Do you remember the enthusiasm (or apprehension) you had on that first day when you stepped into your very own classroom? What would you say to yourself now….years on from that first day? Would you warn yourself off becoming a teacher or encourage you to do it again?
If you’ve been a teacher for a while you might be interested to know what other teachers think. Or, if you’re thinking about becoming a teacher then these responses may provide you with some much needed information to help your decision.
I asked teachers from across the globe one question:
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you decided to become a teacher?
The teachers share a wealth of knowledge, practical tips and insights that will be sure to provide you with the honest advice that you’ve been looking for.
The advice starts with the continual learning journey of being a teacher.
Finishing your studies as a teacher does not mean that you finish all of your learning. The journey of a teacher is about continual growth, trying to do things better and constant ‘ah ha’ moments.
Julie from Oz Curriculum HQ
Being a teacher is like being a perpetual student, you are always learning and trying to do things better, so that even after 12 years I still have stuff to learn and ‘ah ha’ moments every week.
Lisen from Second Grade Smartypants
I never realized how long it takes to feel like you have it semi together! The first year you are surviving, the second year you redo everything, and then finally the third year you finally start to get a handle on how you want things to run.
Krista from Teaching Monster
I wish I knew that college would NOT be the end of the learning because you have to keep up with the new trends in education and continue to learn with your kiddos!
Dealing with parents and other stakeholders
When I was at university I never took a class in ‘how to deal with parents’ or the myriad of other people involved in a child’s education. It seems that lack of parental involvement, parent apathy, talking with parents and consoling parents are all areas that teachers deal with on a regular basis.
Brooke from Teachable Moments
Sometimes it is about thinking about what you want to say instead of just responding with your heart – when you are dealing with administrators and parents alike.
Carol from Teachers Are Terrific
Nothing prepared me for dealing with parents. I wish I had more training in the early years of how to talk to parents, how to be honest and forthright, in a loving way. College did not prepare me for parent conferences, angry parents, parents that cry because they just don’t know what to do. College did not get me ready to deal with divorces, spouses that fight over custody, or children that are neglected. Despite learning a lot in the last 29 years I still don’t know what to say when a child tells me, “I am just miserably unhappy.” (That happened today, by the way.) What kind of conversation do I need to have with that child’s parents? So, I have learned to lean on my teacher friends and my very excellent principal when I need help. I did not do this in the early years, however, because I thought it was a sign of weakness on my part. I wish I had known that leaning on veteran teachers would teach me a lot!
Alisa from First Grade Fun Times
Very few parents nowadays accept responsibility for their children’s behavior during the school day.
Bec from Books, Bugs and Boxes
If a parent comes in angry 99% of the time what you or the school have or haven’t said or done isn’t the actual problem there’ll be something bigger affecting that parent or family. And that you’ll deal with far more personal family problems than you would expect but sometimes they just need you to listen.
I would have also appreciated more preparation at uni on how to interact with all stakeholders – parents, other professionals (speechies, O.T’s etc). I think some more time spent on the fact that not only are we there for our students needs, but also that of their families and how best to support them and yourself during difficult periods.
Yep teaching has paperwork as well. This is definitely one area that I did not think about when I wanted to be a teacher, but the dreaded paperwork can completely overtake your life.
Tania from Mrs Poultney’s Ponderings
That paperwork can and will overtake your life if you are not organised.
It has to be – more about special education and the paperwork involved with that aspect of teaching (for the non-special education teacher). Way back when I was in college 🙂 we took one class that lightly touched on students with special needs. Getting certified in both elementary education and special education was almost unheard of at the time. Within the last few years, I have seen a huge shift in the amount of paperwork, documentation and input from the general education teacher in regards to students that fall under the special education umbrella. This was an area that I had to learn “on the job”. I was woefully unprepared for this aspect of teaching. It is an area that consumes a large amount of my time during school hours, at nights and on the weekends.
It IS your life
Teaching is not your standard 9-5 job. There are many extra hours that are put in, on weekends, school holidays and after hours. And we do it for the love of the job.
Carol from Teachers Are Terrific
The main thing I tell anyone is that teaching is not a job. It is not a career. It is your life. You are a teacher 24/7. You are a teacher on Saturday morning when you dash to the drug store in your slippers and run into a parent. You are a teacher when you are dining out and see unruly children. You dream about your students, you write thank you notes on vacations, you go into any store with an eye out for something you can buy for your classroom. You save everything- just in case you need it some day. Would I change my profession had I known this? Absolutely not! The only thing I would do differently is make more time for my own personal children. I did sometimes miss things at their schools that I should have been at- because I was at my school (like the first day of school).
I wish I had realized that teaching is not a 8-5 job. One of the reasons I chose to teach was that everyone says it’s a good “mom job.” However, my first 2years at least I felt like it was a horrible mom job. My poor daughter hardly ever had anytime with me – I was always focused on creating lesson plans or communicating with parents. I worked from 5am-9pm most days. While there is a of satisfaction that comes from seeing students succeed, it also takes a lot of extra work.
Jessica from What I Have Learned
It’s 24/7. I really don’t leave teaching at school. Being a teacher is part of who I am and permeates everything I do.
I always hear that teaching is the perfect job when you have a family because you can have the same schedule as your kids . . . well, I have two toddlers and it’s a stressful job to have kids at school and kids at home that need you all the time. My introverted self doesn’t do well with all the demands on my time. I guess the idea that if affects your whole life; it’s not just a job that is left at school when you close the door and go home.
Lauren from Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep
That if you are truly passionate about teaching it will become a much larger part of your life than you might have thought. Your heart belongs to your kids and there’s always new things to learn, research and develop so it’s important to actively maintain a work/home life balance.
Diane from Fifth in the Middle
Whether it’s papers to grade, figuring out a new way to reach students, or worrying about a particular student, it’s nearly impossible to leave work at work.
That it isn’t an 8:00-3:00 job with weekends, holidays and summers off. i truly had no idea of how much time and energy it takes to keep up with the constant changing standards, curriculum and student situations that affect the way I teach.
Paula from Paula’s Place
I wish I had of known the lovely all encompassing way my job permeates my life. There are not so many jobs that you jump out of bed for, that drive you mad late at night, that worry you, that make us strive to do better each and everyday. I couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything else.
Teaching is not just about teaching….and spending all day in the classroom with your students. There are many extra tasks that pull at a teacher’s time.
That you only teach about 15% of the time – the rest of your time consists of planning, assessment, data collection and reporting, oneschool, professional development, portfolios and arguing with non-teachers about how you don’t laze around all holidays enjoying cocktails and reading!! Unless you’re really organised which I certainly am not haha
Carmen from Book and Bliss
I wish I would have known about all the ‘extra’ responsibilities surrounding my job. In college I got this vision of being in a classroom teaching children, which is the most important element, but that is not the entire picture. I knew I would spend my time before and after school prepping and grading, but the reality is I spend that time talking to upset parents, collaborating with colleagues, and creating behavior reports. A lot of pre-service teachers tell me that they want to teach because they love kids. That is essential. But incomplete. The kids take center stage in our job–but there are also many, many other elements hanging out in the wings.
Beth from Common Core Galore and More
This question made me think quite a bit. I wish I had known a combination of things before I started teaching because my college didn’t prepare me for a lot of things…
I wish I had known to always let the parent speak first in a conference. I wish I had known different strategies for managing my class better in the first years of teaching. I wish I had known how to fill out Success Plans, 504’s, and IEPs, instead of mumbling confusion at a meeting. I wish I had known how hard it is to find a teaching job right now. I wish I had known that you can’t make everyone happy no matter what you do..
That when the afternoon home bell went I could finish the day too not just start hours of preparation, meetings, paperwork, report writing and much more which doubled the hours of face to face teaching each day.
How exhausted you will constantly feel, how much of your own money you will spend and how much over time/meetings you are expected to hold and attend!
Classroom experience and preparation
Nothing really prepares you for being in the classroom, and having that experience. You definitely don’t know it all when you finish your studies and sometimes classroom experience is what you need to ‘really know’ what you’re doing!
Daina from Sticky Notes & Glitter
I wish I would have known that the classes you take to get your education degree really don’t prepare you for the real world classroom and expectations!
Krista from Teaching Monster
I wish I would have known that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did! I thought I knew everything it took to be a good teacher and that I could do it so much better than some veteran teachers. But, there is nothing like classroom experience to really know what you are doing!
Yara from Sea of Knowledge
I currently tutor and teach ESL and have been for four years – I taught primary school for a year. I wish I was aware of the essential preparation needed BEFORE setting foot in the classroom. Mainly refering to behaviour management and social education. The amount of time I spent on those skills (with no material and just winging it) were endless! I’m now more prepared though, but I’d advise any starting teacher to prep herself/himself with more than just educational material but techniques and ways to manage behaviour and teach social skills.
How to look un-flustered, and still operate even though you are panicking internally.
You certainly do get attached to the little munchkins. And sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye at the end of the year. You’ll always wonder how that little ‘Johnny’ turned out.
Nicole from Learning Lab
I never realized how attached I would get to my students each year! I love when they come back to visit.
Pam from S.O.L Train
Each year is different because our students are all unique with different needs. There is no cookie cutter way of teaching.
Zanah from Mrs. Mccauley
Take the time to really get to know your students. Having a meaningful conversation with him/her is more important to the than what’s on the lesson plans. Relationships are key!
Karri from One Sassy Teacher
I wish I knew how important it is to just truly BELIEVE in each and every one of your students. Even the difficult ones (whose fault is not theirs for their behavior). To look them in the face and tell them, “You can do this,” and really mean it is a powerful statement to present to your class.
Kim from Life Over C’s
I homeschool, but…. I never realized what it would be like to be a 1st year teacher, every year. Since we change grade levels every year it’s like starting from scratch each time. Even with the younger kids, their learning styles are always different enough to require a completely different approach.
A second home
You and your students will spend a great deal of time in the classroom and it’s important to make it inviting, safe and engaging.
Sara from Miss V’s Busy Bees
I wish that I would have known how much work you truly had to put into setting up your classroom before your students come. Your education classes in college do NOT prepare you for the amount of money you pull from your own pocket to make your classroom feel like your second home… not just a second home for you, but for your kiddos, too. They’re there nearly as much as you are (except for a few hours perhaps).. but regardless, you all share the room on a daily basis, so to make it feel comfortable is a must.
What Do You Think?
Which response resonates with you the most?
I’d also love to read your response to the question: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you decided to become a teacher? Also, if you’re studying to be a teacher or thinking about being a teacher, what’s your biggest question?
For more thoughts and ideas on what it’s like being a teacher, see these:
- Being A Teacher: Concerns, Needs And What’s Lacking
- 50 Mind-Blowing Reasons You’re A Top Notch Teacher
- Tales From A First Year Teacher: Will I Ever Get A Job
Graphic & Font Credit: Graphics From The Pond
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