7 mistakes to avoid as a new teacher

There are certain mistakes that plague those in the teaching profession, especially if you’re a new teacher in the field.

To save yourself from embarrassment and worry, we’ve prepared a list of the most common culprits that stop naive teachers in their tracks. So, read on, make notes and put your best foot forward.

1.  Taking it personally

Look, it happens. We all remember school and we all had teachers that we loved (or hated!). At some point, a student might answer back, or a teacher may offer you critical advice. It’s important to take these in your stride and carry on.

Students have bad days too and you have no idea what their home life is like. You might even receive an apology, but don’t worry if you don’t.

As for the teacher, they’re simply offering advice that’ll help you improve. They’re not criticising your suitability for the job. Your thick skin will grow over time, so try not to dwell on it when you first start.

2.  Not talking to colleagues

Your colleagues are there to help, not hinder. Chances are, they’ll have bundles of experience in their respective positions, which they’re sure to pass on if required.

Many first-time teachers get caught up in their daily tasks, without leaving room for discussion. That’s understandable, as you’ll be managing an ever-increasing workload.

However, if you isolate yourself, you run the risk of burning out. Teaching isn’t a career for ‘lone wolves’. It’s a team effort, no matter what you decide to teach.

An expert in Maths might need assistance from an English teacher, while a professor of Sociology may need to consult a Science teacher.

Teaching is full of interesting twists and turns, so you’ll need your colleagues to help you navigate.

3.  Not talking to students

Many teachers use the phrase ‘don’t smile until Christmas’. In our opinion, this is extremely bad advice. You need to exert authority, true, but you also need to be someone that your pupils turn to for advice.

It’s a fine balance to tread, but it’s one that you should learn to master. Or at least, try to master!

As previously mentioned, your students have problems of their own. There’s no need to aggressively push for discipline, and there’s no need to avoid contact with your students either.

The best teachers work with their students, looking at their strengths and weaknesses to decide what works best for them.

4.  Avoiding engagement

We get it. You’re a new teacher and you want to fill your lessons with exciting content that your students are sure to love. You go through everything as per your plan and you ensure that your content lasts the standard hour length.

But wait, your students are underperforming on mock tests and examinations. How can this be?  You must ask questions. Your students aren’t going to learn without engagement.

You might be going through the content alongside them, but it’s something that you’ve (hopefully) prepared in advance.

Your students have never seen your lesson plan before, so they need to be engaged throughout. Whether you’re asking questions or creating activities, you must constantly refresh their knowledge.

5.  Wearing casual dress

There’s a reason schools have uniforms and we’re not talking about student attire here. While casual clothes may seem to make you more approachable, they might undermine your authority.

Who are you going to listen to? Someone in a shirt and tie, or someone with their favourite cartoon character on a T-shirt? And we love cartoons.

Stick to what you know. Make sure you wear professional attire at all times, unless your school is hosting a special event. (In which case, go wild.) If you’re unsure, ask a fellow teacher. They’d be happy to help.

6.  Being too friendly

Yes, that’s right. There is such a thing as being too friendly. You are there to teach and promote the positive development of your students. You are not their friend.

That might seem harsh, but it’s ultimately true. An overly friendly attitude might work against your wishes, as you may find that your students don’t respect your authority.

Just as we previously mentioned, there’s a fine line between being too friendly and being overly aggressive. You need to find that line and you need to stick to it. (It comes with practise!)

7.  Avoiding organisation

What do you mean, avoiding organisation? Well, it can happen. We’ve seen teachers fall prey to the hustle and bustle of the classroom, as they deviate from lesson plans. We’ve also seen teachers that forgo creating a plan altogether, as they scramble to find something to teach.

You need to start strong to avoid problems later. Create a long-term plan and stick to it! Bad habits are hard to break and may have a negative impact on your pupils. To ensure their success, you must also work your socks off. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

Final thoughts

Starting a role as a new teacher is always daunting, but you’re in a unique position, as you’ll learn and grow alongside your students. You’re likely to make some mistakes along the way, but that’s ok.

This guide aims to assist your growth, but mistakes are ultimately part of the learning process! For further information about REESON Education, including the latest teaching roles throughout London, visit our website.

About the author: Gavin Doyle is an educational recruitment consultant at REESON Education, London’s premier teaching recruitment industry. Originally from Truro in Cornwall, Gavin now resides in Kingston-upon-Thames and has worked in recruitment for 11 years. Prior to this, Gavin spent six years teaching PE in schools across Cornwall.