Five Tips for New Teachers | Grade 2 Hullabaloo: Five Tips for New Teachers

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Five Tips for New Teachers


I mentioned on Instagram that I was working on a PD presentation (with my AP and two other teachers) for our mentoring program for new teachers. The photo I had on Instagram showed a few of the top ten suggestions for new teachers, and she wanted to see more.

I have taken those ten and revised them to reflect what I think is important. 

Here are my Five Important Reminders for New Teachers:

1. Be prepared. For the first day, and couple of weeks afterwards, make a list of everything you have to do. It doesn't have to be fancy. Type it in Word. Scribble it on the back of an envelope. Just do it. When you accomplish something on the list, highlight it to show yourself that it has been completed. It will feel great to highlight items on the list!

I have been making a list for my first day, and first week for over 20 years; lists help me to stay on track, but more importantly, they become my rock when the seas get rough. If the kids get rowdy, or an activity flops or doesn't last as long as you thought, you can go to your list of extra activities that you have planned and prepared. Over planning can be your best friend in the first few days of school. Always have two or three extra activities ready in case technology fails, or some other catastrophe happens. :-)

Here is my current, messy To Do list. Notice I've highlighted some things! I am about to highlight "Blog Post" as finished! 

2. Share your expectations. A lot! No matter what your classroom management program is, start as soon as you can pointing out desired behaviors. I used to say, "I like how so-and-so is whispering and making eye contact with other-so-and-so." However, I don't say that anymore. I don't want children to want my approval, I want them to feel confident they are making great choices without my help. Instead, I might say, "I notice that so-and-so and other-so-and-so are whispering and making eye contact. They must feel great about being respectful to other friends in the room."

Post your classroom rules in a location where students can see them and you can refer to them as needed. Remind! Praise! Redirect! Rules and routines are always up there with your content, but at the beginning of the year, rules secretly trump content. 

Decide which kind of disciplinarian you will be. You're going to have to discipline kids, so you might as well think about it. Are you going to be a yeller? A whisperer? Somewhere in between? 

I am a soft-spoken person by nature. Therefore, I speak softly with my students. I have had many coworkers and visitors to my classroom observe that I never raise my voice at my students. They are in awe of how I manage my students with a soft voice. It hasn't always been that way. 

When, in my first teaching job in inner-city Memphis, I had to blow a whistle to get my 26 third graders quiet, I decided that I had had enough. I decided that *I* was going to be the leader of the group and that I would not be yelling. I loved those students, because they taught me more than I ever taught them. My heart will always be with them.

So, I don't yell at my children or raise my voice in anger (in excitement or passion about a topic -- you bet!).  I tell my students that I don't like it when someone yells at me, and I'm not going to do it to them. I rule with a soft voice, and an iron will. When I ask someone to do something, I expect it to be done when I ask. If it is or isn't, I pass along an appropriate consequence. 

"Oh! I appreciate you respecting your classmates and me by putting away the game. I know you really wanted to keep playing." 
"You've had three reminders to put away the game. Let's have a talk at recess."

It's very hard to rule with an iron will. By iron will, I mean that I expect directions to be followed quickly and the first time I ask. I don't like conflict, and I don't want to call out a child who is not following the directions. However, if I can't keep order, then I might as well go home. Order, for me, is speaking with a soft voice, using the best manners, and making sure that my students know that I expect the same of them.

Here's an example. After I model how to play a math game, and after we have made a chart of the expected behaviors -- have fun learning math, whisper, share and take turns, etc.-- there is always a sweet child who keeps getting loud. I will say, sort of as an aside, "Whoever said, 'Seven!' needs to whisper or go sit down." I don't have to say the child's name. I don't even look at the child. It gets the point across. As the days and weeks pass, I'll say, "If you just said, 'Good one!' please go to your seat. We whisper during math game time. 

Questions to consider:
  • What do you expect of your students?
  • Do you expect your students to follow directions the first time, like every school rules poster in the world says?
  • Or, are you going to let things slide until you're completely frustrated and then dole out a consequence? 
  • Are you somewhere in the middle? 
  • What is your classroom management system going to be?
I am asking these questions, because you will be exposed to situations like this on the first day of school. My advice is to decide if you're a 'follow the rules the first time' kind of person, or if you're a 'let it slide' person. Whatever the choice, try speaking softly. It will freak out your students, and you will feel like a magician when you do it! :-)

3. Perfection Sucks!  I say that not from ever having reached perfection, but from chasing it for too many years. You're going to want your room to be perfect. You'll want the perfect first day outfit. 

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope and all the other ways that we have perfection stuck in our face, on a daily basis, will show you all the perfect classrooms. Remember, there is one of you. You're seeing dozens of different ideas; dozens of teachers with varying amounts of experience. There is no way you can implement all of them or try to be any of them. Be yourself. 

And, guess what? No one is going to know that you didn't have time to put those cute posters on the back wall. No one is going to know that in the final minutes before the children came in, you were stuffing extra papers, files and boxes in the back cabinet. No one is going to know that you really wanted to make super-cute, first day gifts, but there wasn't room in the budget for it. I know these things. I have lived them.

The point is to focus on the important things -- not the decor, but the occupants of the room. Make sure your room is clean and neat. Put up a cute bulletin board and post the children's names on your door or in the hallway. Do your cute stuff, but don't let the wonderful (and perfection-seeking) social media sites tell you that you aren't perfect or good enough. 


As for what you wear, make sure it's comfortable, doesn't reveal too much up-top or down-below, and you'll be fine. 

4. Develop a System for how your students will line up, put away papers, and get out materials. I use a class roster number system, and it works well for me. Every child has a roster number. This number is his for everything in the classroom -- cubby, line position, classwork folders, and textbooks. One note: When we come back from winter break, I let the children line up in reverse order. All those W names finally get to be at the front of the line. The kiddos love it!

I have one boy line leader and one girl leader each day. I call these my stars. They are my runners for the day.  I post their names and roster numbers on the board, and I use a little magnet to mark the person who is the girl star and boy star. If someone has a birthday, they get to be the leader (and then we go back to the list the next day). I tried multiple jobs, but it was more than I wanted to handle. I know some of my colleagues do it, and it works well. 

Remember: #perserverenotperfection

Here are a few questions to think about:
  • Where will students keep their binders, folders, and markers/crayons?
  • If you have extra supplies, where do you plan to keep them? 
  • How will you collect supplies on the first day of school? Put out baskets? Zippy Bags? Ask a parent volunteer to come in and help?
  • What is your process for packing up go to home in the afternoons?
  • How do you know which students are riding the bus, car riders, or other?
  • Have you created a folder for student information? Do you have this in a handy location for fire drills?
  • Do you have a recess bag or (GO bag for field trips or assemblies) that contains a class roster, wipes, Band-Aids, and tissues?
  • How will you signal to students that it's time to come in from recess? (Get a whistle and put it with your school keys.)
  • What are your expectations for walking in the hallways -- total silence, whispering, anything goes? 
  • If you have a snack time, what are your expectations for it? Does your school have snack guidelines? Do you have students with food allergies? 
  • How do students clean up after snack? (**This one is important**)
  • What will you do if you get a new student two or six months into the school year? (TIP: Make Extra Student packets that contain everything the new student will need -- desk nameplate, clipboard, white board, numbered folder, etc. It is a pain to do this, but it is so worth it when you can reach for a packet instead of searching for all of these individual things!)
5. Take it all in.  Get yourself a notebook or journal. Write down the funny things your children say. Write down their names, because 20 years later, you may not remember that child's name, and you'll want to remember it. Stick the notes from your students and parents. Make it a keepsake book of your teaching experiences. 

I meant for this to be a quick post, but I think it's my longest. Ever! I hope you have found some useful tips and questions as you begin your career as a teacher!

I wish you the best of luck in your first year of teaching! If you have questions, please email me at

P. S. In case you're wondering, the planning page is from One Stop Teacher Shop

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