1. Actually Use the Textbook
One of the best pieces of advice a new teacher can get is to religiously use the curriculum guide, textbook, and/or pacing calendar you have been given for your content area. It will save you loads of time and help structure your first year of teaching. You can get more creative later as you get more familiar with the content and gain more experience. During year one of teaching, stick to the materials you have been given and take good notes so you can tweak things for next year.
2. Ask for Help & Build Relationships
Your building staff and administration want you to be successful your first year and every year after that. Reach out early on when you have questions. They will be eager to help point you in the right direction or get what you need. Another piece of advice is to treat the office and support staff well because you will need their help. Get to know their favorite things, find out if they have kids, grandkids, hobbies. Make sure to greet them every day and ask them how they’re doing. They have some of the most stressful jobs in the building.
3. Keep a Strict Schedule
We know you are excited to be the most amazing teacher that ever existed on the planet, just make sure you are taking care of yourself first so you can accomplish that. A word to the wide, go home when your contract time is up. If you are released from your contract time daily at 4, then go home at 4 and leave school work at school. Set a schedule that you can stick to. Set aside time to plan for lessons, grade student work, contacting parents, and connect with colleagues.
4. Clean Off Your Desk Daily
This tip may seem simple, but it can make a world of difference for you when you walk into a room with a clean desk the next day. As you wind down for the day and you are getting ready to head home, take 2-3 minutes to clear your desk and restore it to its original state. If there are items on your desk that require follow-up, make a note of that. Use a sticky note and jot down a quick record of what you need to do next. It can also be helpful to write yourself a note of the first 5 things you want to accomplish the following day so you are ready to tackle those items as soon as you show up tomorrow. You will thank yourself later.
5. Plan Your Outfits Ahead
This is no joke. Teachers need to clear out as much room in their brains for the important mental processing they will be doing during the week with their students. Any way you can increase your mental bandwidth, the better! If choosing your outfit in the morning is taking some of that time, then put it on autopilot! Consider setting out 5 outfits on Sunday night for your entire teaching week. As soon as your alarm goes off Monday morning, you’ll have already planned out your clothes and be on your way to school sooner with a clearer head. Maybe now you’ll have time for that cup of coffee you need!
6. Only Grade a Few Items Each Week
Dear New Teacher, you don’t need to grade every assignment or paper that comes into your turn-in tray and you shouldn’t. Plan ahead for 2-3 assignments each week that will go into the grade book. Get into a rhythm of putting an assignment in the gradebook on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Decide what matters most and spend the most time grading THAT assignment. Remember to involve students in the grading process because that will save you time as well.
7. Get Crystal Clear on Your Expectations
Get SUPER clear on what you expect from students. I had the most trouble with that my first year. I hadn’t thought of procedures and expectations and routines. Think through what you want students to feel like, how you want things to sound, what kind of language you want to use with them. Use resources for new teachers. There are plenty that will help you outline classroom rules, procedures, and routines. Some even help you map out what to teach when. Depending on your grade level - consider spacing out how you teach routines and procedures.
8. Get Mentally Prepared
Prepare for the first two and last two weeks of the school year to require the most energy. Do the same things you would do to prepare for a big test or an important interview. Get good sleep, exercise, and fuel your body with healthy food. Amp up your wellness practices so you can show up strong. In addition to the beginning and end of the school year, you will also want to mentally prepare for before and after a long break. Your administrator will most likely remind you to keep things in your classroom consistent because students will need expectations reinforced. That means they need explicit reminders of your expectations, routines, and procedures.
9. Behavior Management
Use natural consequences as often as possible. For instance, if a student leaves paper scraps on the floor, have them pick it up. If at all possible, think through what your reaction would be to a certain student behavior BEFORE it happens. For example, if a student blurts out in class while you are teaching, what will you say? How will you respond to reinforcing your classroom expectation? You can also learn a lot post interaction. Be bold and ask other teachers how they handle certain infractions. Tell them what happened and ask them how THEY would have responded. You can learn a whole lot in a short period of time when you are asking your colleagues around you.
10. Be Authentic
Tell your students who you are and be real with them. Tell them about your family, your hopes, dreams, goals. Tell them about an embarrassing moment. Connect with them and be human. Remember that NO ONE is YOU. No one can run your classroom as YOU will. You don’t have to be like teacher A and you don’t have to be like teacher B. You get to be YOU! If you get advice from your colleagues, consider putting your own spin on it so it is in alignment with your true teacher self. You better believe that your students will know if you’re being authentic or not. Students respond best when their teacher is comfortable and consistent. So be yourself!
We hope you enjoyed these ten tips for the new teacher! You are going to do great things in your classroom!