20 Tips for New Teachers
If you’re a new teacher, there’s a lot to be excited about. It’s also normal to feel a bit nervous — especially going into your first year of teaching. We have 20 pieces of advice for new teachers to help you start off on the right foot and enjoy a great school year.
1. Take Advantage of Resources From Other Teachers
Millions of teachers have gone before you and experienced the same learning curves. You can feel more confident and save time by taking advantage of some of the work these teachers have completed. Start with a solid foundation when it comes to things like lesson planning, for example. If you find a great lesson plan on how to teach fractions, by all means, use it. Be sure to tweak the lesson as needed to fit your teaching style and your students.
Ask teacher friends and mentors if they have resources they can share. Of course, you can also find a wealth of resources online. In addition to lesson plans, look for other resources like lists of classroom rules you can borrow.
2. Observe Other Teachers in the Classroom
Observation hours are an important component of almost all education degree programs, so you may feel like you are ready to move on from this practice. However, observing other teachers can always be helpful. Plus, once you’re teaching, you may notice things you wouldn’t have as a student. For instance, if you’ve been having trouble facilitating discussion in the classroom, you can watch to see how another teacher effectively leads discussion.
See if you can duck into other teachers’ classrooms during your planning period or even on a day off so you can continue learning from others.
3. Make Connections With Colleagues
You’re likely familiar with the unique challenges teaching presents. An excellent way to navigate these challenges is with a support system by your side. This can include your friends and family, but it also helps to have a network of other people with firsthand knowledge of the roadblocks and high points of teaching. When you start your new teaching job, be sure to introduce yourself to other faculty and get to know them.
Consider inviting colleagues out for happy hour or a backyard barbecue, or make a point to sit with fellow teachers at lunch rather than trying to get work done at your desk while you eat.
4. Find a Mentor You Can Lean On
Another important part of a solid support system is a mentor. More than three-quarters of people agree that mentors are important, but only 37% of people actually have one. A mentor can be a valuable source of encouragement and feedback when you have questions or ideas to share.
A mentor for a teacher could be a professor you connected with in college or a more experienced teacher at your school or another school. It could even be a retired teacher you know. The point is to find someone you have a natural connection with and who you respect as a teaching professional.
5. Form a Mutual Connection With Your Students
Research shows that strong teacher-student relationships are associated with short-term and long-term benefits, including improved attendance and lower dropout rates, better academic engagement, higher grades and better behavior.
Alongside the focus on instruction, remember the importance of forming a personal connection with students. Take time to hear about their hobbies and share aspects of your life, too. A simple way to facilitate this is to dedicate a few minutes each Monday morning to hear about what students did over the weekend. You can also play icebreaker games at the beginning of the year so everyone gets to know each other better.
6. Address Students by Name
Teachers are often encouraged to learn their students’ names, but does it really make a difference? Research suggests the answer is yes — in a 2017 study, 85% of students felt that instructors knowing their names was important, explaining it makes them feel more valued and less like a face in the crowd.
Interestingly, the study also found that teachers do not have to memorize all their students’ names — a practice that can be daunting for teachers with hundreds of students. Name plates and name tags are all acceptable methods for identifying students and helping teachers learn their names over the course of the year. Placing name plates or tents on desks can also help you with seating charts.
7. Make Your Classroom Your Own
For many teachers, decorating their classroom is where the excitement really begins. As you choose classroom decorations, pick out items and themes you love and will enjoying seeing day after day. Let your style shine through, as long as the decorations make sense for your class.
You may also want to change up some decorations, like bulletin boards and posters, with each unit to keep things fresh. Overall, have fun with your classroom decorations. A classroom you enjoy being in can help you get in the right headspace for teaching and make your first year brighter.
8. Be Consistent With Classroom Rules
Classroom management can be the most daunting aspect of teaching for new educators. Even when you feel confident about your teaching abilities, you’ll need to think critically about how to best handle behavior issues in the classroom.
The key, as many teachers will tell you, is to be consistent with your classroom rules. Take time to go over these rules with students at the beginning of the year and whenever they need a refresher. You may consider letting things slide from time to time, but this can feel unfair to students when you choose to enforce the rule for one student. Avoid giving preferential treatment by enforcing rules consistently for all students.
9. Reward Hard Work and Good Behaviors
Research has shown time and again the power of positive reinforcement. A 2018 study, for example, found that positive reinforcement led to higher academic achievement. It also has major benefits for classroom management. When you want students to do their best and follow rules, celebrate the wins with students. If a chatty class does well on listening one day, make a point to thank them for giving their full attention.
For younger grades, especially, stock up on incentives and rewards you can hand out, like fun stickers and pencils students will be proud of. For older students, verbal praise can go a long way.
10. Lighten Your Load by Letting Students Help
Teachers have plenty of work to fill their time, so if there are certain tasks you can let students help with, it’s a good idea to delegate. Plus, involving students can teach them responsibility and help them feel more engaged in the classroom. Students often feel a sense of pride over their special role, even if it’s just to sharpen the pencils at the end of each day.
Other examples of tasks you can delegate to students — depending on their age and abilities — include taking attendance, passing out papers, cleaning chalk or dry erase boards, watering classroom plants and feeding a class pet.
11. Handle Student Incidents Proactively
When a student incident occurs, such as a behavioral issue, address the situation proactively. This means documenting what happened and reaching out to administrative staff and the students’ guardians right away. Talking to families and administration quickly can allow you to maintain more control over the situation rather than having to explain your version of events after the student or others talk about what happened.
As you talk to parents or guardians, make sure you listen to their concerns and stay calm. Refer to your record of what occurred so you can provide accurate, consistent information, and reassure parents that you have their child’s best interest at heart in the way you handled or are handling the situation.
12. Embrace the Mistakes and Learn From Them
Students aren’t the only ones learning in the classroom — teachers are learning, too. Teachers are always learning, and first-year teachers may especially feel they’re soaking in new lessons every day. As you gain your footing with teaching, expect to make some mistakes. Consider these mistakes learning opportunities to help increase your confidence and sharpen your competence as a teacher. They’re a normal part of the process, and every new day in the classroom is a fresh start.
13. Have Productive Time Fillers in Your Back Pocket
One skill you’ll be honing during your first year is time management in the classroom. Specifically, you’ll learn how to better predict the time that various activities will take so you can create lesson plans that fit well into each class period.
As you learn this skill, and even once you feel like a pro, it’s smart to have some backup activities to fill time. If the activity you thought would take 20 minutes only takes 10, you’ll want to have another activity ready to go to fill this extra time. Filler activities don’t have to be anything elaborate and they don’t even need to relate directly to the lesson. You could play an educational game, for example, or give students time to journal about their day.
14. Keep Lesson Plans Detailed and Organized
The way you develop lesson plans will likely evolve over the years. During your first year of teaching, it can be helpful to rely on a template to ensure your lesson plans include important components like learning objectives, activities, a formative assessment and more.
Try to write your lesson plans down in a way that another teacher could teach from them. This is extremely helpful if you need a substitute or if you want to share ideas with other teachers, but that’s not all. It’s also helpful for you. As you plan for the next year, you’ll be able to flip open your lesson plan book and copy the lessons you considered successes.
15. Print All Your Materials the Day Before
Managing stress is a key concern for teachers. For example, one study found that 93% of elementary school teachers were experiencing high stress levels. Teachers can proactively address stress by eliminating as many stressor sources as possible.
One simple tip for this is to take care of practical needs like printing or copying the day before. You can avoid lines at the copier and a time crunch by printing the materials you need and having them ready as soon as the lesson begins.
16. Keep Papers and Supplies Organized
Another way to keep stress down and help you feel on top of things is to keep an organized desk. Use desk accessories like paper trays, file organizers and desktop organizers to keep everything in its place.
Organization can help avoid the extra time and hassle involved with searching for the right paper to hand back to a student or looking for your stapler. An orderly space can help you feel mentally organized, too, so it’s worth investing in a few organizational tools and sticking to an organizational system.
17. Take Time to Relax and Engage in Fun Activities
When you’re passionate about what you do, it’s easy to let it become all-consuming. However, giving all your time and attention to teaching isn’t sustainable and can lead to burnout.
Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to be the best teacher you can be, part of that means giving yourself time to just be you. Schedule time to relax at home or enjoy social time with friends — whatever leaves you feeling recharged and refilled. Prioritize this care, even if it means saying no to some volunteer opportunities or reducing the time you spend on lesson planning.
18. Take Care of Your Body
Another aspect of practicing self-care is taking care of your body. Any busy person knows it’s easy to let their health slip when they’re juggling lots of other responsibilities. Teachers should prioritize their health, devoting the time and attention needed for adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition.
One tip new teachers may find helpful is to meal prep so they always have a nutritious dinner waiting for them at home. You can also make lunches ahead to bring to school. Having healthy food can help your body and your mind, keeping your energy levels where they need to be for a full day of great teaching.
19. Remember Why You Chose This Profession
When times get tough, make a point to renew your sense of inspiration. You can look out for your future self now by writing down your reason for entering the teaching profession. What is your ultimate goal as a teacher? You can refer back to this if you start to lose your sense of purpose or wonder if the hard work is worth it.
Hold onto encouraging words you’ve gotten from past professors or students. Read these messages when your confidence or optimism is waning, and it can have an uplifting effect.
20. Keep a Journal About Your Experience
So much happens during your first year of teaching — including many new experiences, faces and lessons learned. Consider keeping a journal so you can look back later and remember this journey. Journaling can also be a great way to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked in the classroom so you can make positive changes for next week or next year.
Find All the Classroom Supplies You Need for a Great First Year
Teaching is a uniquely challenging and a uniquely rewarding profession. Each new year is an exciting new opportunity to learn and to make a positive difference in the lives of students. Get ready for your first, second or 22nd year of teaching with The Classroom Store. We have all the high-quality office supplies, classroom materials and decorations you need to stock your classroom for a great year. Check out our online catalog to get started today.