1) Teaching is not at all like practicum
We all loved our practicum days. Sure, we were sleep-deprived and we tortured our brains to come up with interesting lesson plans+teaching aids.
But in the end, we loved the experience. We were loved by the students and we made learning FUN! What an achievement that is.
It would be great if you could maintain that standard but truth be told, you won't have the luxury to do so.
Instead of teaching only 2 classes, you will now teach 5.
Instead of 10 periods a week, you will now handle 25 (or more).
To top it all off, you will be assigned various duties that require mountains of paperwork.
The teaching & learning process will sadly be relegated to the near-bottom of your priorities :-(
But, try to maintain that standard nonetheless. Keep all your lesson plans and teaching aids from your practicum days. They will be extremely useful!
Maybe you won't be able to conduct fun lessons every day, but try to do so once a week or once a fortnightly.
2) Brush up on your classroom management
This has been my Achilles heel. Your personality will dictate your teaching style. And try as I might, I cannot seem to be garang or make my voice louder. These shortcomings proved to be disastrous. I cannot seem to get the class under control and hence not much learning can take place, regardless of how well the lesson is planned.
So, moral of the story: toughen yourself up to face these teenagers. They have claws.
3) Get organised
In Selangor, you are supposed to go through an orientation period. For 2 to 3 weeks, your school is supposed to acclimatise you to the school's culture, acquaint you with the "important" people in the organisation, and detail your job specifications, etc.
But rarely do schools have time to do this. So you need to do all these things on your own. Seek out a friendly face and ask that person for any assistance/guidance.
You need to know what you are expected to do:
-Besides teaching, you need to administer oral tests twice a year and fill in the related forms.
-You have to set exam questions. Find out when's your turn to do this.
-For extra-curricular activities, your have to clock-in the required contact hours before the students are busy with their academic pursuit in the second half of the year.
-You have to hand in the students' books for inspection periodically. So identify students who actually do their work because chances are there are not many of them!
-Keep track of all the work that your students have submitted. Usually, for the mid-year and the end-of-year exam, there is a 10% allocation for homework.
-And do work out the logistics early on. You will need to finish the syllabus by October. So distribute the contents of the syllabus evenly throughout the academic calender.
4) You will hear this often: "New broom sweeps clean"
Some will use that as an excuse to pile more work on your plate. Most of the times, you will feel victimised by the unfairness of it all.
But take heart. Do the work to the best of your abilities. Persevere, though you feel as if you might just buckle under the pressure or be buried under all those paperwork. Look up to those teachers who do more work than you, not less. Emulate the dedicated ones.
And it's absolutely essential to learn to say 'No' (something that I, myself, am still learning to do)
5) Stop complaining
It's so easy and tempting to complain incessantly about how you are overwork and underpaid but complaining never made anyone attractive.
Remember that the grass is NOT greener on the other side.
You may have problematic students but you have great colleagues (or the other way around).
Your school may have excellent infrastructure and facilities but the canteen food is horrible.
The location may be convenient but you don't really like the administrators.
So, just be thankful with what you have.
"...it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good" (4:19)
6) Have a support system
Keep in touch with your IPBA buddies. They will be there for you when you are feeling down. They can empathise with the problems that your are facing and will offer you invaluable words of support. It's amazing how simple words like "hang in there k" or a virtual hug can brighten up your day :-)
Blog about your experience, share your joys and challenges of teaching. Know that you are not alone.
7) Have a distraction
Teaching can be an all-consuming job. You will realise that you talk very little else outside the realm of school.
So, take up a hobby if you haven't already got one. You NEED the distractions!
8) Play all your roles effectively
Remember that a teacher's job is not just to teach. To quote Frank McCourt in Teacher Man:
"I was more than a teacher. And less. In the high school classroom you are the drill sergeant, a rabbi [an ustazah in this case... haha], a shoulder to cry on, a disciplinarian, a singer, a low-level scholar, a clerk, a referee, a clown, a counselor, a dress-code enforcer, a conductor, an apologist, a philosopher, a collaborator, a tap dancer, a politician, a therapist, a fool, a traffic cop, a priest, a mother-father-brother-sister-uncle-aunt, a bookkeeper, a critic, a psychologist..."
Oh, he forgot the janitor!
The tap dancing role may be called upon once in a lifetime but the 3 roles (besides teaching) that you have to take seriously are: enforcing discipline, building rapport with the students and inculcating good moral values in them.
9) Create a positive workplace culture
Respect your colleagues, the administrators, the clerks, the bookshop attendant, the guards, the lab assistants, the cleaners, the gardeners, etc.
Treat them well. A good turn deserves another.
10) Manage your finances well
Receiving your very first payslip is a wonderful feeling. The thin piece of paper symbolises financial independence and adulthood. It also gives you an immense sense of achievement.
But after setting aside money for your parents, the car, charity, savings and other obligations, your disposable income does not amount to much. So do not splurge as soon as you get your wage. Fulfill your obligations first and if you happen to have some thing extra at the end of the month, spend it (guilt-free) then.
11) Fly under the radar
It's tough to dodge/refuse the many sales in the staff room (Kuih Raya, tupperware, kain baju kurung, insurance policy, etc). So the best strategy is to avoid sales pitches altogether.
Also beware of (well-meaning) insistent match makers. If you don't have "someone" already, invent one!
12) Maintain your idealism
I don't mean to point out all the bad things about being a teacher. This is just meant to prepare you for the realities of teaching. Yes, it is easy to get disillusioned, frustrated, and burn-out from your job, but remind yourself daily why you are a teacher. Constantly review your niat (intentions).
13) "Verily, with every difficulty, there is relief"
It is inevitable that you struggle+sink+lose weight & voice at first.
But it'll get better in time.
To quote the article from The Star by P.K. Toh:
"The student-teacher bond can be fraught with heartache, but for those who persevere to the end, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices"
Just remember: At the end of these crazy/gruelling academic sessions is a 5-week holiday that few jobs could rival :-)
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Cohort 2 friends, do add in your own advice based on your experience...
Aini has written hers.
I hope that our experience will be of use to others.