Faking It ‘Til You Make It: Tips for Looking Less Like a Rookie Teacher

Empty School Hallway

“Is this your first year as a teacher?”

There are only a few possible answers when a student asks this dreaded question.

All of them are wrong.

You can tell the truth, thus opening the door to the tests students save for new teachers. You can mumble some vague answer that makes your training program or summer as a camp counselor seem like teaching experience.

The best bad response is often a question that changes the subject, like, “Are you working on your math problems?” Then, walk to your desk and shuffle papers until the moment passes.

No matter what your answer, however, the question above can leave you paranoid and wondering how students picked up on your rookie status so quickly.Part of the secret is that, no matter how prepared you are, some aspects of teaching simply take time and experience to develop.

Here are a few aspects of teaching that only develop with experience (plus, a few tips for faking them in the meantime).


It’s hard to feel self-assured as a beginning teacher—and nothing messes with your confidence like someone poking their head into your classroom and reminding you to, “Hey, just be confident!” Luckily, there are some concrete things you can do to give yourself a psychological edge: Get to school before your students do. Have materials laid out in advance when possible. Keep your cell phone silent, your private life private, and your language school-appropriate. These actions show you mean it when you say class time is for class activities.

A sense of what can wait until later

Experienced teachers know what to do with the binder they just got from training, the stack of hand-me-down workbooks from a retiring colleague, or the folder of suggested materials from the last faculty meeting. They know some of these things can wait, and in some cases, they won’t get used at all. Beginners are more likely to add everything that might be helpful to a giant pile of things they think they need to do urgently. A quick fix for this to keep an “Ideas for the Future” box in your classroom closet. Use it to store anything that is potentially useful, but not enough of a priority to keep on your desk.

Procedures for most daily routines

Good routines prevent minor annoyances and sometimes even major behavior problems. Teachers around you have developed procedures for everything from bathroom visits to sharpening pencils. The good news is you can easily copy procedures from other teachers. Just be ready to adapt them to your style and students.

A Few Success Stories Under Their Belts to Keep Them Going

All teachers have bad days, and rookies tend to be harder on themselves than veterans. This is partly because experienced teachers have stored enough good memories to balance out those inevitable moments that make teachers wonder if they’re really cut out for the profession. Just remember that the longtime teachers on your hallway have probably hit similar low points and chose to keep teaching anyway. If that’s not an argument for the rewards of teaching, nothing is.

Teacher lines

Teachers don’t always have time to think of original comebacks, but experienced educators often have a supply of pre-loaded remarks for common situations. It can be difficult to plan these in advance; our best lines usually stem from comments we think of fifteen minutes after we should have said them. Every now and then, however, you can anticipate a scenario and prepare your response.

You can start by thinking of what you’ll say when someone asks: “Is this your first year as a teacher?”

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