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15 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Becoming a Teacher

15 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Becoming a Teacher

Jill Hare | Editor,

Don’t you wish you knew the good, the bad and the ugly before you became a teacher? Find out some things to look forward to and things to avoid. Do you have something to add to the list? Please do in the comment section below or in Teaching forum.

1. Relating to every student takes research.

If you’re like me, you are decades older than your students. It takes research to figure out what prior knowledge you’re building on. Don’t just focus on what they’ve learned in school, but think about what they’ve learned outside of school. What programs do they watch on TV? What do they read for fun? What kind of music do they listen to? You can ask your students this information and more in simple survey or game. Knowing them and who they in in the context of the world today will help you connect.

2. Be prepared for anything and everything to happen on your watch.

You have to be prepared for anything to happen during school. In my first year of teaching, I got vomited on and didn’t have a change of clothes. I got the stomach bug shortly thereafter and didn’t have any medicine with me. I had to teach without power for three days during the aftermath of a hurricane. I had to stay at school with my last class one day until 4:00 in lock down while the police searched our school for an escaped convict. I’ve sewn shirts, taught with a flashlight, and written study guides out by hand when the copy machine was broken. At the time, each of these things seemed out of the norm. I learned later that “out of the norm” was the norm. Teaching is an unexpected journey that provides a great story at the end of the day. It’s better to laugh at life’s unexpectedness than to stress.

3. Student teaching may not completely prepare you for your own classroom.

Not all student teaching experiences are rosy. And even if they are, you could end up teaching a different age group, completely different grade, or school environment.

If you haven’t started teaching yet, try and choose a place that will be most like your desired job. If that’s not possible, spend time in a school observing how things will work and what you need to be prepared for.

Poll: Are you looking for a new job for the next school year?

Poll: Are you looking for a new job for the next school year?

4. What you want to teach may not be in demand when you look for a job.

Teachers are always needed, right? True…to some extent. Teachers are always needed, but what kind of teacher and where varies widely depending on area growth, retirement rate, and state budgets. The best advice I can give prospective teachers is to get a sense of the job market in your area before choosing a focus.

5. Working with parents is hard.

Teacher training doesn’t focus a lot of time on how teachers can best work with parents, but it’s a crucial part being a teacher. My first year teaching, I had a parents yell at me, cry in front of me, hit on me, and even practically stalk me on my cell phone. Setting boundaries with parents in the early years is a struggle. Some years my group of parents gave me no troubles at all, while other years seemed to be full of controversy.

Working with parents is hard, but it’s not impossible. The hardest parents for me were the ones that didn’t realize that I cared as much about the progress of their child as they did. If you can explain- with actions and words- that you are sincere in the education of their child and exhausting all avenues to help them, they’ll come around.

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