16 Things  Learned In 16 Months of Teachers College

1. When you call home to a parent/guardian, the first thing they want to hear is that their child is fine

If you need to call home, but the child is fine, let that be the first thing the other person on the line hears. I’m not a parent, but I think we all know how it feels to get an unexpected call in the middle of the day from someone you weren't expecting to get a call from. If you’re calling home for any reason (good or bad), make sure you tell them that their child is fine before moving forward with anything else. A kindie student in my class had wet her pants and she didn't have a change of clothes. My associate teacher wanted me to call home to see if her parents could bring her a change of clothes. I was going to start the conversation by saying so and so "had an accident in class"... without thinking much about it. But how terrible would that have been for the parents to hear. Accident? Be mindful of the word choices you use. Save parents from that unnecessary anxiousness, and start every conversation by saying " Hi, [insert name here], is fine, I was just calling because..." it will make for a much smoother conversation. 

2. Don't burn bridges, it's not worth it

You won’t agree with everything (or everyone) especially when you're in a classroom that isn't yours. Whether it’s a faculty member or associate teacher, learn as much as you can from them, even if it’s just learning what NOT to do. You will have mentors who'll be rooting for you , and others you wish you hadn't met. Regardless, you won’t know who you'll cross paths with in the future. Don't burn bridges. 

3. the more you teach the more comfortable you'll become

It's often assumed that being a good teacher means you're a natural. I've come to learn that teaching is so complex, it's impossible to be a natural in every aspect of it. You'll learn about your strengths and you'll have time to work on your weaknesses. You may even bomb a few lessons and that's okay. Some of the greatest ah-ha moments will come when your lessons don't go the way you envisioned. The more experience you have teaching, the more comfortable you will become. Being a new teacher is like doing improv for the first time. At the beginning, it may feel awkward but with more and more practice you'll find your groove. 

4. Find a teaching mentor that genuinely cares About your success

This has been the one piece of advice I've gotten that has remained the same throughout my teaching journey. During my last practicum, I was sitting in the staff room when another teacher came in and shared how important it is to find a genuine mentor. His first year of teaching was extremely overwhelming. He was so anxious about falling behind that he was only getting 3-4 hours of sleep every night. He would rush into work and often stay late nights. He was burning out and burning out fast. He quickly realized that striving for perfection every single day was impossible and there was no sense to worry about all the potential little things that could go wrong. Once he found a more experienced teacher to confide him, things starting falling into place. He had someone to remind him of the big picture and guide him along the way. 

Now that I'm applying for jobs, I've come to realize that having a mentor is very crucial. Don't wait until you have your own classroom to find one. Most people do like to help whenever they can. 

5. It's okay to have mixed feelings

It's okay to have mixed feelings about the teaching profession. It's a hard job that often lacks recognition and respect. I've stood in a classroom beaming at the fact that I've found my calling all the while silently crying over all the work that goes into this every day. It's okay to have mixed feelings, most teachers do. 

6. Being a student teacher is hard

Some associate teachers will tell you to treat their classroom like your own. In reality, it simply isn't possible. Classroom management styles are often already implemented and it'll be hard to make their classroom your own when you wouldn't run things like them. A challenge that comes with being a student teacher is entering someone else's teaching and learning space and treating it as your own. At times you may even be forced to emulate what your associate teacher does. Just remember, that when you have your own classroom things will be different. You also won't have an associate teacher constantly looking over your shoulder. 

7. Having conversations with principals can be scary. Try anyway

I like to think of myself as a pretty social person, but when it comes to interacting with principals I immediately shut down.  I'm starting to realize that principals - like all of us new teachers - have stood in our shoes before. Most of them really do want to offer guidance wherever they can. If you don't take the time to reach out to them, they may never get around to reaching out to you. They have a lot on their plate and you need to advocate for yourself and make meaningful connections whenever possible. Introduce yourself as early as you can, and ask the principal if they'll come watch you teach when they're not too busy. Putting yourself out there earlier on into a practicum block is important. If you wait until the last week or two the conversations will be a lot more forced and a lot harder to start.

8. Teachers - Like all people - are living contradictions

People are living contractions. You might not be able to change what they do (or say), but you CAN change what you do. If you talk the talk you need to walk the walk. Teachers - like all people- are living contradictions and it's the most frustrating thing. The same teachers that speak about the importance of mental health in the classroom can be totally unapproachable people. How can you teach someone something if you can't even do it yourself? Students need compassionate and approachable teachers in their corner. They need and deserve a teacher that is free of judgement. People are often living contradictions. You however, do not have to be.

9. Looking for teaching resources? It doesn't always have to be online

When we think of resources, we instantly head towards the web. I've learned that there are so many places to look for resources, especially when it comes to needing something for the classroom. Value Village and random other thrift spots are home to the cheapest and most practical dramatic play toys. It's also a great place to look for used books. 

10. Win friends (at teachers college) and influence one another

Faculty of Education programs are usually a lot smaller and a lot more tight knit compared to other undergraduate faculties. This makes it even easier to find someone to connect with. There are so many group projects in teachers college that it's important to find people you enjoy being around. There is nothing worse than doing a group project with people you can't connect with. At some point we've all worked with difficult people, but having to go through the emotions of a dysfunctional group over and over again will take a toll on you. Making a solid group of friends was the greatest part of teachers college. Like any experience in life, it's the people that'll make it. 

11. BURNING OUT? Balance is important during practicum blocks

It's really weird going from seeing your friends in class everyday to doing your own thing during a practicum block. It can leave you feeling very detached from what you're use to, and quite honestly a little blue. During my first practicum (the most challenging of the three), I would get home and completely isolate myself until I got all my prep work done. I wasn't use to planning and hadn't found my groove yet. I completely pushed my social life in the back burner - the worst thing I could have done for myself. I enjoy being around other people and I knew I had to find a place I could work without going stir-crazy. I started doing all my prep work in a public space and was able to talk about my burn out with others (aka my wonderfully beautiful Starbucks crew!!!). If you're feeling burned out, change your routine. Go see a movie. Do something. Just get out. Your mental health is important.  

12. It's never too early to teach empathy

There's no one way to teach empathy. The important thing is that we do it and do it often. There are so many things in the curriculum that we are forced to cover, but teaching students about empathy and compassion should be rooted into everything we do. With everything going on in the world, it's important as educators that we do our part in educating the future generations about what injustices looks like - what bullying looks like. Using real life examples is the perfect way to teach social justice to kids. How you communicate these examples will vary from grade to grade, but it's important to implement them and have productive discussions whenever possible.

13. Listen to your students, they'll teach you things... Especially the little ones

I have learned so much from my students, far more than I could possibly ever teach them. Kids are such curious beings, especially the ones in primary. Their humour is so darn authentic and they're not afraid to say what's on their mind. They are honest. They are bold. They are fierce. When you look and listen you'll realize that they teach you things every day - things far more important than any curriculum connection or learning goal you've got planned.

14. Snacking is an important part of the day

Leave it to your students (especially the kindies) to teach you the importance of snacking. 

15. There's no right or wrong way to use your Bachelors of Education

When I started teachers college, I always thought that as an Ontario certified teacher everyone's priority was to land a teaching job in a public school in Ontario. I've started to realize that there is far more to teaching than the typical route everyone talks about. Quite frankly, it's annoying hearing public school teachers put down private school teachers and visa versa. At the end of the day, if you're happy and content with what you've got going, that's all that should matter. I've heard my own peers put down international teaching opportunities and being confused as to why anyone would choose to do that over applying for something in Ontario. There is so much to see and do in the world, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. If it feels right for you, go for it.

16. The best lesson you'll ever learn is to pay attention to what is going on around you and learn from your mistakes 


A 24 year old Canadian living (& teaching) in Shenzhen, China.