New Teachers

20 Tidbits for New Teachers

September 2, 2011
Image credit: Thinkstock

Teachers around the world are gearing up for the new school year -- but the experience is going to be vastly different for new teachers. Where an experienced teacher has the knowledge of what worked and what didn't, a new teacher is going to be bombarded with tons of new info and the need to process it! Not to mention, they will be preparing for the most important piece of all: their classroom instruction.

In no way, do I want to add to the burden of the already-filled-to-the-brim, new teacher stress bucket. I do however, want to share just 20 tidbits which I hope will help ease new teachers into a fun, successful school year. Some of these will be in the form of social media tools, which I think are awesome, and wish I had had as a newbie. And each little tidbit is linked to a resource which I hope you will find supportive.

1. Seek Your Passion!

As a new teacher this may be the farthest thing from your mind. But... it's the real reason you wanted to be a teacher in the first place. I recommend that you consistently keep in mind what your passion is as a teacher. Read The Passion Driven Classroom by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold. It's all about the role passion plays in our work, our lives and our classrooms. Grab a copy and take your time this year to read it.

2. Be a 21st Century Educator

We all hear this term so often around the web... but what does it mean? Visit this wiki for an easy read about what it means to be 21st century educator. It has great resources to take you further in the journey when you're ready. Be sure to view the video at the bottom of the wiki home page.

As you begin your first year, building relationships with grade-level buddies and others at your school site is critical to your success. Don't be afraid to reach out and let them know that you are eager to get to know them. You want to seek out your administrators also and begin to build a good relationship. Encourage them to get to know you, too! This also includes the most important relationship: the one with your students and their families. You are central to their lives now, and your actions will play a big role in all they do this year -- you can count on that! Read this article and begin thinking about how you will build trusting relationships with your school community.

4. Communicate

How you begin to communicate with your student's and families, is truly a reflection of your commitment to them as their teacher. Communication now and throughout the school year is so important. It's vital and essential that it's on-going and creates an environment of collaboration -- with parents as your partners in this journey. Take a look at teacher Pernille Ripp's example of first-time communication with students' parents and get a feel for how you might get started.

5. Collaborate

When I was a new teacher, I sadly taught in isolation. Experienced teachers were unwilling to share resources or lesson plans with me. They held those very close, almost like a mom holds their infant child. It was a tough time for me and I had to rely on my own skills and talents to get me through those early years. This lack of sharing and collaboration meant that every time I wanted to launch a project, I was on my own to make it happen. It doesn't need to be that way! Open yourself up -- share and collaborate with your grade-level team and/or college classmates. Share resources, join planning teams, be a part of the conversation! You will find that the road to developing lessons and projects will be so much more meaningful to you because you did it with a collaborative spirit! And check out the Collaborators Wanted Group here on to get some inspiration.

6. Get a Mentor

I believe strongly in the power of mentoring. I believe that this relationship is vital to the success of a new teacher. However, not all experienced teachers at a school site are able to take on this challenge. A year ago I had the idea, that if there weren't enough experienced teachers at a school site who could, or were willing to mentor a new teacher, why not a virtual mentor who would be willing to lend support? The Teacher Mentoring Project was born! I urge you to seek out this group on the community. Many amazing educators from around the globe are available to support and mentor you through the first years of your practice and beyond!

I spent over ten years as a site principal. One thing I noticed most of all, as I worked with my new teachers, was that they failed to ask for help. They didn't ask for help from me, their mentors, or even their own colleagues! Then when the big concerns arose, as they almost always did, they spent all this time apologizing for why they weren't successful. Don't make this same mistake. Ask for help! It's okay and shouldn't be seen as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, most will see it as a strength. Isn't this what we expect from our students? Don't we tell them to ask for help if they are struggling with a concept? So why wouldn't you?

You know it all... right? Are you sure? It has been my experience that some new teachers are offended when their mentor or admin asks them to make some adjustments, or dare I say it, improvements. Don't let that be you. Don't let your ego get in the way of an opportunity to grow or move in a better direction. As the year develops, if you have a good admin, you will have an opportunity to be observed. Again, if you have a good admin they will comment on your lessons and offer some ideas on areas for growth. Be gracious and accept them. Ask questions about what they observed. Ask what they offer as a proactive solution, and how they will be supporting you. Then take some time for personal reflection. Read the post by Edna Sackson. It's a great start...

9. Blog for Yourself

I know... I've heard it all from many new teachers: "It's too hard. I'm too tired. I just don't have anything to say." I hope you will consider leaving those excuses behind. Many new teachers are blogging and I can't say enough about the power of blogging in your life as a new teacher. It will help you reflect, get feedback, and collaborate. I, myself, was a novice blogger two years ago. I'm happy to share that I feel like my blogging experience will always be a journey of discovery -- and I kinda like that. In any case, take a look at my blog, and the "Blogs I Follow" on my home page, to get a feel for what others are doing with blogs. There are some awesome blogging platforms available on the web. Pick one that speaks to you and then... jump in! Let me know when you've finally got it up and running!

As soon as you have jumped in and started to blog, get your students doing it too! I know there might be confidentiality issues that may persist at your school sight, but if you are able to, this is a must-do. The insight you'll gain about your students' lives will be priceless. Many teachers have their students blogging worldwide. I'm happy to connect you to them so you can ask questions and collaborate. Give it some thought...

If you don't take time for rest and relaxation you will crash and burn! This is the truth -- no doubt about it. What commitment have you made to yourself to ensure that you do this -- and get some exercise, too? Joan Young started a blog fueled by this idea: "The goal is for us to help keep ourselves motivated and dedicated to living our healthiest, best lives." Check out this blog for ideas on how to be sure you make the time to refuel yourself -- and not just with coffee!

A wiki is a website that lets any visitor become a participant. You can create or edit the actual site contents without any special technical knowledge or tools. A wiki is continuously being transformed and is a living collaboration. I encourage you to take the time to create a wiki for your classroom. It can hold all kinds of great content that you can share with your students and their parents -- the power of wikis is amazing! Check out this site for ideas on how to get started.

Most of us know how to use Skype to chat with friends or colleagues, but did you know that you can use it to connect with educators (some who are also new teachers) around the globe? Be sure to check out Skype in the Classroom for awesome ideas, projects, and collaborations!

Twitter is an online social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets." Twitter is an amazing social media tool for educators and can be a huge source of support for new teachers. If you aren't yet on Twitter, check out Steven Anderson's Live Binder on Twitter for Educators. It's not to be missed. If you are on Twitter... Bravo! Now pass this link to a friend who's still on the fence.

15. Participate in Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are the next best thing to sharing a coffee with a buddy at a local Starbucks. New teachers can find many wonderful support systems in chats. I want to take this time to invite you to join our New Teacher Chat on Twitter (Wednesdays, 8pm ET, #ntchat). It's small, practitioner focused, and supportive. If you are new to chats, it's really the best place to start. I hope you will join us!

16. Join a Community

As a new teacher, you may at times feel isolated. The power of an online community is that you can probably find someone else who'd like some company. Kidding aside, more than that, it's a way to be a part of something bigger than yourself! You can also freely contribute, share a blog post, or ask a question. Consider joining our New Teacher Connections Group here on Edutopia, for starters. You can also find other great communities such as Ning, which will offer amazing opportunities to connect to resources you may have never known existed! Seek out relevant content specific communities for deeper learning.

The YouTube channel in the link above was created for new teachers, by me. It's a collaborative with several educators in Canada. The purpose is to provide year-long feedback to new teachers on how to get through the first year of teaching. Think about how you could use your own YouTube channel with your students, parents, and colleagues. It's fun, and easy to do. Give it a try.

As a new teacher, it's vital that you carve out some time to attend professional development conferences. And these days, it's no longer necessary to spend tons of hard-earned resources to participate. You can attend amazing free professional development opportunities online -- and often times in your jammies! Take a moment to explore an example of what an online conference looks like. And research other opportunities on your own. Let us know what you think about the idea of free online webinars!

When you look back on the journey of this first year, you will be amazed at your experiences! I really hope that you will capture them in a journal, a blog, or with an online diary. I'm a big fan of journal writing, and over the years have captured some amazing memories that would have otherwise been lost. The ability of a journal to allow for personal reflections is truly amazing. In the process of your own journal writing you will think of great ideas of how to do this with your students. For a quick, easy way to journal, check out Penzu. It's really cool -- and it's free!

20. Don't Be Afraid to Fail

"And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." ~Thomas Wayne from Batman Begins (2005)

What a great movie quote, don't you think? It speaks to the fact that we are going to fail. No doubt about that. It happens to all of us. But what we do about it, regardless of what "it" is, is truly what's the most important. The sooner you learn that it's okay to fail, the more enriching your experience as a teacher will be. You will embrace your failures as opportunities for new beginnings.

I'm fortunate to be a part of The 30 Goals Challenge. For this challenge I created 30 blog posts on various subjects that speak to the heart of what it means to be an educator. As I close this "20 Tidbits for New Teachers" post, I leave you with the message of goal #13: Learn from your mistakes.

Let me know what you think. All the best to you on your journey!

There are so many more awesome "tidbits" that can be shared with new teachers. What would be one of yours?

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