Are you a new teacher? 10 things to keep in mind

The new term is almost upon us and with it the first day of teaching for those new to the sector. Roshan Doug has some top tips

Roshan Doug

What should you keep in mind if you are a new teacher starting in FE next month?

The new term is only weeks away. If you are one of those entering the profession as a new teacher, you will be in for countless new experiences and challenges – so here are 10 things you should keep in mind while making your way in teaching.

1. Confidence or insecurity?

Many people, no matter how important their job titles sound, lack confidence. So never drive a car that’s bigger or flashy than your headteacher’s. And never let it be known that you know more than your senior leaders in terms of education practice or policy. Instead, focus on their specific knowledge and skills set. You’ll be surprised how insecure some people are and how much they want to share their brilliance. It makes them feel good when they are being educational "gurus". But then, we all like people who make us feel good. Why should headteachers and managers be any different?

Background: College staff are lecturers, not teachers

More on this: Tes FE podcast: Are college staff teachers or lecturers?

Other news: Meet the man defining the college of the future

2. Comings and goings

Never arrive at work earlier than your mentor/line manager or leave after them. It’ll only make them paranoid that you'll soon be after their job (what did I say about insecurity?). Arrive on time, leave on time. Getting to work by 7 and leaving at 8 in the evening may give the impression you’re eager and conscientious but equally, it might suggest that you don’t know how to time manage. Some foolish people get to work before the headteacher and leave after them. This is only likely to make the head feel guilty for not being committed enough. And, anyway, don’t give your colleagues the impression that you’re living for work. You are not a cog in the machine.

3. To stress or not to stress...

Teaching is very likely to stress you out sooner or later. That’s the nature of any full-time or part-time work. But never put on a brave face and suffer undue stress in silence. Employers have a duty of care to help you manage your stress/workload. The same applies to colleagues who upset or bully you. Address the problem directly, face to face. Tell them how they’re making you feel. They will respect you for being strong and forthright. Bottling things up and stressing yourself is likely to lead to long term illness.

4. Share or shaft?

Only share your teaching/learning materials with colleagues who are sharing theirs. Don’t let the colleagues in your team take advantage of your good nature or your "newness" to the profession by nicking your lesson plans and resources. There is something called intellectual property, general integrity and ethics. As a professional, you should insist on these.

5. An ogre or a cool teacher?

Don’t go for popularity with your pupils/students. It’s difficult to discipline a class when you’ve established pally-pally persona. Being cool is going to create problem for you in the long run. Go for overt strictness at the start. You can always be lenient later but you can’t go the other way round. And remember, classroom control is everything. It’s what you will be judged on during your all-important lesson observations.

6. Kiss or not to kiss?

Obsequiousness – or what’s commonly known as "arse-kissing" – is generally favoured by people who want to climb up the ladder to promotion, status and responsibility because money matters. So this approach is always worth trying if you have a strong interest in becoming a manager. However, there’s a lot to be said about dignity and personal integrity, though – granted – these don’t necessarily pay the bills. Alas, self-respect is a dying trait. Resuscitate it.

7. Work hard or work smart?

Don’t offer to do whatever is asked of you, especially in meetings. Be calm, be measured. Always be discerning. Don’t be taken for a mug or doormat. No one is going to appreciate your enthusiasm or kindness – or certainly not for long. In fact, people will admire you if you state how overworked you are. Learn to differentiate what are important tasks and what are not. It’ll keep you in good stead for the rest of your teaching career. Not being able to manage is not indicative of your weakness. Saying you can’t manage is a sign of strength.

8. Homework plan

Just as you plan out the delivery of your course – with careful attention to dates, objectives and the arrangement of lessons – the same should apply to how, what and when you give out homework. Assessment work should be evenly spread out with your personal/social life in mind. Failure to do this may result in your being up every night marking for the following day.

9. Friends or foes?

People at work are neither your friends nor foes. For that reason, you should try and maintain a degree of privacy about your personal life. Don’t reveal everything and anything to your colleagues. Wait until they have proven to be worthy of your confidence and trust. You have no idea if and how they might use your own information against you.

10. Social media and privacy

Many young people are familiar with social media and often post details of their day on a regular basis. However, never post anything directly related to work, your employer, colleagues or students and their parents. This is likely to bring your employer into disrepute.

Similarly, never post pictures of yourself in compromising positions – inebriated or otherwise. You can be dismissed for public display of embarrassment or indecency. As a teacher, you have to uphold good public behaviour values and professional standards at all times.

Dr Roshan Doug is a visiting professor, strategist and educational consultant at the University of Birmingham

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