June 26, 2014

What Every New Teacher Needs to Know

Advice from Real Teachers

Stepping into a classroom for the very first time is both exciting and overwhelming! As veteran teachers know, college can't begin to prepare you for the experience of being responsible for several dozen students for 6 or 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Some things you have to figure out on your own, but many potential problems can be avoided if you follow a little advice from teachers who have traveled that road before you.

Today's Question
Kelsey, a fan of the Teaching Resources Facebook page, asked, "What's the one thing a new teacher needs to know?" Over 400 educators responded with insightful and relevant tips. Wow! I compiled the answers and removed duplicate responses, but so many were so good that I could not whittle the list down to any less than 50! So relax and enjoy this week's advice from real teachers!

50 Terrific Tips for New Teachers
Here are my picks for the top 50 tips for new teachers, in no particular order. If you would like to read all 400+ tips, you'll find that question here on the Teaching Resources Facebook page.
  1. Norma Baer - Be flexible...things are always changing and just when you think you have something figured out there will be a monkey wrench thrown into your plans. Don't think you will ever apply EVERYTHING you learned in college. I've always said college in no way prepared me for the real thing. You learn as you go and don't be afraid to seek advice from your fellow team. There's a lot more, but that's a good start:) Best wishes to you!!!
  2. Judy Clubine - Don't fall into the trap that the current trends suggest...DON'T reward bad behavior.  You will have those who will believe that by giving the bad actors "jobs,” that it will increase the child's self-worth to the point to where they won't act out.  With a select few, this will be true.  For the vast majority...It will merely reinforce the fact that "if I act out, I will continue to get to do these perks".  It also has a nasty side effect...The kids who are good all the time will see the bad actors getting perks for acting out and they will begin to act out in order to get those same perks.  I have gotten to witness this on a school-wide basis.  Don't go there.  You will create more problems than you will solve.
  3. Larry Cupit - Spend TONS of time teaching, practicing and reinforcing routines and procedures from day ONE! You may feel like you are wasting your time, but time spent early in the year will reap benefits later in the year. Practice, practice, practice for the first six weeks!
  4. Brianne Daigle - Be organized! Always over-plan and have a back-up plan :)
  5. Cheryl Heather - I think I'd take a page from Harry Wong's book, and say that the first day is extremely important. First impressions stick. Be organized, be welcoming, and most of all, be yourself. The other most important thing to remember is that every child in your class is some mom & dad's most beloved treasure - and you're with each child more than parents are (on school days) - so be comfortable with how you treat kids - this is their life, their reality. They need love & support & understanding.
  6. Rhonda Church - When a kid tells you they need to throw up...believe them!!
  7. Christy Hardy - I just finished my first year. First, find a mentor teacher you can ask advice, vent, and get ideas from. Second, don't be surprised when you realize college doesn't prepare you for many aspects of teaching.  Third, establish firm and consistent rules and boundaries. Without good classroom management you will struggle.  Finally, have fun! Don't beat yourself up. Learn with your students, be patient with them and yourself.  Teaching effectively will come with practice and building strong relationships with your students.
  8. Jenny Milton de Kock - Your degree only allows you to get the job. The real learning starts the day you walk into the classroom for the first time and it never stops. Experience is what turns you into a teacher
  9. Kristen Brown - You can't be your students’ friend. They can like and respect you, but you're not their friend.
  10. Amber Freshour - Patience will help you more than you know. I am a loud person, and It took me several years to learn that a calm  voice and demeanor is more effective than anything. When/if I do have to raise my voice, all eyes and ears are on me because it rarely happens. I felt like all I did my first years was yell. Management is the most important thing you can have. Attention signals work wonders (especially at elementary level). Have a procedure for EVERYTHING and TEACH the kids how to do them. If they don't feel safe and have a sense of routine, they will not learn as effectively.
  11. Jeff  Bedwell - Don't worry about all thing big things you plan on doing... CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT (setting up procedures for everything). Procedures for everything: passing paper out, going to the restroom, morning, leaving and entering the room, turning in assignments,  EVERYTHING. Don't assume they just know, show them.
  12. SarahAnn Lewis - Remember that all children learn at different paces and in different ways. It can be frustrating when you have already planned, but be flexible! Sometimes changing your lesson plans on the fly leads to a better lesson entirely, and helps the class understand.
  13. Sue Anderson - Begin much, much more firm than you think you need to be (with love and respect, of course). You can ease up later, but you really can't go back and reign things in.
  14. Gretchen McCue - Teach community! A child will remember how they felt in your class and especially how YOU made them feel all their lives. They may not, however, remember the lessons you taught them in L.A., Math, Science, and S.S. Make them feel safe and loved!
  15. Laura Letts -Wright Make friends with the custodial staff.
  16. Valerie Tuck - A new teacher needs to know how she will teach procedures and emphasis class rules.  She needs to establish clear rules and procedures and clear consequences that are consistently and fairly applied.  She needs to understand that in her class ALL children can learn and that NO child has the right to disrupt the teaching and learning environment.  This is her classroom where ALL children are respected and ALL children have a voice to be heard.
  17. Marie Roberts - Don't take everything personally. Learn to, "Let it go, let it go..."
  18. Barbara Gruener - Take good care of yourself: mind, heart, body and soul. And know that you've got an army of veteran teachers ready to assist you if only you ask for help when you need it.
  19. Fiona Graham - Sometimes, the most significant thing you will do will be to show up. Even on days when you feel you've achieved nothing, you've done that. Never underestimate how important the presence of a calm, positive, responsible and reliable adult can be in a child or young person's life.
  20. Emily Bowles - Always follow through with what you say. If you say they are going to get extra recess or a reward for something... DO IT!!  If you say you are taking away privileges...DO IT!!  They will know you mean business. Don't be afraid to ask your fellow teachers or principal for advice. Steal ideas from others!!
  21. Kelly Bergeron - I just finished my first year of teaching! I think the most important thing is being prepared and organized, and flexibility is equally important! Lessons won't always go as planned, school functions come at the most inopportune times, sometimes the internet is down and everything that can go wrong... Often times will! You have to go with the flow and remain composed. Teaching isn't always how it appears on Pinterest! The most important thing is making your kids feel safe and happy while engaged  in meaningful learning.  This can be done without picture perfect decorations and perfectly executed lessons so in times of panic remember your end goal and modify your situation accordingly! Good luck!
  22. Larissa Loua -You have to learn how to "disconnect" from the job. It is so difficult not to take the hardships of the children home with you. But setting boundaries between work and home is a very important thing to do. Takes some time! Good luck on your journey as an educator.
  23. Allie Kaul -You set the tone every day.
  24. Joell Wilkins - Don't be afraid to talk to other teachers for support, advice, and just to relate with an adult for a few minutes.
  25. Teach Ersik - Stay away from adult drama whether it is from parents or teachers. Just stay away from it and remember who you are there to teach.
  26. Pinky Ngo - The F-word in teaching is "Flexibility"!!!!
  27. Jessica Dauenhauer - Keep good communication with parents. They are more likely to stay on your side if they know you are trying and that you care about their kid.
  28. Linda Doering - Gravitate towards positive colleagues who inspire others & students alike.  Keep a journal, and for the first year really do reflections - in writing - on how lessons & activities go, how to improve or remove for the future.  Believe that ALL children can learn and that it IS your responsibility to know each & every one of them, how they learn, and to engage & build them up!  If you have children with special needs in your classroom please work closely - and with an open mind - to your Intervention Specialists & Paraprofessionals.  Work collaboratively for the success of ALL children.
  29. Jennifer Keough - The only two things you MUST get through every day are lunch & attendance. Anything else really can wait until tomorrow if something comes up.
  30. Geneva Goodney - Never be afraid to ask, to collaborate, to offer ideas and suggestions, or to trust your own instincts!
  31. Melisa James - You need to know that college didn't prepare you for what you are about to do!!!  ;) You need to be adaptable and ready for constructive criticism, because the first couple of years are trial and error. Listen to veteran teachers and take advice. No matter how long you teach, every year you'll find something you need to change or improve upon.
  32. Caitlin Riley - Document, Document, Document....it will help when parents/administrators ask why you gave a detention or why you did what you did.
  33. Nicole Larkman - Balance. You NEED to have a balance between work/home. It may seem impossible at times, but it needs to be done!
  34. Eva Bridgeforth - Don't be a martyr.  I've seen too many people sacrifice their health, sanity, and relationships for the job.  Prioritize and make the job sustainable...you will impact more lives by staying in the long run than by burning the midnight oil.
  35. Stefanie Geoghegan - Have several backup activities ready for the kids for when the schedule changes and you suddenly need to occupy fifteen minutes, or if a teacher or administration needs to talk to you for a few minutes. Kids should be know what they are and be able to get to work without any extra directions.
  36. Cara Cornell-Malone - Engage your students.  They should be reading, writing, and discussing every day.  Have a procedure for anything that will drive you crazy at some point during the school year.  Teach procedures and reteach procedures.
  37. Michelle Long - You will want to give up, but don't....find a positive person in your school and talk to them.
  38. Caitlyn Strange-Hendricks - It's hard...way harder than anyone thinks. But love your kids, and they will love you too.
  39. Linda La Bella - Don't send kids to the principal's office
  40. Tracy Gill - Have strict classroom management, but don't try to control every little thing the kids do. That will drive you nuts and push them to act out more. Let the little things slide while still holding them accountable for their actions.
  41. Sharnie Van Lith - Build relationships before you think you're going to teach them anything. Respect them and they'll respect yo
  42. Tracey Schimke - Expect the unexpected.
  43. Melissa Alvarez - Find a partner teacher who is willing to take a kid when you need a time out from them
  44. Rowena Hipol - Listen and learn from colleagues but trust your gut. Every day is a new day.
  45. Steve Miller - Make the custodians, facilities and office staff your BEST friends....they RUN the school and know HOW to get things done there.....we just work there!
  46. Maggie Kelly - It's all pointless without PASSION! You can sell them anything if you believe it and love it with your whole heart. That, and ALWAYS have a 'plan B'. Good luck!
  47. Crystal Holshouser - Classroom management does not mean straight and perfect rows of sparking clean desks and eager straight A students..... It means a warm, welcoming classroom with an environment conducive to learning...... Remember, if you dread going to work, your kids have already checked out......
  48. Jennifer Campbell - Being a new teacher doesn't make you any less capable, talented, or dedicated than more experienced teachers. Believe in yourself!
  49. Tippi Matherley - Don't forget to sleep. You are only as good as you last night's sleep.
  50. Amy Mcclain - Go with the flow. Flexibility is a key with little people. Of course that doesn't mean to not have plans and management but being able to change quickly and easily is important.
Question Connection - Advice from Real Teachers
Do you have a tip for new teachers that you would like to share? Please post it in a comment below. If you would like to submit a teacher question of your own, be sure to watch for the Question Connection announcement on Wednesday evenings at 8:30 pm ET on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through!

Great Questions + Advice from Real Teachers = The Question Connection! Enjoy!


  1. Thank you so much for this informative and inspiring post! I am working on my alternative educator license and appreciate this helpful feedback.

  2. Tremendous list! It's always helpful when teachers share thoughts, wisdom, and experiences with one another. We have much to learn from the understanding each one has gained. I would add: be bold, be creative, be willing to leap out of the box, see the beauty and great good in each student, offer encouraging and supportive words to your colleagues, pursue collaboration, engage the community, and be honored and humbled by the knowledge that you are positively impacting the future by inspiring and serving the hope which is the students.

  3. Keep your cabinets and desk drawers organized. You will be glad you did.

    Prepare your desk for tomorrow's lesson BEFORE you go home today. You will sleep better tonight.

    Keep snacks in your desk for the day you forget your lunch on the kitchen counter at home.

    Drink coffee.

    Thank everyone for any little thing that they do for you. They won't forget it or you.

    Stay away from the Negative Nellies that every school has. They will zap away your energy and waste your time.

    Ask for help. We all were new at one point and someone was there to help us.

    Greet each child at the door as they come in. You may be the only positive adult interaction they have that day.

    Laugh at your mistakes because you will make them. Laugh when your kids catch you making a mistake because they will and it makes you more human to them.

    Have a good desk chair even if you have to buy one. My comfy, bright purple one makes me smile.

    Don't plan on winging something. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

    Drink more coffee.

    Smile and they will smile with you.

    Eat lunch with happy people.

    Tell parents good things their child did. This sets you up for an positive outcome when you have to share the negative thing that their child did.

    Make the kids keep your classroom floor clean. When there is no clutter on the floor, your classroom management is in place. I'm serious. I can tell a room that is out of control by looking at the floor.

    Make friends with your classroom neighbor. You WILL need each other.

    Smile. If you don't feel like smiling the fake it. You will feel better.

    Come back for a second year. It will be easier.

    1. Wow!
      Thanks for the additional tips!

    2. This was great! Thanks for the additional comment to add to the list! This is my first year and I'm ecstatic. Thanks for all the advice!

  4. I would add that on the first day, make sure EVERYONE knows how they are getting lunch and how they are getting home. Practice dismissal before the end of the day, especially if students walk out with another adult or need to meet a sibling. Show them the adult that they will be dismissing with. And for the first week, keep checking and asking how they are getting home--because for some it changes daily!

  5. This quote from Jacques Barzun that helped me in my 29 year teaching career. He said:

    "In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years."

  6. As if these teachers are reading my mind and feelings during the past 17 years. Every year is a new one and needs the same effort as the previous one as the expectations from oneself increase with the increasing experience.
    Having lots of resources will help preparing good lessons, and hence being more confident and feeling more happy.
    Happy teaching this new year all.

  7. I wrote this blog post for Edutopia last year: You Only Get One "First Day of School!" http://www.edutopia.org/blog/only-1-first-day-school-lisa-mims


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