The Return to Teaching: How to Come Back After Taking Time Off

Spot on advice for returning to the classroom after an absence.

Return to Teaching

Getting back into the game after taking time off from teaching to care for your family can feel daunting. Teacher Elisa R. wrote into our WeAreTeachers Helpline for advice:

I earned my teaching degree 8 years ago but right after I graduated I became a stay-at-home mom and never actually taught. I recently went back to work as a sub and feel so out of place and rusty. I feel like so many things have changed and I don’t remember much of what I learned in college about classroom management and teaching strategies. I don’t know what to do! Going back to school right now is not an option. Should I attend workshops? Read some helpful books? Does any one have any suggestions/advice for me?”

Along with many messages of encouragement, here are the tips our expert teachers offered on the subject:

1. Substitute teach.

Jenny B. definitely recommends subbing as a starting place. I started subbing to make sure that I would even enjoy teaching before I made the plunge to finish my degree. After a few months, I decided that teaching was definitely the right career for me and will start my student teaching in January.” She adds,”Subbing can provide great hands-on experience with classroom management in a way that classroom learning just can’t.”

Michelle D. agrees, “Take a long-term gig if you can get one. And ask, ask, ask lots of questions.” Kristin C. shares her success story, “Subbing does two things for you. One, you often see the worst with the kids and sometimes the staff too. If you can learn to handle that, it will prepare you for the classroom. Two, and maybe more importantly, it gets you out there and familiar to the staff and principals so that when a position becomes available, you are already a known quantity. Worked for me!”

2. Catch up on your reading!

Some of the titles recommended by our teachers include The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher  and THE Classroom Management Book by Harry Wong, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too!) by Chris Biffle, and Teacher’s Essential Guide Series: Classroom Management by Jim Burke. Teacher Doreen G. recommends reading up on the topics of guided reading, reading workshop, writing workshop and balanced literacy. For more classroom management titles, read this WeAreTeachers article.  

3. Check out online learning options.

As a new teacher, Melissa A. says “Videos saved me!” She recommends searching Google or YouTube for specific strategies or topics. “Sometimes it takes time and patience to find what you want, but the more you do it the easier it gets because you’ll discover sources as your ‘go to’ sites as you explore.” Morgan L. recommends interviewing principals or other teachers about “hot topics” on which to focus. “Each district has its own preferences on what is important. Make sure you get the specific training they’re looking for.”

One highly recommended source is TeacherTube, a free community for sharing instructional videos and content for teachers and students. In addition, there are loads of professional development courses offered online, some for free. Check out the PBS TeacherLine (If you register for a course before February 17, 2017 you can save 20% with the promotional code HOLIDAY20.) ACSD (The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is another great source for low cost PD courses and free webinars.

Teachers: Do you have any additional advice you would offer to teachers returning to work? Add your suggestions to the comments below!

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Elizabeth Mulvahill

Posted by Elizabeth Mulvahill

Elizabeth Mulvahill is a Writer/ Editor for WeAreTeachers and a certified Elementary Teacher.