We're not saying we have all the solutions. We're just here to warn you.
1. What's your name again? Learning more about your students
Yep, we're putting this before discipline. Maybe you get a new batch of kids and you can barely get their names straight, let alone figure out how to adapt to everyone's learning style. Maybe you have the same kids as last year and they've suddenly gotten a new habit or attitude that makes your interactions different. Maybe you have some super shy students who have trouble fitting in, come from a tough background, or are just very, very sensitive.
Whatever the issue, making sure you know each of your students and can find ways to reach out to them as individuals, and as a class, is step one of being the head of the class.
2. Discipline: Bringing back the dunce cap
You knew it was coming. That's why we have a whole separate article on classroom management. Discipline can be the whole class on a sugar high or one problem student. If you're lucky, you won't have to turn into Viola Swamp to cope with it either way.
They're making a comeback.
Figuring out how to cope with arguments by listening to both sides, dealing with disruptive students, and calming down a whole class (or, on the flip side, waking them up) is the endless task of keeping your class in control, and possibly the biggest challenge most teachers deal with on a day-to-day basis.
3. Time management: Count your blessings (and your seconds)
We don't just mean in class. We're talking about making sure you have time to plan, grade, and maybe even have something called a life, too (we're not even going to mention sleep). Especially when you're just starting to teach, you may need to set aside extra time to figure out how to manage your time.
4. Why are my textbooks sprouting moss?
The bitter truth: budget cuts are affecting public schools more and more, sometimes meaning that schools can't afford to replace old textbooks, have safe and fun facilities for kids, or even pay their teachers. Sure, there are grant initiatives like Race To The Top, and governments could never totally get rid of education, but there's quite a chance the funding issue won't just be your own salary (though we're not about to deny that, either—see point six here). Beyond that, it'll be the money that school doesn't have to give its students a quality education.
5. Showing your students you're from the 21st century, too
First you have to tell them to turn off their phones while they're reading Shakespeare. Then you outlaw iPads and electronic games. What can you do? You need 'em to learn what's on the curriculum, and more often than not, that comes across to youngsters as hopelessly old-fashioned. Golly, we feel our hair turning gray just writing this.
This is a more hopeful one, though—at least we like to think so. Kids these days (there's another gray spot) are so used to technologies and have a totally different skill set because of it, so there are plenty of ways to incorporate technology into new-fangled activities. Whether it's things like education apps or gamification, or using blogs, Twitter, and oh, we don't know, Shmoop, for classroom purposes, this can be a way to keep up with the times. Just make sure they don't know you come to school in a horse-drawn carriage and go home to listen to your phonograph.
6. Yep, it's time for the gender card
We hate to say it. Believe us, we wish we could wish gender bias away. If you're a lady, chances are you've at some point had your authority questioned. And that doesn't mean that menfolk have got it easy, since they're often faced with discrimination when they go into "women's work" like teaching—even if that sometimes means getting promoted over women into admin positions. Sheesh.
Whatever way you slice it, the teaching pie is not an even one when it comes to gender. It's gonna take enforcing equal pay, making childcare be seen as more than "women's work," and basically overhauling the whole way people see gender roles in this country for that not to play into your teaching experience at some point.
7. Too many kids
Look like your classroom? Join the club.
Class sizes of more than 20, sometimes more than 30? Yikes. And teachers say that that does not make it easy to manage a class, let alone make sure that everyone is learning.
8. Which can only mean: Too many parents
Whether Lil' Booboo is complaining about you at home or home is asking you for hourly updates on Lil' Booboo, communicating with parents is bound to be a big chunk of your teaching experience. Sure, you may have some parents who seem like they need an even bigger dose of discipline than their kids, but a good rule of thumb is open communication, starting from day one of the school year.
Whether it's emails to the class's parents, phone calls home, involving the community in special activities or classroom tasks, or making a blog (like this one) to give advice to parents about continuing the learning process at home, there's tons you can do to make this less of a challenge and more of a building block to educating their chillun.
9. Not Every Institution is Hogwarts
Whether it's lack of support from teachers who know the lay of the land or having too much freedom in the curriculum become a burden, sometimes the way a school structures its teaching can be real tough to cope with.
Especially for new teachers, interacting with "veteran" teachers who refuse to share lesson plans, don't want to collaborate, or even act with hostility to the new kids can make an already tough transition even harder because of that lack of support.
And without specific guidance or resources, especially where lesson planning and coming up with fun activities is concerned, a new teach can really founder. And that's just assuming the materials that are provided are useful—some reports say that instructional resources don't even help out too much in the classroom.
Check out our guideline to managing Relationships with Educators.
10. Is summer really vacation?
Summertime! No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks!
Except if you're the teacher, the dirty looks just might keep continuing through the summer months. How can you help it if the summertime, as some educators say, just isn't enough time to recover emotionally and physically from the school year? Besides, summers are getting shorter in lots of schools, and chances are you'll do some sort of teacher training, work at a summer camp, or at least have to get your preparing on for next year.
Still, you won't have to see those brats—er, gems—for three (or two) full months. If that isn't a perk, we don't know what is. (Though hopefully it's not too big a perk. If so, you're barking up the wrong profession).
But don't despair! Check out Top 10 Rewards of Being a Teacher to give yourself a boost.