‘The Things I Wish I Knew’ when I first started teaching!

  1. Feedback is a gift – but I needed to learn to give it as well as take it.

  2. Harvest Over Design – networking could have prevented so much reinventing the wheel

  3. The job is never finished – there was always more to do


In the early 90s, I started teaching at age 20. I was clearly young, inexperienced, and struggling at times with basic understandings of the job. It felt like there was a different language with so many acronyms and words I didn’t know. I was even asked to get out of the teacher’s line at the tuckshop! Similar instances contributed to a feeling that I was at the bottom of the barrel, and everyone knew it.
So, I assumed quite a subservient position in meetings, in the staffroom and with anyone with more experience.
So, I accepted all feedback but did not feel like I was entitled to give feedback to others.
So, I never told my direct supervisor that I had ideas about how to engage a difficult group of Year 9s. Nor did I mention when I disagreed when moderating with more experienced teachers.
Not exactly a recipe for success.


Before the internet, connecting to others was either over the phone or in person and the sharing of resources was physical, paper based and cumbersome. But it was still possible to harvest over design – what did neighbouring schools do? What about in my Beginning Teacher network? Could we share resources and strategies? We could. But it was so much harder than today. To work smarter not harder, I would have exploited every network and connection I had to reduce my workload and learn from others.


Meaning and purpose is a strong driver in resilient people. Teachers have this in spades. Sometimes too much. What we quickly recognise as teachers, is that our job is never done. There is always one more kid who needs something extra, more relevant resources that could reach the disengaged, and more individualised feedback that could make all the difference in the final draft. But when is enough, enough?

I wish I had established more helpful parameters around the amount of out-of-school-hours work I was doing. At times there was no balance. And in the end, it did not help me become a better teacher, it made me run-down and stressed. Not helpful to anyone!

These are my top three things I wish I knew when I first started teaching. Happy to hear your top three! Feel free to post!

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