In 2009–10 when I was writing for Reality 101, I was a part-time job coach teaching custodial skills to 18–26 year-olds. Since then I have dusted off my teaching degree and have a full-time job teaching life and vocational skills to young adults with autism and cognitive disabillities in my local public school.
I’ve learned a lot in the last three years, and my experiences have provided me with the following list of tips to share with new teachers:
1. Try to limit emotion in your
dealings with administration, other staff or parents.
I found I was so passionate about my students that my emotions clouded issues for me. I learned it is best to present ideas in a well thought-out, calm way. Wait to talk to people if you are worked up. If the other party gets emotional, you will be more effective when you’re calm and rational!
2. Treat your students with
Not only should you treat your students with respect every day, don’t allow anyone to come into your classroom and talk about your students in a negative way in front of them (even if people think that the student doesn’t pick it up on it). Imagine that your students are your children. How would you want staff to treat them?
3. Strive to find balance between
work, home, family, spirituality, etc.
This is easy to write and oh-so-hard to do. I always knew that schoolwork was never going to be done. I always had something else floating around in my head that I would like to do or make. Prioritize and do what HAS to be done first. Then put a time limit on how long you can spend on the “want-to-do” list. Be honest with yourself. I had many things on the “have-to-do” list which could really go on my “want to do” list.
4. Take care of yourself.
The way you feel and treat students is way more important than the perfect lesson plan. Get enough sleep already! Have a life on the weekends, get away from schoolwork and play a little. Do what it takes to feel good when you greet those eager faces in the morning.
Someone told me in that first year that if I burn out there would be one less good person working with our special students. Do what you need to do and don’t let yourself burn out; your students –and the field of special education-needs you!