10 Things I Wish Someone Had Explained Before My First Teaching Job

I participated in the Reform Symposium recently and hosted a session entitled 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Explained Before My First Teaching Job. Go to the link here.

A lot of these things are topics I’ve covered before, but here is what looks to be the outline for now.

Professional Sanity

  1. Get a handle on classroom management early
    1. Practice selective ignorance
    2. Don’t argue with students
    3. The phone is your friend
  2. Learn from the experience of other teachers
    1. Ask questions
    2. When someone offers you advice, try to implement the suggestions; if they don’t work, figure out why not and try again
    3. Learn to listen
  3. Have fun
    1. Kids feed off of whatever energy you transfer
    2. One of the top ways to fight burnout is to enjoy what you do
    3. Be careful not to go overboard and be the fun pushover

Personal Sanity

  1. Read nonfiction
    1. The average millionaire in North America reads 1-2 nonfiction books a month; even though we don’t necessarily aspire to great wealth, the key is to continue learning
    2. If you pick one topic and read three books on it, you have probably already become the expert in your circle of friends
    3. Allow your students to use Wikipedia, but challenge them to find supporting evidence for its claims
  2. Start a blog now!
    1. Get involved with other blog and find solutions to your problems
    2. Figure out what areas you are an expert, and share with the world (or just your cat) what works for you
    3. As you brainstorm ideas, you will start to see how ridiculous some of them are, but also how much potential others of them have
  3. Establish a small circle of teacher friends
    1. More experienced and less experienced/equally experienced teachers
    2. Talk about common problems and creative solutions
    3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  4. Don’t buy more than you can afford
    1. One of the most common mistakes new teachers make (especially in the United States) is thinking that their first paycheck is an entitlement to go out and buy a fancy car or upgrade their lifestyle; resist that urge

Psychological Sanity

  1. Don’t allow work to take over your life
    1. Grading homework is important (from what I’ve heard), but it isn’t the most important thing
    2. Remember the teacher who made you grade your neighbor’s homework and actually trusted you? Did you think they were lazy, or cool?
    3. Leave your work at work (especially your work problems)
  2. Avoid stress and burnout like the plague
    1. Avoid toxic people and toxic conversations (and toxic teachers’ lounges)
    2. Don’t take things personally
    3. Listen to John Spencer’s presentation from this morning
  3. Set aside personal time
    1. Prioritize
    2. Exercise
    3. Socialize
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About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

2 Comments on 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Explained Before My First Teaching Job

  1. Excellent article. It would be very useful in teacher training – particularly as a vehicle for further discussion and exemplification. Experience is valuable 'stuff'!

  2. Fantastic post and session on the subject! Thanks for sharing!
    My mentor teacher back in university referred to classroom management as being a brick wall – you need to establish a clear, strong boundary so that the lines are firm. As students approach the boundaries, deal with it, but if you are an elastic as opposed to the brick wall, you will stretch and stretch and strech until you snap. You get hurt, kids get hurt, and trust is broken because the lines were never really established in the first place. I also appreciated what you had to say about balance. Great words of wisdom. Thanks for sharing!

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