Schools Top tips for your first year of teaching

IStock/Svitlana Hruts

I still remember the feeling of excitement – and the nerves – on my very first day of teaching. At the end of the day with my new class, I sat down with a cup of tea and felt a great sense of pride at what I had achieved in reaching that point. My years of study had finally paid off and I was finally able to get out there and teach my own class. I had a lot of questions, but I also knew that in time I would find my feet. It took me at least a term to feel that I had got a handle on the role of ‘being a teacher’ and the nuances of a classroom.

When you start out in teaching, there is a lot to learn in a short amount of time and at times it can feel overwhelming. It is important to acknowledge that you cannot possibly have perfected the many aspects of the role in one term. So, here are my top tips for a successful year ahead.

Maintain membership
Being a union member is a great career move. We can support you in many different areas such as professional development, support networks and, of course, your rights and entitlements at work. Remember to make contact with us at any time, so that we can answer your questions.

Find out who your union representative is
If you haven’t already met the union representatives at your school, make an effort to ask around and find out who they are. Union reps are a wonderful resource of advice and information. They will know how the various aspects of your enterprise agreement (the Victorian Government Schools Agreement) are implemented at your workplace.

Set boundaries for work‑life balance
As much as possible, establish strict boundaries and preserve some mental space to not think about work. For example, do not have work emails set up on your phone, as you will more likely check them during non-working hours. 

Engage with your mentor
Ensure you have time to meet with your mentor on a regular basis. With the aid of technology, you can do this online or face-to-face. If you are finding it difficult to organise scheduled time with your mentor, speak to your sub-branch and union representatives.

Ask lots of questions
As a graduate, I kept a running list of questions that I would discuss with my mentor during our regular catch-ups. Keep a notepad on your desk so you can quickly jot down your questions as you think of them.

Schedule time for things you enjoy
Without strict boundaries, teaching can be an all-consuming job, especially in those early years. For the sake of your mental health and your work–life balance, it is vital to continue doing those things you enjoy outside of teaching. Lock in those work-outs or yoga classes, weekends at the beach, or brunches with friends or pub trivia sessions – whatever keeps you happy and sane.

Be kind to yourself
You are new to this. Growth and experience take time and you will make ‘mistakes’ – these are an important part of any learning experience. We all make mistakes, the important thing is to reflect on the situation and use it as a chance to consider how you would like to approach the situation differently next time.

Schools are busy places and time seems to escape us. Debriefing about your week/day – with your mentor, colleagues, family or even friends – is important. It allows time for you to process everything you’re experiencing.

The AEU’s New Educator Network (NEN) is also a space where you can debrief with people going through the very same things! Make sure you join our NEN Facebook group:


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