Share your wisdom: Advice for new teachers

The #1 TIP
“Join your union”

In January we called for your top tips for new teachers. On Facebook and Instagram, we asked what you wish you’d known in your first year of teaching. Your generous responses included a few key themes: be kind to yourself; be prepared to say ‘no’ sometimes; and, most importantly, join your union. Here is a selection of comments:

The IEU is there and is worth every cent (in all honesty I was in my fifth year of teaching in my third diocese before I knew and promptly joined, thanks to a vocal school rep).

Enjoy one of the most enjoyable, challenging, creative, worthwhile, life-changing and necessary careers you could ever take on. Not every day is gold, but every day has that opportunity. Our children deserve you!

Ask for help because you don’t know all the answers and it’s perfectly normal. Be kind to yourself.

Join the union.

It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

It’s OK to say no. Don’t burn yourself out.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

This too shall pass – it won’t always be this hard.

Get in good with the office staff – they’re the ones really running the school – and if you’re lucky enough to have a learning support officer, value them and their expertise properly by using them to support students.

No question is stupid. When you ask for advice, listen and apply it. There’s a good chance the experienced teacher who gave it knows it will work. It takes six weeks to develop good habits with students and only two weeks to lose them. Be consistent!

Write down every funny thing that happens. When you retire, this could be the basis for a book.

Find a great mentor, build rapport with your students whilst setting, supporting and expecting them to meet high expectations; connect and collaborate with colleagues; understand that there will be challenging moments and try to focus on what you are thankful for; understand that there may always be something more you can do, but prioritise what is important as well as self care and balance; be curious and flexible in evaluating your practice (Ask yourself: Is what I’m doing effective, efficient and necessary? If not, change it); remember that teaching is part of what you do but not all you are, so make time to for activities/hobbies you enjoy outside of work; and understand your professional rights and responsibilities – your union can help.

You are there to learn and grow too. Tread softly and with kindness to yourself and to your colleagues. Find your people. Join the union. Read a lot but read with intention. Ask questions. Most importantly, learn to see your teacher self as only part of who you are, have a creative outlet.

First thing I did as a beginning teacher was find the union rep for a membership form. Also, understand the power of saying ‘no’.

You don’t need a Pinterest-worthy classroom and you really don’t need all the stuff. If your routines are simple, you will follow them and the class will remember them. You are not there to be the students’ friend. Don’t mistake boundaries for unkindness – by having boundaries and holding them you are being kind. The students will respect and like you, don’t be afraid they won’t like you if you are tough. You’ll never get it all done – learn to live with that feeling, it’s icky. Know that you make a difference – priceless.

Remember why you are there and what motivated you to become a teacher. Find time each week to talk to each one of your students. Get to know them and their passions. Watch out for their ‘aha’ moments. And yes, say no to extra work without removing something else from your plate. Look after your health! And yes, join the union.

Be nice to the office staff.

Find a good mentor after joining the union!

Join. Your. Union.

Don’t expect perfection from yourself or those you teach.

Be brave and say no to doing extra things and ask for help if you feel like you’re drowning.

Use the library and library staff, they can assist with resources. Be kind to yourself, know your workplace agreement, and if you’re asked to do extra, ask what can be taken away from you. Sit back and observe the workplace. Remember that students are your students and not your friends.

Support assistants are there to assist but they are not mind readers.

Be happy to be ‘good enough’ - chasing perfection will kill you and you could always plan a better lesson.

Join the union.

Ask for help when needed.

This is how you say ‘no’: “I’d be happy to add that task to my to-do list, however I’ll need your advice as to which of these A,B,C … tasks I should delete from my schedule to cater to this new request”

Have home life and work balance.

Getting something done is better than doing it perfectly.