Teaching is a tough gig. I know that, you know that, maybe now some of the parents out there also know that *cough* remote learning *cough*.
So what do you need to have handy to help you survive this insane, incredible, and downright joyous job?
It’s no secret that teachers work late into the night and get up early in the morning. Especially around assessment time!
We are often running on less sleep than we’d like, and on top of that we’re often working with a higher mental and emotional load than we’d like too. Especially if you’re teaching middle or high school, or are a specialist teacher, and have upwards of 100 students in your care.
Cue the caffeine. The lifeblood of so many teachers it could honestly be renamed to teach-eine.
It matters not how you get your fix – coffee, tea, chocolate – just be a kind colleague and offer to share it around!
There will ALWAYS be someone who has forgotten something. A student during a lesson is a guarantee, but also a colleague during a meeting.
This will look different depending what you teach, but as a bare minimum keep a spare little notebook and pen or pencil with you at all times.
You can do as I did and take a fully equipped pencil case with you to each lesson. Simply look to your appropriate book-list to make sure you tick all the boxes.
If you’re concerned about loaning out equipment and never getting it back, do as I saw another teacher once do – exchange the stationery item for the student’s shoe. I can guarantee they’ll make the trade back at the end of the lesson!
Random topic-less lessons
Sometimes you have a spare lesson that doesn’t need to be filled with revision. Sometimes you’re covering someone else’s lesson and there’s no work set for you. Sometimes it’s a Friday afternoon and everyone is D.O.N.E.
In these times it’s eternally reassuring and stress-reducing to have a topic-less lesson up your sleeve. Think something that can be done no matter what equipment there is, what subject it’s meant to be, what year level you have.
I have a great ppt lesson with videos and activities all about pseudoscience and charlatans that are making a profit off their wild claims. Students *love* to be able to spot the ridiculous claims and outright lies, and it easily fills an hour.
When you have some spare time up your sleeve (HA!), set aside some of it to create a lesson you can call on in times of need. It could be as elaborate as I described, or it could be a simple template like a debate or discussion circle, a story-writing prompt, a card game, or even an escape room.
Sense of humour
You need this in absolute bucket loads, especially with the state of the world these days.
Students are getting more and more pressures, stressors, and anxiety-inducers (aren’t we all). Be a spark of light in their lives by keeping your sense of humour as alive as you can.
Try to find the amusing side to small accidents (“It’s called a beaker not a breaker… ha. ha.”). Lame jokes *always* go down well – see the one about caffeine above – the lamer the better, especially when you acknowledge how lame they are, or even better, pretend like it’s the funniest thing in the world.
Encourage problem solving when students make mistakes. Try not to make them feel bad about making a mistake, and always provide help when needed, no matter how out of patience you are.
Just remember that you don’t always know what is going on outside the classroom for your students, so keeping a sense of humour can really be so very helpful for them. It’s also very helpful for yourself, because it can help you to keep your own pressure and stress at bay.
Teacher *look* and *voice*
You will develop these pretty quickly, if you haven’t come into the profession with one ready-made.
It’s that look and that tone of voice that essentially tells the person on the end of it that they’ve crossed a line. It may take your students some time to recognise it, but it will save so many confrontations if used appropriately.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t have to be a mean or angry face/voice. Some of the most effective versions I’ve seen are a completely blank look, one eyebrow raised, disappointed, or unhappily surprised.
You might fine they come in handy in other areas of your life too – like those men who were wrestling outside the toilets at a pub once and I was trying to get past. They caught my eye, involuntarily out came the teacher look, and they immediately stopped wrestling, apologised, and bowed me through. Gosh that makes me sound like a cranky old lady, but I would have been 25 at the time, and they looked older than I did. Anyway.
Just don’t use your teacher look or voice on your significant other – they won’t react as well to it as those lads did…
Extra masks and sanitizer
There will always be someone who forgets their mask. If your area mandates it, or you personally feel more comfortable, then make sure you have a stock of masks handy! Add to that an extra bottle or two of hand sanitizer – I know some areas are not providing these for you (yet another expense us teachers have to fork out for).
What else do you keep in your teacher survival kit?