Getting started in teaching

Whew, well first up I want to extend a huge congratulations. Not only did you make it through

  • a minimum of four years’ of university
    • professional experience of at least 60 days as a graduate or 80 days as an undergraduate
      • a rigorous application and interviewing process
        • working part-time to pay the bills and possibly feed yourself and your family
          • a tremendous amount of cash spent on textbooks that you are likely to never read again (sorry)

BUT NOW

you have to show up to work, teach in a classroom on your own (possibly), ensure you maintain your teacher registration, practice daily reflection on your work and a swathe of other obligations that I’m sure you will come to discover over the next few weeks.

Welcome to 2018.

Breathe.

I remember my first day after completing my degree. I was fortunate enough to get a contract teaching drama and english at a college in the ACT (I did not apply for permanency as I was convinced that I was going to Japan to teach. Pfft who needs a safety net). It was a pretty great contract and came off the back of some casual work I had completed there whilst I was finishing a couple of units at university. I was assigned both accredited and tertiary classes and my first lesson was with a tertiary drama strand on the topic of ‘masks’. I was taught the wonders of mask education by a master during my earlier pracs at this school and felt confident that I had this lesson in the bag.

The lesson plan (which took me at least a week to fully prep on its own) involved three stages – a warm up exercise, a series of action activities and a cool down sequence. The warm up exercise was a game that I had run with other classes and it involved four students forming a circle in the middle of the classroom and the remaining students lining up behind them. Two students were then nominated as chasers and the goal of the game was to move everyone down the line by running around the circle and touching the shoulder of the person in front to let them know that it is their turn to run. The line who completes a full rotation of people circling the group and sits down are the winners.

The goal of the game is to energise and build a sense of urgency and chaos in the room. I had taught in this room many times; it was a familiar space to me. The doors were wide-set double width wooden structures that led into a wide open carpeted space. The space was enclosed with black cotton curtains that hung floor to ceiling. The space behind the curtains was often used as a waiting space for students during performances or to store props and the like.

I failed to check behind the curtains before proceeding with the warm up. During a chasing episode a student tripped over their feet, fell into the black curtain and knocked their head on the corner of a desk that was being stored behind the drape. I watched in slow motion as the student crumbled to the floor in an unconscious heap.

BAM

This was not a good way to start the school year and this was definitely NOT in my lesson plan.

The student was checked by the school’s first aid staff and we concluded the class with a breathing exercise to clam down some students who were feeling overwhelmed by witnessing the incident. All my study and preparation paid up because I was able to handle the situation well and ended my day with a smile. My training had instilled instincts that helped me through a pretty tough situation.

So in these early weeks of your (hopefully) long career, try not to be too overwhelmed by the expectations of being a teacher and make some time to capture the unique moments that mark the beginning of your career.

Because you never know – it may be the experience that you one day, 12 years later, write about on some random education blog and laugh.

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