Confessions of a High School English Teacher

As a young high school teacher, I have learned a lot in the past few years. I am still learning every day, but I am lucky to have had a great support system inside and outside the workplace. Teaching is not an easy career, but it is certainly rewarding. Every day I see progress in my students, and I recognize that although my work can be tough, I am truly making a positive difference in the lives of my students, and that’s what keeps be going in tough times.

Here are the five most important tips and strategies I’ve learned since I began teaching high school, three years ago.

1. Adapt.

It’s easy for a new teacher to think that every class will be the same, but that is never the case. I’ve taught nine different Grade 9 English classes and each one came with a different set of students with a totally different vibe and attitude. It’s important to be able to adapt your lessons for the students’ abilities and interests. If you know their interests, you can use examples and jokes from their lives. I made countless Jersey Shore references in my first year of teaching.

2. Be relatable, but professional.

This is advice for young high school teachers; dress and act like you are ten years older. When I first started teaching, I was a mere two years older than my oldest student. Creating a barrier between student and teacher is very important. Your students shouldn’t think that they can go for a drink with you after class.

3. Listen.

This is the most important tip I can give a new teacher. Your students will tell you (either upfront or with their behaviour) if you are doing something wrong. Listen to them, get to know them, and make them understand that their opinion matters. If a student tells you that her favourite hockey team is the Maple Leafs, bring it up during a lesson or in conversation at a later date. Your students need to know that you care about them, and the easiest way to tell them is to show them you’re listening.

4. Go the extra mile.

Do something awesome like shave your head or dress up like a banana. The more outgoing you are and the more initiative you take, the more respect you’ll get from your students. And the more fun you’ll have at work!

5. Develop strong relationships with your co-workers.

If you are friends with your co-workers, your life as a teacher will be so much easier. Don’t be shy. Invite a co-worker over for a glass of wine. Confide in your co-workers if you’re having a tough day. Chances are they’ve been there too. If you’re going to work each morning to hang out with friends, your job will feel a lot less like work.

Hopefully these tips and strategies help you to make the transition from student to teacher less overwhelming. Teaching can be incredibly difficult, but with every hardship comes a reward if you hang in there and keep a positive attitude.

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