Beginning your teaching career can make even the most prepared person feel nervous. One of the truths to becoming a teacher is that no matter how much you prepare in college, every class is different, and you will need to find what works for that group of students. When that happens, new teachers can often feel that they are struggling to keep their heads above water. However, I am here to tell you to relax a little. Here are fifteen teaching advice and tips to make your first year in the classroom that little bit easier and more successful.
First year teachers will need help and guidance, I know I did! There is plenty of advice for the first day of teaching, but often the advice for the first year is a little vague. Maybe we all banished the memories soon after we completed our first year!
First year teachers will need to know how to deal with parents, effective class management, dealing with students issues and problems, motivating and engaging students and upskilling in the course of their first year. Seeking advice from colleagues, mentors and online is strongly encouraged during this time.
Where we have them we also offer resources that may help during your first year so be sure to check them out.
So strap in, hang on and enjoy the ride! Its a great one!
Do not wait to call parents when there is a problem. Get to know them early in the school year. Parents do not want to hear from teachers when there is a problem. Get to know the parents from the beginning of the year. Before school begins, try to contact the parents to welcome them to your class. Every few weeks, make more connections with the parents to praise the students. This way, if there is a problem that requires you to contact the parents, they will not feel that you only want to discuss their child when something negative happens. Using a platform like class dojo or Seesaw can help parents fee involved in their children’s education, and is likely to keep you a step ahead of all those teachers with 20 years experience as well!!
Everyone talks about the holidays, the finish time, but only teacher actually know how much work goes into educating the next generation. As a new teacher you are going to have more work, you don’t have a couple of years experience trying out ideas and learning from them. It can feel overwhelming. However take some solace that everyone else in the staff room has been through the exact same thing. Not one of us, even superstar TED talk teachers walked into that classroom and aced every lesson. Teaching is hard, but its rewarding. Keep your positivity and remember why you do this, we all know it certainly isn’t for the money!! You get to influence lives, lets influence them as positively as possible.
Just like keeping positive can be a challenge, developing classroom management structures takes time, training and experience. It is easy, especially in the first year of teaching, to feel like you are out of control and lose your temper. However, you are the adult in the room, they are the children, so as much as the frustration may seep into you at times. It is best to be prepared for these moments, and there is not much out there to prepare you! even search for a picture for this all I can find is the happy teacher and happy students images I use through out!
Now 90% of the time, probably higher this will be the case, but there are times when you will have to control and chastised and reinforce good behavior. Plan for these instances before you start, and very importantly whether you let the children make the rules for the classroom with you, or at the very least let them know the lines and boundaries with the consequences. Then there is a shared knowledge between both teacher and students find as acceptable. There is also a known consequence for students and it prevents you from going over board on those days when patience is a rarity. ( we all have them don’t worry!)
One mistake that new teachers often make is that they spend all of their time working on school. Lesson plans, grading, parent communication, professional development, and staff meetings take quite a bit of time. You do not want to spend all of your time at school, though. Spend Friday night with a good movie and a bottle of wine, or go on a date with your significant other on Saturday to dinner and a movie. If you want to read a book, read for pleasure for thirty minutes a day. Teacher burn-out is a significant concern, so you want to continue to take time for yourself.
You want to feel refreshed and motivated in your classes, and working from dusk till dawn doesn’t show commitment it shows an imbalance in work life and it will wear you down from the bright eyed new teacher you walked in as ! Take a look around the staff room, secretly, and you may see some of your colleagues who are already on that journey!
Not every student and teacher will have a good relationship. However, if you listen to teachers who had a bad relationship with a student (or a good one), your opinion of the student may be colored before you even meet them. I know of one such situation. The previous year a fourth-grade teacher could not get along with one of the students in her class. He was a very angry student, and she couldn’t seem to make a good connection. The following year, the student had a first-year teacher for fifth grade. He wanted to run outside when he would get overwhelmed. The teacher learned that he had a difficult home life and helped take care of his younger siblings. She began to let him sit right outside the door for a few minutes as long as she wasn’t talking at the time. He began to open up to her and do his work more often. By report card time, he had better grades than ever before.
You are there to provide a safe and effective place of learning and what happens in one classroom doesn’t necessarily transfer to the next. It is important to be informed of additional needs students may have, but each student and each teacher is different and if you can recognize this and try to give every one in your class a fair shot it will be appreciated by most students. Even those who may have a reputation in the school.
Do not worry and stress yourself alone. Ask your school to assign you a mentor in your faculty. Most schools have a mentorship program, but sometimes the mentor is not at your school. If this happens to you, be sure to seek out a mentor in your building or school. You should feel comfortable with this person and be able to ask questions and take feedback. Progressing as a teacher takes time and being reminded of this and given friendly constructive advice and praise (all too rare in teaching) from a respected colleague will go along way to building your confidence and your skill set.
Be firm with parents and students from the beginning. You need to make your classroom rules and consequences logical and understandable from the beginning. Make sure that you hold your students accountable for their behaviors and be firm with the consequences. Let parents know the behavioral management structure in your classroom too. Although It is easier to get more lenient as the year goes on rather than get stricter don’t go off the deep end at the beginning. I once heard a teacher say “”I don’t smile till Christmas”” and I thought what an enjoyable time she must be having in her classes….
Set professional and classroom goals. Setting goals will give you a focus professionally and in the classroom. Goals will remind you why you are doing what you are doing and what you want from your career. Seek certifications and find new ways to achieve goals in the classroom. Work towards them and whether you achieve them or not make sure you reflect on them. You may have aimed to high and expected to be a Dead Poets Society style success in your first year, reflect on that an then adjust your goals for the next year. Try to learn and put into practice something you want to try that in innovative into the classroom in the coming year and then evaluate how it worked.
I did this with Virtual reality in an ESL classroom. Which on the surface has no place at all in a phonics and reading lesson. However, the motivation and engagement shot up with both higher level and lower level reading students when putting their reading into virtual situations, or seeing the subject matter swimming past them. (we read books on sharks and dolphins!) I then invited management into the classroom to witness and now the school has 8 VR headsets used across the subjects. Don’t fall into the trap of just reflecting on successes, make sure you know what didn’t work as well and think about if it was because it was of the idea or the implementation. Then decide if its work changing and trying again or just moving on.
Students need to know that you care about them and their needs. Be sensitive to their struggles, even if you do not understand them. Teachers will not be able to connect with everything that children are feeling and experiencing. However, letting the students know that there is someone who cares and is willing to learn about them will help them be ready to learn. You are one of the most important role models in children’s lives so be prepared to play that role. It can be as simple as having stationary for the children who cant afford it and handing them discreetly, having soap or tissues in the cupboard, to snacks ( allergies allowing) for those who perhaps don’t eat so well. All the way up to offering help after school for subjects or coaching for university interviews and help with applications.
Students need to have their basic needs met before they can effectively participate in learning. No matter how fantastic your lesson plans may be, you will not be able to teach your students if they are hungry, abused, or anxious. You will not be able to solve every problem that students have, but offering the love, support, and basic needs that students lack will prepare them for learning.
Lesson plans are essential, as are sub plans and emergency plans. Be sure that you have basic substitute teacher plans, lesson plans, and emergency plans for every day. Do not walk into the classroom without a plan. Now after a few years you will have a good selection of ideas that work, and a selection of ideas and activities that you have tried and discarded. At this point you probably don’t need to sit and plan a step by step plan for lessons you have run before and you know like the back of your hand. The bad news is you are not there yet, in your first year I regard it as vital that each lesson is planned really well.
This is for two main reasons, the first is to make sure you are prepared and not caught out in the classroom, again later, with experience you will have your teacher toolkit to be able to pull from if you get a surprise lesson or make a mistake in lesson timing, but for the moment have the plans. Secondly it helps you with number 8 in this list: planning of goals. If you have a set of lessons from your first year it will cut your work load dramatically for the next year. You can spend a day going through them and changing what didn’t work and adding some new ideas. If you don’t have anything to base your plans off you will be recreating new ones each year and that is a serious amount of work.
Ban negativity in your classroom and for yourself. You cannot afford to be negative toward yourself. Negativity will fester, and you will eventually feel that you are not cut out for the profession. Also, your students should not be allowed to speak negatively about themselves or each other. This will fester as well. You do not want negativity to take over your classroom. One fun way to avoid negativity is to create an “I can’t” funeral. Have each student write something they think they cannot learn on an index card. Then, “bury” it in a corner or file cabinet. For the rest of the year, the student cannot say they can’t do that thing. They can say they need help, want to try again, or are struggling, but not that they cannot do it. You are required to give them the extra help, allow them to try again, or help them learn a new method. At the end of the year, revisit the “I can’ts” and see what the student has learned.
When you have a chance to interact with fellow teachers, make the most of it. Ask questions, share your ideas and plans and be honest! You are new, they know things you don’t. Teachers do not get enough chance to just share ( constructively) and the chance to share some tips and knowledge is more often than not welcomed by experienced teachers. You have one here spending 5 hours writing an article to do just that!! Feel free to read more of our tips and advice in the blog section of our site as well.
Join a forum or teaching group on Facebook ( like ours) an ask teachers from around the world. It is also a great place to get new resources. Keep in touch with those your qualified with, they are a great resource to share war stories with and to let off steam without doing it in your place of work.
Children learn better when they are engaged and having fun. So do adults, and so does everyone. You don’t have to be doing magic tricks, though i will show you an easy card trick to do (I do it in English classes to get students to participate and notice the sounds of English) but it can be done in any class. You don’t have to be a stand up comedian, or a juggler or a circus clown. However making lessons enjoyable is still important. using tools like Kahoot, or online games, or teaching using a board game, use a craft activity the list is literally endless. We have resources for English teacher here, but feel free to take the ideas and turn them into what ever subject you teach. If you need editable versions let us know and we are usually happy to help out. This will develop trust and a bond in your class, and when more serious work is needed students should be more receptive if they know you are making the effort to make it enjoyable in lessons as well. Rita Pierson said it better than I ever can.
Education, or more accurately, Education departments move pretty slowly. Good teachers don’t, they are constantly updating their knowledge and looking for new ideas to help their students. You don’t have to do formal study, but there is nothign stopping you and if you are aiming for promotion it never hurts. However there are plenty of courses run my education departments for teacher as part of professional development programs and these will be offered for free.
It is easy to put your professional development low down on your list of priorities but it is important to keep progressing, the more you learn the better a job you will do for your students and yourself.
If asked for a list of the most important jobs in society you are going to find jobs like Doctor, nurse, fire fighters and … teachers. It is a vital part of most societies and comes with expectations and responsibilities, if not as we mentioned, the salary it deserves. Your role is to play a formative and influential role in children’s lives and their learning and as we know children are the future ( sorry for the link I couldn’t resist!). If you choose to be a teacher it is to take on that responsibility and to do your best to achieve those aims. it is hard work, you wont be driving a Ferrari anytime soon, but if you go into it with the right skills , attitude and motivations you are going to be doing one the most rewarding jobs there is!
I wish we could say the above is all you need, take notice of those tips and you will have a great year but we cant. Teaching is one of the most varied professions there is. It would be possible to come up with another 15 top tips for the second year and then the third and then probably even your final year of teaching. However, that variance is what makes it one of the most interesting jobs in the world, no day is the same, no class reacts the same way, and when you find that sweet spot it goes from one of the interesting jobs in the the world to one of the best as well.
Enjoy your journey and wishing you a great school year ahead.
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, English, General Studies and Outdoor Education. Thought it was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children