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15 Tips from Veteran Educators for Thriving in the First Year

15 Tips from Veteran Educators for Thriving in the First Year

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New teachers, you’re not alone. The veteran educators in our community shared their best advice for thriving in the first year of teaching. The tips range from preparedness to self-care to affirmations for even the hardest of teaching days.

Each of the tips is credited to the educator who offered it. To see all of the tips, visit our Facebook page.

Expect the unexpected

Do not be afraid to deviate from the normal routine. Some of the best teaching moments come from unexpected things. - Joyce Ritchie

Write lesson plans with a pencil. Your day just might not go as planned! - Deanna Hempel Bullington

Positive, genuine phone calls home lift everyone up

I think my favorite advice is to call home when good things happen, not bad. It will take everyone by surprise, and make everyone feel good. This is especially important when a kid may have been struggling- finding something to praise goes a long way to reinforcing positive behavior and further progress. - Whitney Hoffman

Catch the kids doing something good. Use hit and run phone calls to parents saying "their child really did something special today ... just thought you should know." Keep it less than a minute. - John Brodemus

Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Get a flu shot, take your vitamins, get as much sleep as you can....you'll be sick by your second week of the school year. - Joan Renee Moore

Know when to take a day off. Don't get so overwhelmed that you forget why you chose to be a teacher. - Angela McGehee-Lee McConnell

Remember that you’re learning, too

No matter how much you know there will always be more to learn so be open to the opportunity to learn from anyone! - Sue Bruns Maiers

Forgive yourself your mistakes. Teachers never stop learning about what to do and what not to do. - Fiona Walker

Remember what you and your students will always have in common: you’re human

Show them you are human. Admit when you don't know something. You are allowed to smile. - Sheila Zlochower Bernstein

Believe in yourself and your students [and] show that every day, all the time. Reflect but don't take things personally. - Rebecca Toetz

It's all about building relationships! Show respect for young people, prove to them that you are trustworthy by honoring your promises and following through with consequences...even when it's inconvenient for you...Believe in them wholly, maintain high standards and expect students to attain them. - Elizabeth Wallace

Always be fair and treat kids with respect and don't play favorites. Even the youngest kids know when you are and will react to it. - Diana Lefler-Molander

Don’t try to do this on your own

Teachers don't work alone. Reach out to other teachers. - Ola Harrison

Suggestion: finding a coach/mentor should be #1! - Susan McCartney Anderson

You’re changing lives

If each year, you get through to just one student, you will have changed more lives than many people do in their lifetime. - Amanda G.C. Clark

Please feel free to comment with your own advice.

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Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

One I'd add: It's hard to fix things midstream, and that's OK. Survive the year. Keep track of the things you know you need to change, then take the summer to completely rethink how you run your classroom.

(2)
Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Yes to all of these. I see so many beginning educators who think they need to be Master Teachers on day 1. I tell them that your prep program is just about getting you ready to be a really good NOVICE teacher. The road from Novice to Expert is developmental, just like the process of growing from a child into an adult. Be gentle with yourself when you mess up and find supportive people who can help you maintain perspective.

Bradley Foust's picture
Bradley Foust
Title I Facilitator/PLC Coach- Bartlett Elementary School; Adjunct Music Instructor, Troy University eCampus

Teaching is one profession that truly provides on the job training. In college, we learn what to teach. When we get jobs and begin teaching, we learn how to teach. A little later on, we figure out why we teach. The first years are tough, and nothing quite prepares us for them. As a teacher of nearly 20 years, I suggest finding a trusted, effective veteran teacher in the building and making that person a best friend! Also, don't get discouraged when things don't go well...they won't, and there will be times when quitting will seem like the best option. Don't quit! Things ALWAYS get better, and with time and experience, teaching will become more enjoyable and personally rewarding.

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