I’ve realised that being a teacher means having no real holidays. Honestly, I’m on my vacation at the moment, but I can’t stop thinking about the coming academic year, my students etc. I’ve just remembered my first year. The school in Latvia starts in September therefore August is a very busy month for teachers. Since I’m deadly against improvisation in teaching, PREPARATION and ORGANIZATION are the key words. There’re a couple of things I wish I’d known before I started my new year. I’ve decided to share them in case there’s a newcomer among the teachers of English out there.
1. get ready
Your work doesn’t start on the first day of school. The month of August or whichever is the last month before the school starts should be the time when you start collecting interesting ideas or activities such as timefillers, icebreakers etc. You need to have a clear vision of the whole first week with your new students. This involves making sure you know how you will introduce yourself to your students and what you will do on the first week (first weeks very often are quite confusing and messy as the teaching materials sometimes aren’t delivered to the school yet). So in order to avoid improvisation you have to be ready.
2. know the resources that are at your disposal
It’s neccesary to know what materials you need to find yourself and what things are already available at the school or academy you will be teaching. You have to make sure you know what you’ll need (make a list of things starting from a set of flashcards ending with pencil sharpeners) and find out how many things your employer can provide you with. Have a look at the library and teaching resources room as well as printing and scanning possibilities at your working place.
3. visit the nearest stationery store
This may sound silly but you cannot imagine the amounts of paper you will soon be sinking in, the amounts of pens and pencils your students will borrow from you and will never give you back etc. In order to avoid the mess around you everything has to be organised into folders, each folder needs a name or the number of the group. In other words you decide on the way you want to organize everything, but it has to be done from day one.
4. the little red book
Well, mine is red, but the colour isn’t really important. The most important thing is to have a notebook where you put down absolutely everything concerning your classes, interesting ideas, links, names of your students, homework you’ve given, exam dates etc. Don’t try to keep everything in your head (it’s not necessary) and don’t put it down on little piecies of paper (they get lost somehow).
5. know the people
There’s always something that can go wrong and unfortunately it’s very likely to happen when you’re a new teacher. No need to worry! This happens to the best of us. The biggest mistake I made was when I tried to solve everything myself, whatever it was. It could be a discipline problem with a student, lack of materials, irrelevance of the materials etc. However, we have to remember that there’s always somebody who you can address in case of a problem and definitely need to know this person and how to contact him/her BEFORE the problem gets in your way. Anything that bothers you or doesn’t let you do your job properly IS a problem so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Keep these 5 cornerstones in mind and I hope you’ll have the best summer ever. Good luck!