What challenges have you faced?
Now more than ever positive relationships matter most!
As an educator for the past nineteen years, I’ve probably taught around a thousand students give or take. I have taught from Year Two to Year Six during my career. I’ve loved teaching the different ages because you see how much the students develop and improve in so many facets of their education. You see the older ones transition into deeper, critical thinkers, in the hope that they are well-equipped for high school. You see the younger ones’ light bulb moments where they make those magical breakthroughs. There have been times I had my own classroom and there have been times where I have taught in an open classroom scenario, where there were up to sixty students in a joint learning space. There are advantages and disadvantages with both learning setups.
When you’re faced with working with another teacher to team teach for the school year, there are the obvious challenges at the start. Will you work well with this person? Will you enjoy the school year? Will the two of you gel together to make it work as smoothly as possible? Luckily for me, I have been blessed to work with some amazing teachers in the open classroom scenarios where I have learned a lot from my grade buddy. Hopefully, they learned something from me too! They all became my dearest friends because we worked so closely together to ensure that the students received the best learning experiences possible.
The hardest thing about teaching in my opinion is building positive relationships with the students that you’ve been trusted with to teach and look after for the school year. There’s always the “getting to know you period” where your expectations need to be clearly stated and continually reinforced to ensure a smooth year. There will be initial teething problems because of their past experiences with other teachers. Don’t you just love it when a student says “But Mr/Miss/Mrs (insert name) did it this way last year…” Guess what my friend, I’m not your teacher from last year am I? You’re in my class now! Without resorting to Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s John Kimble impersonation of a teacher, you need to lay the ground rules early. Will it take some time? Absolutely! Will it be worth all the daily reminders? Definitely!
When you spend approximately two hundred days with your students, it’s only natural that you bond with them. They’re your kids for six hours a day. There are different personalities who need different care. There are also different types of motivation required to get the best out of your students. When you know your students, you know the right things to say to the right kids.
For the past week or so I haven’t been at school because I’m recovering from a fractured ankle. This is the longest time that I’ve been away from my students. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was at school everyday teaching the children of essential workers. My students decided to make me some cards to wish me all the best in my recovery. My wife read these cards too and she thought that they were hilarious. When she asked me to explain what was in some of the cards, I realised that my sayings and idiosyncrasies have rubbed off on them. My kids are slowly morphing into me! Is this a good thing? Probably not but it’s the most fun I’ve had in years with my class. I love teaching them. They get my sense of humour thank goodness.
I’ll give you an example, my wife and I relocated from Sydney to Brisbane in January 2020. I was about to teach Year Three for the first time at a new school, in a new state. A pretty daunting experience for any teacher. The one thing I tell my class is how they’re my favourite Year Three class ever. Sometimes I switch it up and say they’re my favourite class I’ve taught at the school. When they remind me that they’re the only class I’ve taught at the school or the first class I’ve taught in Year Three I reply with… “Well, you could be the worst!”
When you build these positive relationships early in the school year, it makes it that more enjoyable for your students and more importantly for you! I’ve been extremely lucky to have the class I presently have. They are great kids. They are full of personality, very inquisitive and they love to learn. It definitely makes my job easier. It’s going to be sad seeing them move into Year Four next year but they’ll always have a special place in my heart. They were the perfect class to have in 2020.
If I have any pieces of advice for beginning teachers it would be this. Make the effort to learn about each of your students. Find out what they like. Ask them questions and finally, listen. We may be their only shining light. Any interactions we have with them will have a long lasting effect. You can be the teacher to change their lives forever. How do you want to be remembered?
Produced by Matt Brophy, 02/09/2020