Prior to graduation, prospective teachers are told they will have one of the most stressful, but rewarding jobs out there. Teaching is tough work…we all know that. Well, most of us know that. This is my list of things they didn’t tell me in college. If you are thinking of becoming a teacher, keep this list in mind. You may want to gain a little experience before you are fully thrown in the trenches. If you are currently a teacher, feel free to add to this list by commenting below.
1. You are going to have to hold it for a very long time. I am not just talking one hour. It could be three. Or more. Because you might have a room with no connecting doors to another room. Your best bet is to call the office to send somebody to relieve you. If it’s a good day, they will come right away.
2. You are going to have to sacrifice your breaks. It will seem like you have waited forever for a lunch break. And then…a student has a meltdown. And they only want you. Sometimes, you just have to do what you need to do. In that moment, you need to be with that child. And when you are done, you are going to have to come up with a plan so that doesn’t happen again!
3. You are going to figure out what to do when a absence on your grade level is not filled by a guest teacher. You get to school, and everything has been prepped from the night before. After the bell rings, somebody walking around with a roster and 27 kids in an orderly line stops by your room and drops off 7 of those kids. What are you going to do? Everything you do during the day now requires materials and instruction for extra kids. People who do not teach (including the front office) will never understand how difficult this is.
4. Your classroom management is going to make or break your year. I understand there are exceptions to the rule, but most new teachers have issues with classroom management his/her first year. Now, there is a continuum. Some new teachers are pretty good, some are okay, and some are just awful with classroom management. Get as much experience as you can in this area. You can teach any concept, but if you don’t have classroom management, you can’t teach anything.
5. You will have to fight sickness all year. Don’t touch your face, and wash your hands whenever you come into contact with a hand. Or, just never. Train your kids to wash their hands after sneezing. Sanitize your tables and door handle every day. Despite your efforts, you will still probably be sick all the time.
6. In some schools, dealing with the parents is almost harder than the kids. And in some schools, chasing down parents when you see them should be an Olympic event. Either way, get used to a little criticism and/or initiating those tough conversations. You will have many. This is only the beginning.
7. You will be asked to sign up for many committees. Learn to say no. Pick one or two that don’t require a lot of time. You are going to be busy enough, so don’t add anything onto your plate.
8. You should have some basic knowledge of parenting skills. Your advice is very important to parents, and they will ask for it. During conferences, I give more parenting advice than academic advice. Be prepared for this, especially if you don’t have children of your own.
9. You are going to have to write grant proposals. Most of your extra classroom spending money is going to come from grants. Unless you want to go without, be sure you know how to write a good proposal for those grant opportunities.
10. You are going to have to use negative consequences in the classroom. There is this huge craze for positive reward and praise, and I certainly agree that kids need lots of it. I remember thinking that I would never have to use any negative consequences, because everything I read just said “Use positive praise and rewards!” A good balance is always important for a safe and happy classroom. I always try for about 90% positive, 10% negative. Knowing how to balance these two is key.