4 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers

What you wish they knew.

man working with woman writing

Our education system is in crisis. We are suffering from a shortage of qualified teachers. In the past, new teachers graduated with a degree in education, conducted classroom observations, completed student teaching, and passed rigorous state certification exams. While some teachers still take this path, many aspiring teachers are bypassing this traditional route in favor of alternative certification. This means that many of our new teachers come to school on their first day with little knowledge of the basics of what it takes to make it as a teacher. With that in mind, here are four pieces of new teacher advice you can share.      

1. Put your best foot forward.

Look for a position that is a good fit for you, not just the first one offered or the one closest to home. Once you’ve been hired, make a commitment to work REALLY hard! Be open-minded and coachable. You are new at this; experienced teachers and your principal know a few things about teaching kids—listen to them. We all love hearing new ideas, but if you have just come to us from another school, don’t begin every sentence with “At my other school we … ” We’ve been figuring things out here for a while. We need your expertise, or we wouldn’t have hired you; but try to listen and honor our existing culture.

Get to work early. Don’t take Fridays off. When you are legitimately sick or have urgent things to take care of and need to be absent, make sure you have great substitute plans ready on your desk. Be mindful of the words you say.

2. It’s all about relationships

Get to know your students. These students are now your kids—love them like they really are yours. Stay focused on doing what’s best for them. Make friends in your department or grade level and then make it a priority to collaborate well with those colleagues. Communication is the key to good parent-teacher relationships. When you do reach out to parents, be positive and constructive. Never forget that you are teaching their child and they have the right and responsibility to partner with us. 

Make friends with the school secretary, attendance clerk, nurse, cafeteria supervisor, and custodian. Work hard but remember you have a life outside of school. Make sure to take time for yourself and for those important relationships.

3. Pay attention to details.

Bring your A-game to the classroom every day. Your kids deserve nothing but your very best. Plan regularly. And when you think you’ve planned enough, plan some more! Follow the curriculum but remember that we are in the business of teaching children, not curriculum.

Pay attention to your email; open it, read all of it, and respond accordingly. Take accurate attendance. Meet deadlines. Do required paperwork. Have someone proofread everything you send home. Keep your classroom and desk neat and tidy. Dress professionally.

4. Avoid drama.

Stay away from all drama and resist negativity. Be aware of teachers who feed off of negative talk. Look for other ways to serve the school by volunteering or seeking out leadership roles.

Most of all, have fun and laugh. Know that the work we do as educators is the most important work there is.

Join the great conversations going on about school leadership in our Facebook groups at Principal Life and High School Principal Life.

Plus, check out our best advice for new principals.

Posted by Danny Gentry

Danny Gentry is a California principal with over 27 years of experience in education, with 15 years of that as a school administrator. His particular areas of interest are in mentoring and transformational leadership. He enjoys writing, backpacking, and Roadtripping.

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