10 Tips for New Teachers

"Congratulations! You got the job!"

Now what?

As a new teacher, planning for the school year can seem like an overwhelming task with a never-ending to-do list. Let me put your fears at ease: you got this! Yes, teaching is a lot of work. It's the best, hardest profession (in my humble opinion!). I want to make this transition as smooth as possible for you, so I have compiled 10 tips for New Teachers for you to read and implement as you plan for your new classroom!

Welcome to the wild and wonderful ride of teaching!
1. Be yourself! 
You are qualified. You were chosen for this job! Don't let others' comments or negative skepticism make you second-guess your calling or your classroom decisions. Trust your instincts. You know how you want your classroom to run and what teaching style is the best fit for you and your students. Don't be discouraged! Remember: You are exactly the right teacher for these students this year!

2. Invest in your students
The number one thing that will ensure a smooth school year is not your classroom decorations. It's not the curriculum or your new comfy teacher shoes. It's the relationship you're going to build with your students. Kids crave authenticity. They know if you're happy to have them in your class. How can you build this relationship?
  • Look them in the eyes when you speak to them and call them by name (even on the first day!): I used to study pictures of my students so I knew exactly who they were when they entered my classroom for the first time
  • Greet your students at the door: Let them know you're glad they've come to school each morning. Ask questions to see how their morning went (did they oversleep, did they eat breakfast, did they fight with their parents on the ride to school - all of these things will affect their attitude and ability to learn in class)
  • Learn about their families: It's important to know about the people who are important to your students. Learn their sibling's names and ask about them. Make mental notes when kids talk about their parents and engage with them about these details. 
  • Talk about their interests: I know you're probably not interested in the latest game or fad - but your students are. Make an effort to learn about these (a quick google or youtube search will do!) and maybe incorporate them into the learning. Kids are instantly more engaged when they can relate the concepts to something they're interested in.
  • Attend their activities: It means the world to students when their teachers show up for things outside of the school day. Try to attend a few soccer games, ballet recitals, church choir concerts, etc. If you can't attend, write your students a quick note the day of the event to let them know you're thinking of them!
3. Procedures, procedures, procedures
Everyone will talk to you about the importance of procedures. And you know what? They'e right! You need a specific procedure for everything. Everything matters! How/when sharpen pencils? How to ask for restroom? How to push in chair, turn in homework, throw away trash, stand in line, walk down the hall, EVERYTHING!! 
You can grab a FREE planning sheet here. 
Once you've decided on your procedures, you'll need to communicate them to your students. Don't assume that they know how you want them to label they papers or when they can sharpen a pencil. Remember: Kids thrive on routine and clear expectations. We cannot fault our students for things we have not explicitly told them we expect of them.

One way that I love to teach and review my classroom procedures is with these Class Procedures Interactive Notebook foldables. As we go through our day I model and the class takes notes on each procedure. It also helps them get used to doing interactive note-taking, which we do a ton of all year long! (win-win!)

These can be customized to fit the needs of your classroom – choose the foldables you want and then have your students fill them in with your specific rules, routines, and procedures. You and your students can refer to this document all year long, especially after Winter Break when they might need a refresher.
4. Ask for Help
When you are starting a new career (or position or school) it's normal to have questions. Ever be embarrassed for not knowing something! I encourage you to make a list of questions - you think you'll remember, but when it comes to the time to ask, you'll probably forget some big ones. Having them written down helps. I actually kept a notepad on my nightstand for a while so I could jot down questions and ideas I was having before I fell asleep. Writing them down immediately helped me sleep better because I wasn't worried I'd forget. 
Who do you ask for help? Find a mentor teacher. This can be someone assigned to you or just someone who is positive and helpful that you gravitate towards. 
5. Collaboration Over Competition 
Teaching can be a lonely ride if you keep to yourself. Share ideas with your team. Bounce ideas off of others and listen to their response with open ears and an open heart. Don't be afraid to try new things. And if, after a few weeks, something isn't working? Then change it! Be flexible. 
6. Give Yourself Grace
Remember what Anne of Green Gables said: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”
Each day is fresh, for your students – and for you too! Be gracious with your students. They are learning and maturing all the time. And you're going to make mistakes too. Own up to them when you need to and learn from them always. Respond rather than react. Don't let your students push your buttons. Remember: Your value does not depend on your students' behavior. Don’t grade based on emotion. A student doesn't deserve a bad grade because he made you angry. Sometimes its best to take a break, go for a walk, clear your head, and then tackle your pile of grading when you're calm.
7. Set time limits on school work
Teaching can be all-consuming. Set a time every day and go home, no matter how large your to-do list is. The work will still be there in the morning. Your family deserves you to be happy and engaged with them just as much (if not more!) than your students do. Your job is the most important one in the world but your kids need you rested and relaxed, not stressed out, tired and sick. Make the most of your planning times at school - the more prepared and organized you are, the less time you'll waste. I choose one afternoon (Thursdays) to stay late to plan and make copies for the following week. The other days I made sure to leave by 4:30pm to keep from burning out. You know yourself best. 
8. Befriend the secretaries and janitors
The secret behind a great school are the secretaries and janitors. These are the people who keep your school running like a well-oiled machine, so you want to be on their good side. Talk to them and take a genuine interest in their lives and their interests. Bring them coffee or treats. Have your students make them cards and pictures. Because you never know when you're going to need that book shelf moved for the 87th time that day, or when you come down with the plague mid-day and need someone to scramble together a sub for you... They're more willing to help you out if they like you!
9. Read books
These are my three favorite professional development books for new teachers:
10. Partner with parents
We know that parents can be difficult to deal with, especially as a new teacher. But I found that partnering with them and communicating effectively and often with them helped build the 
relationships right from the get-go and laid the foundation for a smooth year. Work hard to remember names and faces so when a parent shows up, you know which student they belong to. Send home frequent communication to keep them in the loop about classroom goings-on. I recommend a weekly classroom newsletter that gets sent home in a Friday folder, by e-mail, on Remind, Class Dojo, etc. Parents like to know what’s being covered, when tests are coming up, and it puts the accountability on them to stay on top of what’s going on. I recommend sending home personal notes or e-mails with positive things about your students to each parent at least once a quarter. This helps you focus on the positive traits in your students and reminds the parents that you have the child’s best interest at heart. Knowing that goes a long way! Check out these FREE Bug Notes I send home:

Well, that's it - my tips for new teachers! 
I am so excited for you to begin this new adventure! 

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