How to survive your first term in the classroom – a guide for graduates

As a graduate teacher, you are finally free! No more lectures or assignments, essays or school placements. The classroom and students are finally all yours, to teach as you like and put everything you have you have learnt over the past four years into practice.

I remember my university days… Science classes filled with experiments, but never did I teach one to a group of students, reading a picture book with another ‘want-to-be teacher’ in my class coming up with comprehension questions for students who didn’t exist, and writing an essay about… well, I can’t remember what about, all I know is that I haven’t written an essay since.

Yes, university taught us some really important and valuable skills and opened our eyes to what teaching is like… sort of.

I don’t think anything can really prepare you for what teaching is really like. 

Teaching is a hard gig. It is not all games and colouring-in, 9-3 workdays and teaching from textbooks as some like to believe, it is, in fact, one of the most difficult, time-consuming, energy-demanding professions that exist, but I am sure by now you have figured that out already!

I am sure, even though you are happily teaching away, the question lingering in the back of your mind is something like “OMG what have I got myself into??”.

Don’t worry, we have all been there. The shock goes away, things become easier to manage and stuff that would have you in a frenzy is all of a sudden second nature. 

Making it through your first term is probably all you have on your mind right now, and I am sure someone on your first day greeted you with the ‘Only 10 weeks to go’ line because there is always a teacher in every school who does this. 10 weeks, whilst it might sound like a long time, will be gone before you know it.

So will you make it, still smiling and full of energy? Only time will tell. However, there are a few things which you can do to make surviving your first term a little bit easier:

  1. Sleep, Eat, Drink Water and Move. I call these the 4 pillars, why? Because if you let one drop, you fall. These 4 things are essential to keeping your energy where it needs to be, and often it sounds so simple and even silly for someone to say, but when life gets busy we have a tendency to let these things fall and trust me, no one wants to be teaching tired, hungry, thirsty or low on energy, it isn’t fun.
  2. Ask for help. No question too big, too small or too silly. If you don’t know, ask. Find a mentor, someone you can trust and ask all the questions you need to to ensure you feel prepared, ready and like you know what you are doing.
  3. Fake it until you make it – no seriously. There will be some things you just don’t know, and that is 100% OK, but never let your students know you don’t know what you are doing, fake it. Your job is to teach, keep them engaged and have them learn too, and if that means changing lesson because you’re just not sure, then do that, ask for help, and come back later, your students don’t have to know you were internally having a meltdown, and if they do find out it probably won’t end well. Remain calm. Remain in control. 
  4. Be prepared the day before. No matter what you have on after school, my number one rule is to make sure whatever you need for the next day is taken care of before you go home. This means photocopying, books marked, resources made, lessons planned to the minute, that way if you run late, a parent catches you on the way in or you have to a do a last-minute morning duty it doesn’t matter, you are prepared in advance.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Yes, we all want to do an amazing job, it is part of being human, but know there will be some days where you get it wrong, it doesn’t go to plan or you feel like you have no idea what you are doing. These things happen to even the most experienced teachers. The important thing though is that you laugh it off and try again. Kindness is key.

Enjoy Term 1 Teachers!