Many new teachers often start off high on enthusiasm and goodwill. However, as time goes by, frustration and disappointment often sets in. This could be due to unmet expectations or problems arising in the classroom that thwart all initial good intentions and well-thought out plans. Nonetheless, this need not be the case. New teachers, going into a new class for the first time, could consider the following tips when they are preparing the lesson.

(1) Plan ahead.

It is useful for the teacher to first work out what he intends to teach during the lesson. Don't leave it to chance nor just "hope for the best".  Before the lesson itself, sit down and think through the following.

  • What do you intend to teach?
  • How do you intend to teach this material? (Be realistic, especially in terms of time)
  • How are you going to assess whether the students understand what you have taught by the end of the lesson?
  • What are possible fillers or contingency plans for your lesson, in the event that Plan A did not work out?

(2) Know your students.

It is important to make the effort to find out first from other teachers, who have previously taught the class, the profile of the students.  Each class is unique in its student profile and dynamics. Each student has his own preferred learning style. Some are visual or auditory learners, while others are kinesthetic learners. By getting the feel of the class beforehand, you can work out a suitable lesson plan and delivery method that would appeal to most students, who would then be interested and motivated enough to remain engaged during the lesson. 

(3) Be flexible.

No matter how well-thought out your initial lesson plan looks on paper, life often works in interesting ways. If the lesson is not proceeding as what you had expected (e.g. students not paying attention or most of them are just unable to grasp the lesson material), it is better for you to adjust your lesson plan, rather than just plough through. Not only will this be a waste of your own and the students' time, it might also dampen their interest in the subject. Hence, it is important that you are flexible enough to adapt to the classroom situation and adjust the lesson delivery method to engage the students. After all, the main objective of teaching is not for the teacher to teach, but for the students to learn.

(4) Let the students see the relevance of the lesson.

A common grouse among students is that they do not see how the lesson material is relevant to their daily lives or future.  Hence, it is important that you bring in real-life examples or scenarios to show the students how useful or relevant the lesson is or will be for them. For example, for a Maths lesson on trigonometry, show the students the role of this fundamental skill in engineering or navigation. Cite real-life or historical examples of how things would have turned out otherwise if the protagonist did not understand trigonometry. Alternatively, for a Physics lesson on the electromagnetism, bring some everyday tools to class or cite some real-life examples to let the students realise how much "poorer" or inconvenient our modern world would have been if mankind had not discovered such a phenomenon.

(5) Provide guidance or scaffolding during the lesson.

Many students often gave up learning in class when they face difficulties in grasping the subject matter. Some might try catching up (by clarifying with their friends), but others would simply give up and turn their attention to something else. As a teacher, it is important that you closely monitor the students throughout the lesson to assess if they have really understood the content. Adjust your pace accordingly if need be. Provide the necessary step-by-step guidance in an organised manner so that the students could better follow the lesson. If you notice that a certain component of the lesson is a main stumbling block for many students, spend more time to go through it again until they understand. In addition, pose occasional questions during the lesson to see if the students have grasped the content.

Teaching is a time-consuming process, which requires much patience by the teacher. However, seeing the outcome of such efforts, when some students do appreciate the efforts put in to make them understand the material, makes it all worthwhile at the end.