Starting your teaching career can be exciting, but you're also sure to have some jitters. Looking for some advice? We asked 7 educators to share their best tips with us to help new teachers have a successful school year.
Being a New Teacher
As a new teacher, you have plenty on your plate - getting to know all of your students, creating lesson plans, mastering classroom management and grading assignments, just to name a few. You want to start your career off right, but how do you get past the nerves and uncertainty? Try these pieces of advice from teachers who have been in your shoes.
Have a Plan & a Backup Plan
''Teaching requires equal parts superstructure and improvisation. Have an air-tight plan for what you're going to do with every second of your day. Then have ideas for what to do when that plan fails.
At first this is a daunting, exhausting prospect, because it takes a long time to absorb a repertoire of lesson ideas that will work for your particular personality, and a lot of experience to be able to form them into a plan, and also to pull them out of a hat. If you are not mean about it, the kids will forgive you every day when you fail. Just do your best, shake it off, and come back tomorrow.''
-Adam Cole, Co-Director of Grant Park Academy of the Arts
Don't Limit Who You Befriend
''[My best piece of advice is] the same as I told all the new kids in the school. Sit back and watch, check what others are doing and don't jump into the first friendly person as a best buddy. Sometimes that friendly person has burned a lot of bridges and is seeking a new cohort. It is better to be friendly with a lot of people and not get caught into one group or person.
Some of the best teachers with best practices might not be the overtly friendly person during the coffee breaks. Seek out the people who have years of experience in your new environment. Often schools do events for the new hires and you tend to bond to them but you all find you are all like fish out of water. Try to get a mentor who is in your grade level and has taught it several years in this school.''
-Julia Simens, Child, Adolescent and Family Counselor and Author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child
Find a Mentor & More
''New teachers need to work with mentor teachers, if possible, in their department at their school. They need to learn about available resources, such as textbooks and online. They need to develop realistic lesson plans which allow for success and will allow them to have a free weekend once a month. Also, classroom management is essential. So, they need to work on developing realistic classroom strategies along with adhering to school policies. They need to be comfortable with their developed policies, fair, and consistent. Otherwise, unruly students will undermine new teachers.''
-Steve Sonntag, 9th through 12th Grade Teacher
Remember Why You Became a Teacher
''Throughout your first year especially (and entire career, really) there will be plenty of people eager to remind you how much you'll work, how little you'll earn, or how under-appreciated you'll be. These unsolicited opinions may come from the media, your own family, even other burnt-out teachers. Consider this commentary noise and tune it out. You entered this profession for a reason -- because you have a passion for kids and for learning. Keep that in your mind all year, even when things get tough (because they will), and it will help keep your focus where it needs to be: on your students and the good, important work you are doing for them.''
-Charissa West, High School Social Studies Teacher
Make Movement a Part of the School Day
''As a physical education teacher, I have found that the best advice I can give to any teacher - not just physical education teachers - is to incorporate movement into as many parts of the school day as you can. Using playful kinesthetic teaching strategies can help children increase their brain's capacity to receive new information, increase student's self-confidence with learning, and quickly improve student test scores. Adding some fun movements to your opening morning routine will get students on the right track first thing! If you make the activities fun, students will look forward to starting the day with you!
There is an added benefit to kinesthetic learning programs (my favorite is Math & Movement): when implemented in an intentional way with a playful approach that builds trust between the student and teacher, kinesthetic activities can actually help reduce the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on students' capacity to learn. When you use playful movement, you help open children's brains to effectively learn any subject you teach while also improving social-emotional skills.
Kinesthetic strategies are also fun for YOU - they keep you energized and excited, too! Playful intentional kinesthetic strategies will bring you and your students great success!''
-Marcia Wade, K-5 Physical Education Teacher
Focus on One Task at a Time
''The best advice for new teachers is to focus your energy and attention on the one task that is currently in front of you. When you are new to teaching, you are exploding with ideas, plans, and tasks to complete, which can become overwhelming if you believe you have to get it all done at once.
We tend to respond to the stress of being new and having so much to do by creating elaborate to-do lists and jumping back and forth between tasks. While this feels productive, it actually requires more of your time and energy because your mind has to stop, shift, and adjust between tasks. Furthermore, it doesn't allow your brain to go deep into determining the best way to problem-solve or complete any task because it's spreading its bandwidth trying to keep all of the tasks in the forefront of your mind. They are vying for your attention, which is why you end up spinning in circles.
Although it feels counter-intuitive, choosing to focus on one thing at a time is how you:
1) Get tasks completed efficiently
2) Complete them with more ingenuity and creativity
3) Reduce worry, stress, confusion, and [feelings of being] overwhelm[ed]''
-Angela Kelly Robeck, Former Kindergarten Teacher and Principal and Certified Life Coach for Educational Leaders
Establish a Work-Life Balance
''You're a brand new teacher and you feel overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done. Here is the biggest tip I can recommend - separate yourself from work and your life because there will always be work to do.
Every year I personally witness (as a former new teacher mentor) new teachers stress themselves out with all their work. The first thing I teach them is to establish some personal boundaries. [I recommend] establishing boundaries like don't check your email after 2:00 pm daily or at home at all to avoid 'That Email.' Others include making sure you leave work at school on the weekends and setting daily goals to leave work at a specific time. Sometimes it's better to slow down to speed up!''
-Josh Hastings, Blogger and Educator
If you're a new teacher looking for resources for your classroom, check out Study.com's Teacher Plan, which includes access to engaging video lessons, lesson plans, worksheets, discussion questions and activities.
*Submissions were edited for clarity and length