initial years. After going through the excitement and anxiety of the first months of school, teaching may become little more than an endless routine of delivering lectures, giving tests, and checking papers. Those who stay in the teaching profession get more out of the job than meets the eye – fulfillment, self-respect, and an agreeable lifestyle.
After long years of teaching, it is common for a good teacher to be approached by a grown-up former student in the supermarket, “Ma’am, you taught me Math in Grade 6 and you really helped me a lot.” Often it is the problem students who do this, those whom no other mentor made an impact on but the particular teacher. My mother was an elementary school teacher and this happened not a few times when she took me out as a kid.
Teachers are in a helping profession and to be able to help effectively, there are ten tips that may guide new teachers in their first few years of teaching. Help comes from Ms. Lydia Maribojoc, former Coordinator for Training of Teachers on Probation at the Ateneo Grade School.
10 Must Know Tips for New Teachers
1. Respect your student’s individuality. A good first step is to know all their names and faces and some characteristics. This is an important task, often neglected since teachers may have as many as 300 students to remember every year. There are certain memory techniques like remembering a striking feature or characteristic of a pupil and linking that with the name. For example, a pupil with piercing eyes named Jed can easily be recalled by remembering that he has Jedi-like eyes as in “Star Wars.”
Going beyond remembering names and faces, respecting your students’ individuality means recognizing their uniqueness and value as a person, being attentive to their special needs and styles of learning, listening to each student non-judgmentally, and being available to all. Incidentally, this style of relating with people can win you a lot of friends, not only young students.
2. The best classroom management technique is to be well-prepared for your lessons. Preparing your lesson plan, visual aids, learning activities, seatwork, etc. well and in advance gives you the confidence that you know exactly what you’re going to do for the next 40 minutes. It is usually when you hesitate and show tentativeness when students get uncomfortable, uneasy, and distracted. Some may start getting unruly. Knowing your business well evokes respect, not only with young students.
3. Make use of students’ answers in teacher-pupil verbal interaction. To start with, bring the level of the language down to the students. Many untrained teacher make the mistake of talking to students in class just as if they were conversing outside the classroom. This is not the same. The skill of asking a simple question and building upon one pupil’s answer to ask somebody else another question and so forth may be difficult to develop but yields dividends, even in conversations with friends or family members and in meetings with adult colleagues or subordinates. When the classroom discussion veers away from the desired direction, the teacher can always call on the brighter students.
4. Bear in mind that learners today are media-oriented and have short attention span. The latter may probably due to the effect of watching televisions, facebook, etc. Because of the characteristics of learners today, new teachers may be well advised to vary their presentations using different audio-visual materials. Keep the student busy and make them participate actively in the lessons. Plan the lessons to be brisk and bite-sized. Because of their pacing and appeal, “Spongebob” and “Princess Sarah” have competed effectively for youngsters’ attention amid the media bombardment they are exposed to everyday. Being brisk and brief saves everyone time and avoids misunderstanding, even outside the classroom.
5. Make learning fun. The traditional lecture is not the only method of instruction. In fact, recently developed educational philosophies like Integrative Learning discourage lectures. Instead, more engagement of the students in the learning activity is prescribed. Give group activities with few and simple directions. Involve the whole bodies and all senses of students in learning through activities like diagramming, drawing maps, role-playing of characters in the lesson, imitating animal sounds and movements, music appreciation, and the like. Adopt a multi-sensory approach, instead of sticking exclusively to the lecture method. Due to individual differences in sense modalities, not everyone is a good listener. Some pupils learn better by seeing, some by touch, feeling, or experiencing the concept with their bodies. Your lessons should be presented in a way that they will be understood and appreciated by all.
Many times, you can’t just tell; you have to show. Having told and shown, then your students can do. When they can do, then they have learned. These are basic teaching and training methods for learning of all ages.
6. Beware of the need to be liked and appreciated. Everyone needs to be liked and appreciated, but when this need is inordinate, the new teacher may seek this out among his or her students by trying to be popular and “chummy-chummy” with the students, speak their language, and play their games. Nothing is really wrong with this as long as the new teacher is aware of what is going on and avoids the erosion of the professional distance and respect between teacher and students. Maribojoc stresses that, “You are the adult in this class.” Persons of position, like managers or other leaders, may also bear this in mind. Being popular is a gift that eludes those who seek it.
In connection with this, most new teachers want to become known as a nice teacher and then have difficulty trying to instill discipline whenever the need calls for it. It may be good to remember that it is generally more effective to be “tough and nice” than to be “nice and though.” To illustrate, there is a story of a king and his prime minister who decided to divide the two kinds of functions – nice and tough – between the two of them, the king handling the nice functions and the prime minister doing the tough decisions. The king became very popular among his subjects but soon become envious of his prime minister who was handling the more difficult and challenging decisions involving conflict and contention. So they decided to shift roles the next month. What happened next? The subjects booted out their king and made the prime minister their new king. They said, “Our king suddenly became a monster. But our prime minister, he’s really coming around to be a nice guy after all.” If a new teacher starts out being too nice, it may be difficult to be tough with the students later on.
7. Interact with the rest of your school community. Through informal kumustahan sessions, new teachers may establish the social network of support that they need. Speaking informally and sharing experiences with their colleagues, supervisors, and administrators build a collegial atmosphere which is very important, especially to any recruit in any new job.
8. Acquaint yourself with the school’s philosophy and thrust, as well as different services offered by the school. Are the written and unwritten values policies of your school compatible with your own? DO you know where to get help if you need it? For instance, it would be good to know that if you have gifted student, a slow learner, or a hyperactive trouble-maker, there is always the guidance counselor who can help you understand and handle these students better. Indeed, part of the challenge of being a mature adults is learning how to utilize your environmental resources effectively, wherever you may go.
9. Do not be intimated by demanding parents. Some parents can be very demanding. Usually, these are parents of problem students, according to Maribojoc. As if doubting your qualifications and skills as a teacher, they may question your credentials. In such a situation, the best answer in Maribojoc’s experience is, “I’m here because I love teaching.” This would ordinarily put the issue to rest. Respect yourself and your job and allow other people to respect you as an equal.
10. Teaching is a vocation. It is said that for those who have the inclination but do not become priests or nuns, teaching is a very good alternative. According to Maribojoc, “Teaching is sharing your life, witnessing to what you teach. If you do not live what you teach, your students will not believe you.” She refers to teaching any subject.
On the practical realities of the profession, Maribojoc shares that it is common especially for male teachers to try other professions after a few years of teaching, due mainly to the economic consideration. Some come back because they cannot take the values of the other work – being a salaried employee – which they tried. Apparently, teaching is something you have to love in order for you to stay and be good at. That love will stay with you wherever you go. Those who excel in other professions will probably say the same thing about their own line of work.
Teaching entails hard work and sacrifice. As a new teacher peering into the profession you may not get the material rewards you hope for in a lifetime of teaching, but if you love the work you will get certain rewards which may be more valuable and meaningful for you at the end of the day, according to your own special personality and value system that attracted you to teaching in the first place.
Onofre Pagsanghan, a revered and recognized high school Filipino teacher has this to say about his 63 year old career. “My profession is its own reward.”
As I review these 10 tips, it’s clear there are many more great ones that could be shared. What would be yours?