21 tricks learnt on the teaching journey

The following article comes from Jamie Marshall, A primary Maths Lead Practitioner, UK

Having recently become a student mentor, I realised that I was giving away lots of ‘pearls of wisdom’ during my partnership, so I thought it might be helpful to others to write down and share some of the things that I had said.
By no means are they an exhaustive list, or even mind-blowing, but if they help, then that’s great. They range from the mundane, to the useful, to the absurd! And, as a Primary School teacher they focus on my experiences in that field. Even though what works in one school might not work in another, I’ve tried to keep them quite generalised to all schools.

Even as I write, I have a feeling that I might have forgotten some, so if I wrote it again, then it would be different.

Additionally, I started the idea as 10 top tips, but couldn’t stop until I got to 20 and by the end I had 21, so I’m sure there’s more to say.

However, just as with most things in life, you have to go through experiences yourself in order to learn from them, so any NQTs or students starting on your teaching journey, you will learn ideas along the way, in the best possible place: the classroom!

So here they are and in no particular order, except those that came into my head first, so perhaps the ones at the beginning are the most important in my mind?!

  1. Eat/drink and enjoy the staffroom as much as you can. Help in all sizes and shapes will appear here, when you need it and when you don’t. Teaching is a community team sport not an isolation unit.
  2. Bring a big bag on the last day of term…presents.
  3. Focus on improving only one thing at a time. Teaching has many many skills to perfect and you can’t do it all at once.
  4. Remember, no matter what anyone tells you, from a teacher to the government, lots of progress just can’t be measured in data. You’ll be having an effect in many different wonderful ways.
  5. Make time for the office staff and TAs etc. They do an amazing job and will know the little things that others don’t.
  6. Be brave. Try things out. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work at all or just at first. There are many variables in teaching, from the weather to the time of day. You’ll have 30 individuals in your class and they’ll all react differently!
  7. All schools do things differently. You might prefer the way a different school does things.
  8. Drink lots of water.
  9. Children will see you as a teacher even if you don’t initially. Your word will be gospel to them.
  10. Save all your passwords to school systems somewhere, somehow. Save your teaching ideas somewhere, you never know when you’ll need to come back to them.
  11. Make a weekly plan. Routines really help children to feel safe and settled. If you know what is happening, they will feel calmer.
  12. Keep rewards systems simple. Your school might have a set system or not, you might be allowed to innovate or not. A good idea is to either find out or ask the children what motivates them, and then make the best choice for you, your class and your school.
  13. You are likely to be observed a lot. Schools do this in many different ways, some helpful, some not. Some as teams, some as individuals, some as SLT, some as middle leaders. Everyone has an agenda. Do what you think is right.
  14. There is always an answer or idea out there for any issue you might be having. I’m sorry, you’re not unique in that way. Someone else has had the same trouble as you at some point! Their idea might not work for you, but someone else’s might. Ask for advice on social media, from colleagues, lecturers and networking groups. Visit as many different classrooms as you can, and watch as many teachers as you can, you’ll always pick up an idea.

You will learn ideas along the way, in the best possible place: the classroom!

15) Model as much as you can; from writing to playing games to being kind.
16) Be brave, leave the classroom whenever you can. Teaching isn’t all books and evidence.
17) Silence is useful and powerful. Wait. Speak when they are listening. Use the volume and tone of your voice to control, intrigue and excite. Shouting isn’t a behaviour technique.
18) Be human. Share parts of yourself as a person with your class, I guarantee you’ll get a lot back from them, and often in the most surprising way. This is why teaching can be so tiring. It’s a performance every lesson and you use a lot of your own mental strength, emotional as well as the physical. Be prepared to need time to unwind outside of school, however you do that best for you.
19) PSHE or whatever your school calls it, should be the top of your list to perfect first. No child, or adult, will learn if they are unhappy, sad, in pain etc.
20) Know how to do the register! I didn’t think to learn this in my first school and it was such a shock on my first day, in my own classroom, by myself, with my whole class looking at me expecting me to do what all other teachers did. I still remember that moment vividly.
21) Parents are people. You’ll meet all sorts, some will help, some won’t, but they are like a package deal with the class, so be prepared to engage as much as you can.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! But, remember, you can only do so much.
You might only be with your class for one year, but your inspiration may last a lifetime…no pressure!

Enjoy the teaching life!

Author: Jamie Marshall

Jamie is a primary Maths Lead Practitioner

Jamie is a primary Maths Lead Practitioner, who has been teaching for over 10 years.

He is really keen on helping teachers to grow through the Lesson Study approach.

He will happily find any excuse to dress-up in the classroom and actually prefers ssh…reading to mathematics.

Read book reviews, author interviews, and find teaching ideas for books on his blog.

Follow Jamie on Twitter – @Jamie61116

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