By Janice Atkin
Professional Learning Officer
Earlier this month, the ACHPER NSW team had the pleasure of convening the Early Career Teachers Conference, bringing together nearly 100 new PDHPE teachers from across NSW.
It was a chance for us to meet the next generation of PDHPE professionals, but also an amazing opportunity for experienced teachers to share their wisdom and experiences with them. The feedback from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive and this event will become an annual event in the ACHPER NSW Professional Learning calendar.
- “Fantastic event, I hope they continue annually. These sessions are a great way to reignite the mission teachers have.”
- “Enjoyed every minute of the conference! Each workshop was extremely informative and beneficial to the start of my career.”
- “Found the day very informative, definitely emphasised the things I had been doing, as well as give me new strategies and ideas.”
- “Loved the conference!! The speakers all brought something unique and were extremely insightful for improving teaching practice.
- “Found the day very informative, definitely emphasised the things I had been doing, as well as give me new strategies and ideas”
Insights and reflections
One of the key insights to come out of the conversations with participants was they didn’t feel like they were doing “a good enough job.”
Many were finding their new role challenging and harder than they expected it to be. It’s common for new teachers to doubt themselves, to feel like their best isn’t good enough, and to wonder if they’re cut out for the profession.
One of the key messages from many of the presenters was “it’s OK not to know everything yet, because you’re a new teacher and still learning the craft of teaching.”
So much of why teachers have their doubts is a lack confidence, and is often the result of what they say to themselves. Many teachers are familiar with the concept of growth mindset, but may forget to implement it in their own practice.
Three subtle shifts in mindset can add up to a huge impact in how you approach your classrooms and become models for your students as learners.
1. Think of yourself as a learner
The reason you don’t feel like you know everything as a new teacher is because you don’t. You’re a new teacher. That means you’re a beginner. Everyone else knows you’re a new teacher, too. So, rather than expecting yourself to improve in all areas at once, choose one skill area to work on at a time, and give yourself the space and permission to fail forward as you improve—just as you ask students to do.
2. Employ positive self-talk
Lack of self-confidence is often directly tied to what we say to ourselves when things don’t go as we want them to. Our thoughts about the events in our classes (especially when they don’t go well) contribute to our feelings about teaching.
Imagine you have a lesson and one of your students acts out. The thought you might have is “My classroom management is terrible. When will I ever figure this out? I should just give up.” These thoughts can lead to a sense of hopelessness and feeling lost about next steps.
But what if you instead say to yourself, “Hmm… that student’s having a tough day. I wonder what’s going on for them.” When you choose to think about what’s going on for the student (instead of what you might be doing right or wrong), your subsequent feeling about the situation will be one of compassion and curiosity. You might take the student aside after the lesson and ask some questions to find out what’s going on for them and how you might help. The result? Your student feels seen and cared for, and you’ve started to form that all-important relationship with them that gives you the leg up when it comes to classroom management.
3. Accept and seek out constructive criticism
It takes time to become an expert at anything (some researchers suggest 10,000 hours), and you can’t become an expert without constructive criticism. Confidence is a by-product of learning how to do something well, from overcoming obstacles to learning, to trust that you have what it takes to get to the next level.
Ask more experienced colleagues into your classes, and seek out opportunities to observe other teachers teaching. It is through seeing others teach, and feedback from others on your teaching, that you will develop as a teacher. Don’t be afraid of what people might think because most of the time they want to see you reach your full potential and succeed.
ACHPER NSW Professional Learning
To continue your professional learning, view the ACHPER NSW calendar here.
Following on from the Early Career Teacher Conference, we are planning further after school sessions on popular conference topics including the accreditation process, formative assessment ideas, classroom management and planning inclusive lessons. More soon.