You go to school for at least four years to learn all that you need to know about teaching. Why is it then, that when you come out and you start putting that knowledge into practice, you realize there are a lot of things you didn’t know? College cannot prepare you for everything you will learn about being a teacher. Let’s take a look at a few things we wished we had known.
Here are five things college doesn’t tell you about teaching:
1. College does not prepare you for the connection you’ll make with your students. You’re going to love them like they are your own. You may not be expecting that. You might even cry at the end of the year or if some of your students move away. You will spend so much of your own money caring for these children. It may even keep you up at night because they share their home life with you and areas of need. Sometimes your heart will be stretched in ways you cannot imagine but thank goodness your students have you. You also build up this love that is unconditional. I can remember being on the playground with another class and thinking to myself, “I could never have that kid in my class and survive.” The truth is that I did have students with issues in my class each year but I loved them regardless.
2. They don’t tell you how to manage your classroom. They don’t prepare you on what to do when kids start acting out, when they don’t listen to you, or when students are fighting amongst themselves. Student needs also far surpass behaviors. They also have sensory needs, fine motor and gross motor needs, speech needs, etc. Sometimes managing a classroom is like herding cats. It is not for the faint of heart. The good news is that you learn to recognize specific needs in children and you become their biggest advocate. They will be successful because of you. Don’t be afraid to other teachers or administers questions if you are unsure how to help a child. This is how you learn. You will return the favor one day.
3. Most professors don’t tell you how to teach your children to make a difference. You’re doing more than just teaching a curriculum. You’re also helping to shape the future. You teach manners, being kind, how to use the restroom and how to take care of themselves. You will fill shoes bigger than you can imagine. Whatever gaps they come in with, you will find a way to fill them. If you go into teaching with the philosophy of, “That’s not my job,” you are going to really struggle. No, washing your hands properly, learning to tie their shoes and share classroom materials may not be on the report card but these are things that children must learn to be a successful student so you swoop in and save the day with your wisdom and guidance.
4. They don’t tell you how to teach writing. Writing is one of the most important skills you will ever teach your students. They’re going to take it with them for the rest of their lives. This is my most popular session to teach in PDs and at conferences. You can check out my system here.
5. College doesn't teach you about school communities. There will be other teachers, and cliques, and gossip. There will be office/school politics. There will be more to your school community that you anticipate going in. You will also deal with parents that will never like you. It’s not personal. Nothing you do can make them happy. This is when you have to come to the understanding that you cannot make everyone happy.
Your job is to love and teach those children and everything else is just details. Don’t surround yourself with negativity. Also, comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s not a competition. When you do what is best for your class, your kids win. That is all that matters. Each day is a new beginning with a new serving is joy. That joy is yours. Don’t let anyone else steal it. Hold on to it and rock it like a new pair of fancy shoes.
So, if you’re feeling anything on this list, know that you are not alone. As education changes and children change, so will the expectations of teachers. Right or wrong, please know that you are so appreciated and necessary. Even when you don’t get to seeds you plant grow, please know that you did your job and when you pass the baton, things begin to bloom. Together we can make a difference in the lives of so many children. Stay the course because we need you!
What are some other things college didn’t tell you about teaching?