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Some people know from a very young age that they were born to teach. Others discover their love and talent for teaching later in life. Regardless of when you decided that teaching was for you, it’s never too early to start preparing to become an educator. Between taking subject area classes, studying teaching techniques, and student teaching, there is a lot of information to learn, retain, and apply before you even step foot into your own classroom.
Here at TCI, we are passionate educators who love seeing students learn. We love to help other teachers share their love of learning with their students, and we always strive to improve our curriculum and our own teaching methods. We love that there is a community of teachers all around us that rely on one another for support, encouragement, and advice. If you’re a soon-to-be teacher, whether you’re a few years or a few months away, we want to help you prepare yourself to be the best educator you can be.
Sure, once you have an actual classroom, subject, and grade level, you’ll have lesson plans to write, walls to decorate, and supplies to organize. But until that day comes, you can still do a great deal to prepare yourself for your first class as a teacher. Here are some things you can do while you’re in school, during breaks from school, and while you’re student teaching to help you prepare for your new up-and-coming role as a teacher.
Learn from Your Teachers
This one is pretty obvious, but it applies even before you’re student teaching or working full-time in a school. As you’re sitting in your own college classes, pay attention to your professors’ teaching methods. Are they engaging? Are you learning and retaining what they’re teaching? What could they do to better explain concepts? If a lecture is boring, try to figure out what specifically makes it boring and try to come up with some ideas on how you would improve it. You don’t need to be critical and negative all the time, but pay attention to what your own professors are doing well and not so well, and make a note of that for the future.
Pay Attention in Class
You are learning valuable information throughout your entire college experience that you will likely use while you’re teaching. Obviously, everything isn’t going to stick right away and you’re not going to apply everything you’re learning in that first year of teaching. But you’ll likely get to a tricky lesson or have a challenging student, and something helpful from a college class from years ago may pop back into your head. Keep your textbooks, take good notes, and mark or highlight important things you don’t want to forget.
Keep a Journal
Many successful people keep idea journals. Put it by your bed, keep it in your bag, or stick it on the kitchen table. When a great idea strikes—whether a lesson plan idea, writing prompt, or teaching technique—you can write it down. If your journal is nearby and accessible at all times, you’ll never forget any of those brilliant ideas that you want to try out when you’re a teacher one day. If a physical journal just isn’t for you, consider keeping notes on your phone that you can add to as needed.
Even if you know what curriculum you’ll be using when you teach, it’s always a good idea to explore different curriculums for a few reasons. First, you’ll know what other curriculums are out there and you’ll know the pros and cons of them. This may come in handy if your school is ever on the lookout for a new curriculum. Second, you’ll get to explore different teaching methods and lesson plan ideas that often come with curriculums. Third, you’ll start thinking more about standards that have to be met and how to get your students where they need to be with your lessons. TCI’s science curriculum and social studies curriculum are loved by many teachers, as they encourage outside-of-the-box thinking when it comes to teaching concepts and meeting standards.
Observe Other Teachers
You’ll get your fair share of this while you’re student teaching, but take every opportunity you can to get in a classroom and just watch what teachers do. Go to different grade levels, different subjects, and different schools. Pay close attention to how the teachers discipline, manage the classroom, teach the lessons, keep things organized, and more. Take notes, ask questions, and identify what you view as the strengths and weaknesses of each teachers’ methods. You may think you have a great idea for student discipline only to learn that it doesn’t work. Or you may observe a more effective organizational technique than you had originally planned on using that you can now implement in your classroom. As a side note, the more you get to know other teachers, particularly if they’re in the district or school you want to work in, the easier it will be to secure a job after graduation. Networking is important, even in education, and the more people you know in your field, the better off you’ll be.
Learn About the Students
Expectations can make or break a teaching experience. If you go into a second grade classroom expecting perfect students who never have to be disciplined and know every concept back to front, you’re going to be sorely disappointed very quickly. If you’re unsure about what age group you want to teach, spend time with kids in different grades and talk to the teachers about what the students are like. Making sure that you have realistic expectations about the students you’re going to be teaching is going to benefit both you and your students in the long run.
Tidy Up Everything
Being a teacher is no joke. Students are nosy, parents are demanding, and school administrators can be harsh. Clean up your social media pages completely—this means pictures, posts, likes, followers, everything. Then Google yourself and make sure everything that comes up is something you’re okay with a student, parent, or boss seeing. In addition to these online impressions, make sure your personal appearance is professional. Start now in building up a professional wardrobe that includes modest yet dressy clothing so that you’re not starting from scratch when you land your first job.
Teaching is an incredible profession that is so important in so many ways. If you’re a soon-to-be educator, we welcome you to the community of teachers and we want to encourage and support you in any way we can as you begin this amazing journey towards becoming an educator.