Beginning the Year with Confidence

14 Jan

We all remember the feeling when our mentoring teacher gave us positive feedback on our very first professional experience placement.  Since then we have had many more mentoring teachers and, in many cases, more positive feedback.  Throughout our university degree we are taught to believe in ourselves and are encouraged to learn confidence.

While on my very first placement as a paid teacher I began to wonder if my learnt confidence was all a facade.  The challenge was not simply working full-time, getting to know the kids or finding my way around the school.  The challenge, rather, was establishing what kind of teacher I hope to be and finding my voice amongst experienced colleagues.  I am very blessed to have the most amazing mentor at my school as well as wonderful friends at other schools and thanks to these support networks I am well cared for and continually encouraged.  It is a sad fact that many graduate teachers do not stay with teaching due to perceived lack of autonomy as professionals and the unmet desire for consistent and genuine peer/colleague support.

As many of us look forward to beginning our first year of teaching at the end of this month I wanted to encourage you and remind you to be confident in the teacher that you want to be.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from others, or be flexible – but it does mean focus on the passion that you have for teaching and the exciting things you have learnt and want to have a shot at in the classroom.  I’ll leave you with some words of encouragement from another fabulous mentor of mine, Misty Adoniou.

“The summer before you begin your first teaching position is usually filled with  both excitement and apprehension. For a start, some of you haven’t heard about  a job yet, and that news can come even after school has gone back. Others know what school they are going to, but are unsure what grade they will be given. And even that can change in the first week as enrollments in schools sometimes following unpredictable patterns.  Some lucky ones know their grade and have even seen the room they will be teaching in.

Whatever your situation, you are already starting to imagine ‘your’ classroom and wondering what ‘your’ kids will be like. As tempting as it is to spend your holidays laminating birthday charts and pencil tins…..spend your time now reminding yourself what it is you want to achieve as a teacher, and think about the actions that will help that happen. For example, do you think teaching is about making connections with students and working with their strengths? Then, what can you do in the first few weeks to help you get to know your students, both their academic and non-academic strengths?  Do you think learning happens when children work together? Then, what can you do in the first few weeks to build community spirit and shared visions in your classroom?

Your room doesn’t have to look perfect by Week 3, and you don’t have to have your programmes all underway in the first week.  By Week 3 you are going to be sooooo tired, simply because the newness of it all is going to physically exhaust you, and the responsibility of it all is going is going to mentally exhaust you. So don’t make things even harder for yourself by trying to have everything up and running.  Use the time to establish relationships and routines – it will be time well spent and will pay dividends as the year goes on. 

And find a kindred spirit. Find the person in your school who wants the same things you do out of teaching, who talks about the children in ways that feel good to you, who has ideas that resound with you.  And if you can’t immediately locate that person in the school, stay connected to the person who did that for you at university.  Maybe it was a fellow student, or maybe it was a lecturer or a tutor.  Friends and family are going to be very important morale boosters this year, but a kindred spirit who is a fellow educator will help you to remember the teacher you want to be and support you to be that teacher.  And if I know one thing about teaching, it is that the satisfied and happy teachers are the ones who are being the teachers they always wanted to be.  When you are a beginning teacher, particularly in this current challenging educational environment, it isn’t always easy to do the teaching that you want to do. But you should never lose the vision – find the people who will help you realize your vision and stay connected to them. 

Finally, a piece of very practical advice. Take the time now to make some dinners and put them in the freezer. You will be too tired to prepare a decent meal for yourself in the first few weeks, but you really do need some nutritious food each evening in order to be on top of things the next day. Two minute noodles or a bowl of rice bubbles isn’t going to cut it! ”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMisty Adoniou was a classroom for teacher for 20 years before joining the Faculty of Education at the University of Canberra where she lectures in language and literacy and keenly follows the careers of newly qualified teachers. 


5 Responses to “Beginning the Year with Confidence”

  1. Adrian January 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    Great post and nice quote from Misty (she truly is awesome). Good luck with your first year of teaching and no matter what make sure you stick with it and remember you are ready to make a change 😀

    • Mrs Wansink January 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Thanks Adrian. She sure is, I would encourage you to stay in contact with people like her – it is always good to have an advocate 🙂

      • Adrian January 18, 2013 at 6:29 am #

        I think Misty has a lot on her plate as it is helping the plethora of new student teachers finding their feet as educators. I much prefer the approach of jumping into schools I’ve never been to with little support and experience to see what I’m capable of.

        So far in the last 6 months I’ve managed to teach all ages and classes from 3 year olds in pre-school up to 16 year olds in Year 10 at Kaleen High, Kingsford Smith Senior and Junior, Gold Creek Senior and Junior, Mawson Primary, MacGregor Primary, Giralang Primary, Kaleen Primary, Latham Primary, Maribynong Primary and Narrabundah Early Childhood School.

        I’m super glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and didn’t contact the schools I did prac at. If I did I think I might have missed all the opportunities I had last year 😀

      • Mrs Wansink January 18, 2013 at 7:58 am #

        Wow, that’s great. What degree did you do to be able to teach across the grades? I couldn’t do that, I am so appreciative of the support I receive from my school – couldn’t do it without them. Will you be teaching relief this year or working at one school?

  2. Adrian January 19, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    I did a two Bachelor of Education Primary Teaching (Grad Entry) @ UC. Turns out that with it you can teach from P-12 doing relief. I’ve met a fair few teachers with permanency in secondary teaching with primary qualifications and some that have permanency teaching primary with secondary qualifications. However to a pre-school teacher with permanency needs their early childhood degree qualifications (I think it either kicks in this year or next year). Whilst relief teachers won’t need it for pre-school cause it’s pretty hard to track down a relief teacher for pre-school.

    I’ll be doing relief this year alongside my full time job, then I’ll apply for the rounds for permanency and see how I go. I think there’s only 2 schools that I think I would have to contemplate declining an offer for permanency if they offered it to me.

    Still I’m super excited and keen to try to get some work doing relief at college and see if I can utilize some of the majors and minors from my first degree 🙂

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