As a probationer teacher, I had a few big epiphanies…
The first of which was just how important it is to build relationships with pupils, taking the time to know who they are, what they stand for, and what they like, makes a world of a difference. I learned that I can’t assume my pupils will automatically relate to me. I wasn’t a positive role model just by showing up. I had to work hard, notice them, and earn their respect. The pupils in my classes have a lot more going on in their lives than my classes. I had to pay attention to them if I wanted them to pay attention to me. I also had to learn to treat them as individuals; one size does not fit all and an effective teacher will understand the importance of fitting the curriculum to the pupil, not the pupil to the curriculum.
Second, accept that you are at the early stages of a journey of learning and that you will sometimes make mistakes. The important thing to do is reflect on how you can improve and allocate some time each week to your own development. Revisit notes from your teacher education programme, talk with and observe colleagues, and evaluate your own practice.
Third, as a teacher the classroom is your stage, you’re the star and you must make yourself and your pupils proud every single day. Your role is to motivate, encourage and inspire the young people in front of you. You must always show up prepared and with a positive attitude, because you are a role model and your pupils will follow your lead in your classroom, around the school and within the community. It is the most rewarding feeling when pupils understand something, make a connection, or are engaged because of something I said or did. The look on a student’s face when something clicks or they receive recognition for a job well done or earn a good grade after grappling with a specific topic or assignment, is priceless.
Fourth, the importance of planning and preparation. Planning kept me organised and focused. It’s hard to plan ahead when you’re doing so many other things, but it’s absolutely necessary. I tend to be a perfectionist but teaching helped me realise I can’t take the weight of the entire world on my shoulders. You must do the best you can, but that is all you can do.
Lastly, teaching is more than just a job. It is devotion to lifelong learning. Teachers not only get to share their existing knowledge, but they get to dig deeply into topics and learn something new along the way. You will experience job satisfaction, knowing that you’ve made a difference in many lives. As a teacher, you become a champion for your pupils; never giving up on them; understanding the power of connection and influencing them to become the best versions of themselves. Through interacting with students, parents and members of the community from a range of different backgrounds, you’ll gain greater understanding of your own society. By pursuing a career in teaching and doing a job that you love, you can inspire and awaken the hearts of others.