Words from Experienced Educators: Advice for First Year Teachers

August 11, 2019

Words from Experienced Educators: Advice for First Year Teachers

I remember anticipating my first year of teaching. Purchasing “first-year” preparation and instructional books so that I could understand what was to come. Frankly, nothing quite prepares you for the role until you’re in it. With a new school year on the horizon, recent college graduates (or individuals transitioning into education from other fields) will be starting their first teaching position. 

To help support their transition into education, I reached out to experienced educators from various backgrounds. Some are teachers, academic coaches, social workers, and educational assistants/paraprofessionals. I asked them to provide advice to first year teachers (also applicable to anyone brand new to working in education). Here’s what they said, in no particular order.

  1. “One piece of advice.... hmmm...  well I would say be real with kids. Let them see you as a human. Admit when you make a mistake and own it. Role model taking responsibility for one's actions. If you don't you will be dealing with a year of headaches and kids making excuses. Ha. Build positive relationships and invest in kids. Support them in their co-curricular activities. Be present and seen. Lastly be involved in every activity and event you can. Take pride in your place of work and the people in it. Trust it will make your life so much easier!” 

  2. “Go into it knowing that it's no movie, it's going to be your life if you want to be good at it…”

  3. “One piece of advice I'd give a new educator is the importance of relationships with the students, many students I've been around felt like they didn't know their teachers. Kids enjoy being able to laugh with their teachers and have fun and that goes a very long way because when they see all sides of you I believe it helps with classroom control [&] discipline. I think kids are more inclined to listen and respect someone [if] they feel like they know when it comes from a place of sincerity.”

  4. “Don't reinvent the wheel. Teachers pay teachers is a wonderful resource to get you thinking creatively!”

  5. “Teach from the heart. The students will know when you are being authentic, so be you (or the professional you) with them. Believe that ALL students can. Social justice and equity begins with you and the way you treat your students. Watch for your blind spots and work to learn more every day. Know that the work is hard and days can be long. Be kind to yourself, and treat yourself with the same compassion you use with your students and colleagues. It is not realistic to say don't work at home, but find a balance. Maximize your time at work so you can balance yourself/your life with your work. Leave the work bag at work some nights and weekends, and take time for self-care.”

  6.  “Practice self care, the field can be tough. ”

  7. “I'd say that for some kids, school is the only place where they have access to a caring adult. Show up for your students and take care of yourself so you're available to do so.”

  8. “Kids that can do well. Will do well. If they cant’ they are lacking something and it is our job to figure out what.”

  9. “Don't lie.”

  10. “Minimize unnecessary downtime. Downtime is not your friend. Try your best to use every minute for student learning.”

  11. “Learn each students preferred name and commit it to memory. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the student for the correct pronunciation until you get it right.”

  12. “Keep snacks on deck! Food goes a long way in building relationships with students (and colleagues).”

Good luck new educators. We need you and we’re rooting for you!

Some quotes were edited for clarity.