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Pack Your Patience – it’s Back-to-School!

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The back-to-school joys and jitters are in full swing for all teachers old and new. After a well-deserved holiday the time has already come to pack your own lunchbox filled with patience, positivity and endurance. People who have not been in the position of being a teacher often don’t understand why school holidays are so long and especially not why teachers need four of them a year. I have been there, I have done that and I fully comprehend why there are four holidays for teachers in a year, and that is to maintain sanity!

The going back-to-school sense of humour is always at its best after a December holiday, but what is the key to actually maintaining it for more than a week into the new year after the first few outbursts in class or after the first Hollywood-tantrum from a glam-mom whose little darling hasn’t been placed in the class she wants or just the pure fact that she doesn’t like your colour scheme in your classroom? Teachers who have been in the game for a while knows exactly what to expect, but what about the newbies taking the floor in front of the whiteboard for the very first time?

Here are a few tips that I wished somebody would have told me before I was graced by the presence of 30 very opinionated little minds the first time I rocked up with my funky files and teaching methods. I’m sure some of these will make the veterans smile and reapply these golden pieces of advice.

  1. Start the year with a firm hand. Yes, of course it is a good idea to try and be fresh and one of the cool kids on the block, but trust me, rather ease off later and make sure your students know that you mean business. No need to be Cruella reincarnated, but make sure you set your boundaries from day one.
  2. Have proper methods for discipline! Make sure you have your ducks in a row when it comes to discipline in your class. It’s all fine and well if you come across strict and adamant, but without a proper method and following through with consequences, the tuck shop’s jelly doughnuts will come across more threatening. Even though you are the teacher, those little rascals are smart and will very quickly pick up if the can take chances with you.
  3. Have your first week of lesson plans and ready to go. It really is all about planning. The first week of school is always a buzz of excitement and an array of activities. Homework and in-class activities also need to be part of that buzz from the get-go. You might not be Miss or Mr Popular for handing out homework in the first week, but they will thank you for it when it comes to exams and there is no cramming going on.
  4. As soon as you have your class, MAKE A SEATING CHART! I know we are not planning a wedding or function here, but having one of these will spare you many grey hairs and blood pressure fluctuations. If you are a newbie, suss out your class in the first two weeks and make it work for you.
  5. Make time to grade work every day. This might sound trivial so early in the year, but even if it is a five-question activity, make time to grade your learners’ work every day and record the mark in your grade book or Excel spreadsheet. When grading time, report comments and exams come along, you will buy yourself a box of chocolates as reward for doing this early.
  6. Make contact. Getting parents to trust that you have their child’s best interest in mind is paramount. Make extra efforts to contact parents several times within the first few weeks of school. Once you have established to them what you are about, you are also less likely to have to deal with unannounced visits and complaints.
  7. Smile like you mean it. We all have bad days and you can be sure it always shows. Always smile like each learner you cross paths with daily needs it. It is not only rewarding to them, but your mood just might change by exuding positivity.
  8. Give yourself a break. Don’t try and be the model teacher by sitting through every single break or free period to work. Yes, there will be days that your schedule requires you to, but give yourself that opportunity to lock yourself in your classroom and have that cup of coffee or a time-out with your colleagues at break time. You are allowed to breathe and regroup!
  9. Pack yourself lunch! This might sound exceptionally strange, but a hungry teacher can be just as grumpy as a hungry 8-year-old. Make sure you have your snacks to sustain you during your day. Without you even knowing, this also sets a good example for learners to see that adults also have to eat healthy during the day.
  10. Start fresh – every day! Remember, every day is a new school day – make it count! Be forgiving, humble and strive to be the best you can be. Be the example that your learners will want to be as well.

 

Every year has its challenges, but it makes it worthwhile to know that you as a teacher lays the foundations of every learner’s character. Teaching is not just a job or number in your bank account at the end of each month, it is a passion and great responsibility in developing and growing the leaders of tomorrow. Take 2017 by the horns and don’t let anything break your stride!

Pack Your Patience – it’s Back-to-School!

AUTHOR

Inge Liebenberg

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