If you are a new teacher who has just begun to teach, or is going to start teaching soon, here are a few words of wisdom from a teacher who has been around for 15 years and is battle-hardened and grizzled with experience!
As told to us by Nusheen Irfan, of International Indian School, Al Jubail, Jubail, Saudi Arabia
1. If you arrive the first day, determined to be the teacher who shakes things up and is dictatorial, your students will never see you as a human being. They will always see you as someone unapproachable.
2. The homework that you give in class should be only tangentially related to the lesson that has been taught for the day. This way, children will not only learn the content of the lesson, but they will also learn something new. Make it a point to give homework that is only partially related to the lesson done in the classroom
3. More than anything, rewards hold a lot of meaning for children. If you want to motivate them to do well, promise a reward for doing well be it doing well on a test, turning homework in on time, keeping their desks neat etc. You will be surprised at how enthusiastically they take part in everything.
4. For children, there is nothing more annoying than privileges being taken away. If you want a child to fully realize the consequences of their actions, take away privileges such as free time, free periods etc. No child likes being excluded from free periods or playtime.
5. You are well within your rights to scold children but never label them with epithets such as “stupid”, “idiot”, “brainless” etc. These are the kinds of labels that stay with children and either the child believes that they are capable of nothing, or they will think it is alright to call others by the same names.
6. If you are going to give assignments, follow up with the parents to know if they are aware of the assignments or not. Not all children always tell their parents about homework and assignments or of parent-teacher meetings. This is especially true of small children.You do not want a parent telling you later on that you never give their child homework or assignments.
8. You have plenty of portions to take. It is natural that you want to take two three classes together so that you can finish them. However, if you are going to teach children the same subject for two to three hours at a stretch, then nothing is going to enter their heads because they will be bored out of their skulls and you would have wasted two to three hours with nothing to show for them.
9. If you absolutely have to take continuous classes, then alternate the lesson you are teaching with plenty of activities so that the children get a respite from all the theory.
10. You don’t always need to be The Teacher with students. You can talk to them informally at times. However, don’t make it a habit or else children will quickly begin to think that they can take advantage of you.
11. Children don’t always behave the same way in every class. In one class, they might be talkative and participative but they might be completely silent in another class. Talk to other subject teachers to find out how students behave in their classes. This is especially useful when putting together end of the year performance reports.
12. The longer a teacher has been teaching, the more likely she/he is cynical and stressed. Teaching can be rewarding profession but it can also suck the life out of you. If an older teacher is not that interested in your plans about shaking things up, it is possible that once upon a time, she too thought she could do the same.
13. If your school allows it, it is sometimes okay to administer a well-deserved rap on the knuckles. However, you should never resort to the kind of violence that could injure or harm a child.
15. Be careful of what you say and do around children. Children very often mimic what they hear or see the adults in their life do.
16. Discipline and punctuality are important habits. Once children have learnt them, they will soon learn other good habits. You should of course, be the one to set the example.
17. Praising a child’s work is important but your praise should never be excessive and flowery. Praise children at appropriate times and withhold it when necessary. Over-praising children will not motivate them into working hard.
18. You can always use your students as examples when you are teaching or want to illustrate a point. Don’t be rude or cruel however and hold up your students as negative examples. Things such as these can have a negative impact on a student’s self-esteem.
19. As a teacher, it is your duty to know all the children in your class. Learn their names and do your best to know the little things about them. Your students will love you all the more for remembering the little things about them.