Beginning Teacher Myths

Here is a short list of misconceptions that new teachers often bring to the classroom.

If I care about the kids, everything else will fall into place

It's a naive approach to teaching and it misses the big picture - Good teachers work to increase their students' knowledge. Yes, they care about the students' home lives. Yes, they try to make practical changes to make their classrooms conducive to learning. But they also instruct, assess and challenge students to do their best.

I'll get ahead - blasting right out of the gate with challenging instruction from day one

'Whoa!' You're making big, usually incorrect, assumptions about what students already have mastered when they enter your classroom. The first step is always to 'figure out where your students are' and then to modify your teaching approach to their skills and knowledge. There's nothing more frustrating and futile than presenting great lessons geared to a third-grade class when you're dealing with some students who haven't even mastered first-grade skills.

I already know how to teach reading effectively

Chances are you don't. A lot of cutting-edge research is only now getting into the classroom when it comes to reading instruction. Learning about what works and what doesn't when it comes to reading instruction should be at or near the top of almost every teacher's list of topics to explore in continuing professional development. Most teachers good at teaching reading take the best from a number of theories or models and adapt them to suit their classroom and their students.

Dress doesn't matter if I'm a good teacher

Dress like a professional and the students are much more likely to treat you--and your instruction--with respect. On the other hand 'dress as if you're going to clean a garage', and, whether you know it or not, you're building a climate of low expectations in your classroom.

Punctuality doesn't matter if I'm a good teacher

Constantly late to class or not turning up on time to meetings or playground duty will not only make you unpopular with your colleagues but it is one of the most common areas of concern expressed by principals when assessing beginning teachers .

All paperwork is created equal

New teachers must learn to budget their time wisely when it comes to the paperwork mountain. Lesson plans, department reports, grant writing, scheduling, student reports, excursion permission notes etc - not every item is going to be a life-or-death, or that 'get-it-done-yesterday' job. Some things can be put on the 'back-burner' when you're crunched for time and a really important deadline is looming large. The trick is knowing what's important when! Time management is a crucial skill that needs to be developed just as much as classroom management.

I must stink - I'm always asking for help

That's what new teachers are supposed to do, most of us remember how being an incessant pest to an experienced teacher paid off for them in their first few years. Use the down the corridor 15-year experienced 'veteran', to pose problems too and seek advice. Its often the "I should be able to fix it myself" attitude that often sinks new teachers.

I'm a professional; why do I need a union?

Unlike self employed professionals, the salaries and working conditions of public school teachers in NSW are determined by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. The NSW Teachers Federation is the only organisation with the legal right to represent the interests of public school teachers before the commission.

As professionals, teachers are required to maintain the highest professional standards. Unfortunately, teachers are vulnerable to inaccurate or even vexatious complaints. Teachers need a strong professional organisation to protect their individual rights.

But if I join the union, won't it hurt my career?

You'll be in good company. Over 95% of full time public school teachers in NSW are members of the Teachers Federation. This includes thousands of teachers in executive positions such as principals, deputy principals and head teachers. Many senior officers of the DEC were formerly active members of the Teachers Federation and retain membership in the Teachers Federation Health  and the Teachers Mutual Bank.