If you view teaching as an art, then you acknowledge that there is a limit to the preparation received before teachers enter the field. Much is learned and perfected as you go. Certain information such as grammar terminology and some skills like creating a lesson plan are presented and practiced during teacher training, but no one certification program can cover everything. There are also situations that are unique to an individual’s teaching experience, and that teacher will only learn to handle the situation once it presents itself.
What are some things you only learned once you were in the field? My list includes the following:
1. Time management. One can easily be overwhelmed by the challenge of juggling administrative tasks, lesson preparation, and your personal life. In some cases, you learn to multitask. For example, your bus ride home or your trip to the laundromat might be your preferred time to brainstorm for upcoming lessons. You might also learn that less is more. As a former program administrator, I can say that it wasn’t the length of the weekly reports that impressed me; I appreciated it when teachers communicated with me concisely yet still conveyed something meaningful. I frowned upon the guarded “Everything is fine” reports, sighed at the sight of essay-like reports, and welcomed the one- or two- paragraph reports that gave quick updates and notified me of any concerns.
2. Staff room etiquette. Every new teacher must quickly learn who’s who in the staff room. I don’t mean names. I mean people’s characters and personal preferences. Some like to use the staff room as a retreat and welcome the chance for downtime. Others use it as a place to vent, consult, or express excitement over classroom happenings. Still others look for and enjoy conversation on matters unrelated to work. I knew teachers who viewed staff rooms simply as storage rooms for books and personal items. Understanding such preferences makes for smoother work relationships.
3. Warm-up v. chit-chat. Longer blocks of class time allow for an organized warm-up activity. Shorter blocks often don’t. As an alternative to a legitimate warm-up activity, casual conversation can help relax and engage learners, but how much is too much? How many minutes should such chatting last? What if the topic of conversation strays too far into personal lives? Is listening considered actively participating? These questions are answered through experience.
4. Limitations of resources. Just as one teacher can’t know everything, no one book has all the answers. As a new teacher, you’re more dependent on textboks for information. What is written on the textbook pages you present to the students. Then a student raises a question that can’t be answered with the help of the book. You look in another book and you become more confused. How do you handle tricky questions? What do you do when you find conflicting information? Again, you learn as you go. You learn about new resources, you determine which ones are trustworthy, and you become more skilled at applying your findings and arriving at a conclusion. It all comes through experience.
And you know what? There’s still much that I don’t know.
Feel free to add to the list!