Amy Mackelden
November 15, 2015 6:11 am

As part of my college degree, I had to plan and deliver a session for undergrads. This was way before I’d even considered teaching, and certainly didn’t see my future as being a teacher. It was a terrifying experience. I had no idea what I was doing, and just wanted my teaching hour to be over. Flash forward to three years later, and after working in various retail jobs, I knew it was time for a change. I saw an ad for a part-time evening course. It was an introduction to teaching adults, and I wanted to give it a shot. Perhaps, even more surprising was that I really enjoyed it, and decided to carry on and get my full teaching degree.

Even though the training course prepared me for most stuff, once the learning was over, I was totally on my own. As an adult education teacher, I’m often out and about in the community, rather than working in a school or college, though I sometimes do that too. I’ve been teaching creative writing for seven years now, and have worked with students of all age groups and ability levels. Overall, it’s been a great job. This is what I’ve learned so far, and what I wish I’d known before I got started.

Planning really does make a class better

I used to balk at the idea that everything should be planned in advance. But if you complete all your paperwork way ahead of time, and know what you’re doing before you walk into the classroom, it really takes the pressure off, and frees you up to feel chill running the class. You may not be able to predict what your students will do, but at least you’ll know what you’re doing.

If you’re not prepared, don’t worry

However, if for whatever reason you’re not prepared for a class, or the plan has to change at the last minute, don’t worry. I used to wing it all the time when I started out, and although it always made life a bit stressful, it prepared me for any challenge that came my way. Now, if I find myself unprepared for class, I can come up with potential lesson ideas pretty quickly. This is definitely a skill you pick up the longer you’re doing it, but once you’ve figured out what works best with particular groups, life becomes much easier.

Some groups are more challenging than others

Having worked with a wide range of students, I’ve come to know which classes will be the most challenging. But when you start out, it can be overwhelming not quite knowing how a certain class is going to be. Obviously, there are some situations you can’t prepare for, but knowing your students, and the types of exercises and assignments that work best for them, will make challenging classes way better. And it’s important to remember that you’re only one person, and you can just do your best. You won’t please everybody, but that doesn’t matter. Stick to your goals, and you’ll be fine.

The holidays aren’t really holidays

Some people criticize the amount of holidays that teachers have, but a lot of those breaks are filled with planning, marking tests, and preparing for the next round of classes. Plus, when you’ve been full-on delivering courses for a set number of weeks, a break is well overdue. Definitely appreciate the breaks you get, it’s obviously a bonus. But ignore the haters too, as you know how hard you work.

Being different is OK and actually helps

I teach creative writing, despite not being a big reader. I use my love of TV and movies in classes, showing my students clips that they can then respond to, and giving them stills from films to base stories around. Being able to run classes on topics like blogging and performance poetry is great — don’t be afraid to share the topics you’re passionate about in your classes, even if they’re slightly outside of the box.

If you don’t like what you’re doing, make a change

At the start of my teaching career, I taught teenagers and took sessions in schools, but it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get the hang of discipling the classes, which is a big part of teacher underage students. At first, I felt like a failure. But then I came to realize, my talent for teaching was really in the adult sector, and that’s totally fine. Figure out what you’re good at and what you like doing. There’s no point sticking to something that makes you miserable out of some sense of duty. Teachers deserve happiness too!

(Image via Paramount Pictures)

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