How to get through your first year of teaching

For any new teacher, standing in front of a class is daunting – professionally and emotionally. Here are some tips to help you prepare, adapt and conquer nerves and self-doubt

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1 Sep 2022
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A Chinese adage holds that, in broad translation, “to have a brilliant performance, you need to play the prologue well; to have a great movement, you need to play the overture well”, which is to say that beginnings are important.

As a new teacher, how well you get through your first year of teaching is crucial to your career. However, as a new teacher, it is hard not to feel your lack of teaching experience.

The process of shifting from student to teacher presents many challenges. The difficulties include not just how to master practical skills such as classroom management and lesson planning, but also soft skills such as presentation, confidence and communication. Many new teachers will show varying degrees of reserve or even shyness. Even if they do careful preparation before class, the reality of the classroom can often mean it is difficult to implement their original teaching plan.

In psychological terms, when the individuals suddenly find themselves in the role of teacher, they will likely experience a rush of thoughts and emotions and may experience feelings such as loss of control and tension (even if unconsciously). Three main psychological states may result:

  1. Impatience. Shifting from being a student to a teacher requires psychological adaptation; many new teachers might not adapt to the environment quickly, so they may show impatience. This can manifest in many ways during teaching, such as speaking too quickly during a lesson, speaking in a way that comes across as mechanical or inflexible, being too rigid in facial expression, lack of organisation of the class or not considering the ability of students to absorb new knowledge.
  2. Inferiority complex. Some new teachers doubt their ability; they think that they are not suitable to be a teacher or lack the necessary professional skills. They worry that their knowledge cannot meet the needs of the curriculum, are not sure about the contents of the lectures, and are afraid of being made fun of by students. Therefore, in order not to expose their weaknesses in front of others, they dare not boldly communicate with students, and as a result the lectures can be conformist and lack innovation.
  3. Mental tension. Some new teachers find that being in this new environment is stressful. This directly affects their teaching activities and work efficiency. For example, new teachers who are under stress might come to the lectern nervous, with a pounding heart, blushing, not knowing where to look, not knowing where to put their hands and feet, uncoordinated, unfocused, slower in their thinking than usual and so on.

Survival tips for new teachers

Generally, new teachers are young and lack teaching skills and experience; their teaching style is still in the initial imitation stage. They worry about whether they can complete the teaching plan according to the schedule of the class.

However, in their first year, a new teacher must make a continuous effort to find suitable teaching methods and models so as to lay a good foundation for their career. Based on my personal experience, the following measures will be helpful to successfully pass the first year of teaching.

Adapt to a teaching mindset

Tackle the psychological adjustment, and adapt to the role of teacher as soon as possible. Be prepared psychologically, mentally and behaviourally to fulfil what society expects of us as teachers.

Be prepared

Prepare every class meticulously. Teaching practice has proved that good preparation is the prerequisite for a good lesson, and the more fully the teacher prepares the lesson, the better result the teaching will produce. Lesson preparation is an important way for teachers to improve their understanding of educational theory, their professional level and their teaching art. In terms of the teaching process, it is necessary to set a clear teaching purpose for each lesson, and to highlight key learning outcomes and potentially difficult points. Think about your teaching language; it should be vivid, lively and interesting, logical and easy to understand. And as for the teaching method, be flexible, keep lessons focused and provide appropriate inspiration to the students.

Practise and revise your performance

Try again and again and summarise carefully. Rehearsal is the key to a good lecture. New teachers should make sure they understand both the content and teaching methods of each class, and practise in advance as much as is practical. Through rehearsal, problems can be found in time and corrected one by one.

Another indispensable way of improving teaching quality is to analyse carefully and summarise teaching experience in real time. After each class, timely self-analysis must be done. What can we do better to achieve the original plan? Are there any shortcomings? What was not considered in the course preparation? What are the reactions of students in learning? What should we pay attention to in the next class?

After each class, we should carefully recall and summarise the problems that we had during class and find appropriate solutions in time. Through continuous attempts and summaries, the class quality will gradually improve.

Consider your students as individuals

Teach students in accordance with their aptitude. Even if it is the same course, different classes will have different reactions. Therefore, new teachers should take the initiative to go deep into the class, understand the characteristics and knowledge base of the students, then teach in accordance with their character and abilities to ensure that students get better learning outcomes.

Show up as a professional

In addition, in the teaching process, pay attention to our own appearance, present yourself as a person with an affable personality, talk with the students to show concern and consideration for them and to establish an emotional connection with students. This will help you to become a good teacher and helpful ally to your students.

Every class is not only the teacher teaching and the students learning. Both teachers and students feel the surge of life and grow together in the classroom, including in knowledge and other aspects of satisfaction and development. Teachers fully display their wisdom, personality and charm. Students have always appreciated a harmonious and pleasant atmosphere. Through continuous efforts, we believe that your teaching will bring the vitality and life into the classroom.

Beiting He is assistant professor in the School of Liberal Arts at the Macau University of Science and Technology.

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