A Letter to my Pre-Teacher Self: A Warning against Perfectionism

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One year ago today, I graduated University with a History Degree. One year ago today, I was half way through Summer Institute with Teach First. One year ago today, I supposedly stopped being a student and became an adultly graduate (Ha!). Now I have passed my PGCE, I am a fully qualified teacher and I am counting down to being back in the classroom for September.

I thought I would take this opportunity, to reflect upon the last year (I am now a well-versed “reflective practitioner”) and give past me, and any other new teachers or trainees, some advice about the world of teaching.

Dear pre-teacher me,

Stop worrying. I know you are. You are worrying about having your first proper job; you are worrying whether your class will like you; you are worrying that your colleagues will think you are too young and inexperienced; and you are worrying if you have made the right career decision. You are even worrying that you are not worrying enough and that you’ve forgotten something. Stop right now. Because all of those worries will ease as soon as you are in the classroom and, although some of those doubts will creep up throughout your first year, those worries are not helpful or necessary.

You got this. You will make it work. Because you want to and that is why you are going to train to be a teacher.

Sure it’s your first job as a graduate and it is more difficult than working in a shop like you did before. But it is also a ton better than listening to hello sir/ madam…beep….beep…do you need a bag today?…beep every day! You are doing a job that you have wanted to do since you were in school and you have been told, by nearly every teacher, that it is the right career for you. Yeah the admin, data, planning side is dull and tedious (just like the media and past participants of Teach First says it is) but teaching the children makes will make it all worth it. Ignore that and go in with an open mind.

Remember at your interview when you were asked why you wanted to work with children? The first and most honest answer that came to mind was because they made you laugh and smile. Keep that in mind throughout the year, because they should be your priority. Not data or marking or planning. If it doesn’t benefit them, then I would question why the hell you’re doing it. Those children will stop being referred to as “my class” they will become “my kids”. They will keep you going throughout the year, and hopefully through the many more years to come.

And as for whether they will like you. You treat them with unconditional positivity and empathy, which you must have to even want to enter this profession. Then of course they will. Spoiler: They’ll think you’re the bee’s knees because “you’re the same age as my sister Miss” plus you know how to dab and know all the words to Watch me Nae Nae. When you’re not there, they’ll miss you. And when you’re not there, you’ll miss them.

And as for the other colleagues. Use your age; your flexibility and humility from your “lack of experience”; and your tolerance for the weirdness of today’s children to your advantage. Because it’s likely that many other members of staff in your school will have a dwindling reserve of positivity and imagination for this profession. Utilise colleagues and Teaching Assistants with more experience and ask for their advice. If they are not willing to give it, then it is their loss. If they are, rejoice in how you can collaborate.

As for teaching being a life-long career. It’s far too early to be worrying about that. Just enjoy it for everything it is. Focus on the positives and do not dwell on the negatives and bad days (there will be many). Remember the jokes the children tell you; the hilarious excuses they tell you for forgetting their reading journal; the stories they write with you as a dragon that eats your TA; the moments when they come to you to feel safe and happy.

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Me: Trying to get things perfect on day 1

You’re in for a roller-coaster of a year. Try not to worry or stress. It’s your first year as a teacher, it does not all have to be perfect on day one. Or your in first week, or month, or even a year (Round of applause for you if you read that with the Friends’ theme tune!). It will not make or break the children’s experience of school if you can’t write behaviour plans without support or struggle to plan each and every lesson to be a WOW lesson. Enjoy being a teacher and learn from the experience and from the children. You will be a different person in a year’s time. For the better.

And, another main spoiler alert, you won’t even get to finish your first year with your class as you get signed off sick. You spent too long worrying and feeling stressed because you just couldn’t get things perfect. It will hurt not being with them for the final few weeks of term and hearing how they miss and worry about you. You utter numpty. Do not worry, you are a good teacher.

Yours sincerely,

You

x

PS: Enjoy going to the toilet whenever you want and eating leisurely lunches!

PPS: Cut your hair. Keep it short. Tie it up at school. Nits.

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