Advice for New Teachers

A common topic among my previous posts is advice: advice to teachers from students, advice for teaching in the final month, and advice from seniors to upcoming seniors. Going along with this theme, I thought I’d blog about advice for brand new teachers. I have realized that there is so much I know now that I wish I knew during my first year of teaching, and because of this, I’d like to share some of things I’ve learned, and wish someone would have told me.

  1. If you are hired before the summer starts, ask if you can attend a faculty and/or department meeting. This will allow you to get a feel for the school and its culture, and it’s also a nice way to meet your future colleagues.
  2. Ask your supervisor if he or she can put you in touch with other teachers in the department who have taught the same classes you have been assigned. Email or call those teachers and ask if they would be willing to meet with you before the school year starts. This will definitely help to ease your anxiety, and you will be well-prepared at the start of the school year!
  3. Try to observe as many classes as you can during your prep periods. I know you will be busy in the beginning, but once everything settles down, try to visit other teachers’ classrooms and learn from their strategies and pedagogy. Don’t just limit yourself to your department–visit classes in other disciplines as well!
  4. The first week of school is crucial for setting the tone for the rest of the school year. Explain the classroom procedures and policies and stick with them! Do not let anything slide at first, or students will begin to take advantage of your leniency. It is easier to become lenient than it is to become strict later in the school year.
  5. Volunteer to chaperone school events, and show your face at club fairs or sporting events. You don’t want to limit yourself to the classroom.
  6. One the first day of school, print a bell schedule, your teaching schedule, and a school calendar, and tape them to your desk. Enter all important meeting dates in your phone and set an alert so you don’t forget.
  7. If you have an assigned duty that changes each day, set an alert in your phone for this as well.
  8. Create a “Calls Home” log and document every phone call you make. Include the date and time of the call, the student’s name, the purpose of the phone call, and the result.
  9. Create folders within your school email. I usually have one called, “Parents’ Emails” and one called “Important Emails.”
  10. Have a physical folder to keep copies of all disciplinary reports and referrals submitted throughout the school year.
  11. Color is your best friend! Color code your classes and have colored folders to  collect assignment for each class. I also have colored folders to hold my handouts for each day of the week.
  12. Try to make all photocopies a full day in advance. If you can’t, get to school at least an hour early so you can beat everyone to the copy machine.
  13. Print nice emails from parents and students and keep them in a folder. I have what I like to call a “Feel Good,” and I keep all gifts and letters from students and parents in it.
  14. Create a “Professional Development” log and update it throughout the school year. This will definitely be helpful at the end of the year when you must submit your PD hours (it is a nuance to look back at the calendar and figure out all the days you had PD). Be sure to record the date, the title of the PD, and the length of time.
  15. Have open communication with the parents. Email as soon as an assignment is missing–don’t rely on Genesis to inform the parents of this (some parents don’t even check Genesis or the grading portal). Also, try to send a good email home once in a while.
  16. Always inform the students BEFORE you call home about an issue or BEFORE you submit a disciplinary referral. If you do not inform them, you will break their trust in you. If you call or email home regarding an issue, be sure to follow up with the parent in a week or so to report the student’s progress (or lack thereof).
  17. If possible, have a colleague look over an important email before your send it; tones in emails can easily be misconstrued.
  18. Do not hesitate to ask for help. If you do not feel comfortable going to your supervisor, find a colleague in whom you can confide and continue to speak with this person for the year. You do not want to the be the teacher who goes to every department member for help or it will look as though you are incompetent.
  19. Don’t ever gossip about students or work. If you feel that you need to vent, talk to a friend, but in a private place.
  20. Don’t engage in work drama. If you hear colleagues gossiping, walk away.
  21. Try to separate work from your personal life. When you are away from work, enjoy yourself. Don’t talk about work with your family or friends, or it will just add to your stress.
  22. This one might be difficult, but try to leave work at work. This might mean staying until 6 or 7 pm one night just to grade essays, but it is better to do it all at work than bring it home. You don’t want work to consume your life.
  23. Always be professional, even when you are not at work (you never know who you’ll run into at the grocery market!).
  24. Be friendly at all times and get to know your colleagues. If your colleagues are going out after work on a Friday, make an attempt to go with them!
  25. Share successful lessons with other teachers. Your first year, most teachers will be sharing their resources with you, so it is nice if you can reciprocate once in a while.
  26. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel–there are plenty of resources out there!
  27. If you borrow resources from other colleagues, try to adapt it, so it is your own. The students will immediately know if you are uncomfortable with the material, and this might show if it is not fully yours.
  28. Don’t worry if a lesson fails. Things will not always go as planned, so you will need to reflect and then revise. It is okay to stop mid-lesson and switch gears if something is not going well. The students will respect you more and appreciate the changes you make; don’t let the lesson be disaster.
  29. Always ask for student feedback. If you think the students are struggling with the material, ask them what they specifically find to be difficult and then re-teach the lesson in a different way or try to engage the students with a different strategy.
  30. Be flexible at all times. Your plans will constantly change, especially if there is an unannounced fire drill, lock down, or assembly. It is also okay if your classes are moving at different paces.
  31. If you are having a bad day, try your best to put on a facade for the students. If you really can’t do this, take a break or sit in your car for some time, and then return to the classroom when you are ready (I suggest doing this during your free periods only!).
  32. Always keep tissues and band-aids in your classroom
  33. Keep a stack of Thank-You cards in your desk (you never know when you’ll have to write a formal thank you to someone).
  34. It’s always good to keep a stapler, scissors, and a small hole puncher in your bag!
  35. Get to know your students and show them that you care. Go out of your way to watch their sporting events or other activities, go see the school play, and ask students how their weekends went. They will like you more if you take an interest in them. Show them that you are human, too!

These are just a few of the suggestions that I thought of at the moment, but as I think of more, I will add them to this list!

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