Have you ever wondered if you could go into the future what first year teacher tip you would give yourself 5 years into the future? Perhaps are you a new teacher and part of you wants to go down the hallway and ask your coworkers what mistakes they made their first couple years of teaching.
Maybe you’re an experienced teacher and part of you is wondering what mistakes you made your first couple years of teaching and if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself from 5, 10, 15 years ago?
Well if you were asking yourself any of these questions, I got you covered because I asked over 15 experienced teachers around the world what first year teacher tip they would give themselves if they could go back in time.
So grab a cup of coffee and let’s start chatting with these amazing educators from around the world.
P.S. if you want to learn more from these educators, reserve your seat at the FREE Thriving Teacher Summit happening from March 23rd to the 25th. Make sure to grab it now before the spots fill up!
Listen to the podcast:
First Year Teacher Tip #1: Ask All the Questions
The very first, first year teacher tip is from Rebekah Poe from Lesson and Lattes, who is an Special Education Expert that provides best practice’s in special education for working with students with IEP’s. Here’s what she had to say about a tip she would tell first year teacher her:
My number one tip for new teachers is not to be afraid to ask questions. As a new teacher, you are not expected to know everything, however you are expected to want to learn. So make sure that you’re asking those questions for the answers that you’re not quite sure of that will show initiative on your part.REBEKAH POE
Connect with Rebekah:
It is so easy for you to just get in your own mind and to feel even guilty for asking those questions, but this is a great reminder that you need to ask those questions because that’s how you’re gonna learn.
We don’t tell our students that they shouldn’t be asking questions and learning. If anything, that’s what we wanna see happen. So we need to give that grace to ourselves and be happy and even proud to ask questions. And yet on the other hand it can be so hard to figure out who to listen to and who not to. As a new teacher you might be getting a lot of information or you might be needing to ask more questions either way.
It’s super important to take some time and reflect on the information you are getting and figure out does it align with you and is it authentic to you and who you wanna be as a teacher? And this really reminds me of this conversation I had with Rainy Barton. Which brings me to the next first year teacher tip:
#2 Be Mindful of Who You Listen To
The next first year teacher tip is brought to you by Rainy Barton. Rainy is a time strategist guru, she’s all about saving time using productivity hacks and she has a little more to say about this.
If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing as a first year teacher, it would be to really monitor where I’m getting ideas for curriculum and resources and who I’m listening to. Because I feel like as a first year teacher, everyone is trying to give you information and it’s very hard to determine what’s actually good, what’s actually bad. I encourage you to do your own research, like actually figure out like who you trust in the community to give you good curriculum ideas and like help guide you on your teaching journey and who not really to listen to that just likes to hear themselves talk.Rainy Barton
Connect with Rainy:
When you first start out it can be really hard to figure out the following questions:
- Is this person aligned with me?
- Does this resonate with me?
- Is this a teacher that I wanna invest in or a mentor I wanna follow?
Definitely take this into consideration as you find a mentor or other teachers online to support you.
I can speak from experience, and I can honestly say you are going to find an amazing group of educators on the online world. It is possible and there are so many great ones out there, it’s all about finding the ones though that resonate with you and finding the ones that are authentic to you.
On the flip side, it is super important to focus on just one thing at a time and not to try to do a million things at once. In the business world they call this “shiny object syndrome,” where you see something new and you try to tackle a million things at once. Which we talk about with our next tip:
First Year Teacher Tip #3: Focus on One Thing at a Time
One of the best first year teacher tips I ever recieved was to focus on one thing at a time and stick with it. When you put your energy on so many different things, you actually tend to get hardly anything done.
And that is something that Shametria from the Rowdy Math Teacher really talks about. She goes into depth about how if she could go back, she will tell first year teacher her all about focusing on the one thing I’m becoming a pro at before you move on to the next.
One tip I wish that I would’ve gotten as a first year teacher is to not try and do all the things. When you’re a first year teacher, there are so many ideas and strategies and things that you wanna do in a classroom. Things that you see on Pinterest or things that other people are talking about maybe in Facebook groups or the things that you see on Instagram. And it’s hard not to want to, you know, change everything that you’re doing to try something new, especially when you’re struggling in a certain area. But I encourage you to make changes just one at a time. That gives you time to really focus in on a change that you wanna make and make something that’s gonna be worthwhile and that also gives you time to really see if the change is going to be beneficial for you and your students.Shametria Routt
Connect with Shametria:
Focusing on one thing is so important to focus on. Here at the Present Teacher we talk about the importance of focusing on one thing until it becomes automatic. And that is exactly what Shametria is talking about.
Make sure to perfect one area in your craft before moving onto the next. It will help you so much in the long run.
If you’re anything like me, maybe one of the first things you want to focus on is building a classroom community, or perfecting your classroom management. That’s what makes this next tip from Angel Honts so important which is our next first year teacher tip.
#4 It’s All About Community
Another first year teacher tip came from a conversation I had with Angel Honts who is an educator who empowers other teachers to focus on classroom community and management. And this is what she had to say when it comes to being a first year teacher:
The advice I would give myself is a first year teacher is all about connections. community, consistency, and clarity. Take time to get to know your students, let them get to know you. Build community, make that a priority. Be consistent with your clear expectations because kids thrive on structure. Show them you care. Give, have high expectations with high support.Angel Honts
Connect with Angel:
I love how Angel talked about that level of support in community and we sometimes forget. It’s easy to forget when you’re going through the day-to-day tasks about why you’re really here. And if I know you like I think I do, then I know you’re here to make an impact. You’re here to connect with those kids and you are here to make a change. And sometimes along the way you can lose part of that.
And that reminds me of this conversation I had with Catie Cupples who also has something important to share about community:
First Year Teacher Tip #5: The Importance of Prioritizing
It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the things we are required to do as a teacher. That’s what makes this next tip from Caitie Cupples so important:
If I could go back in time to talk to first year teacher me, there are a lot of things I’d wanna say but one thing I would definitely tell myself is to remember that quote from Maya Angelo and that is that “My students would forget what I said, they’ll forget what we did, but they would never forget how I made them feel.” I’d tell myself that it’s okay to put relationships first, to prioritize my classroom community and to nurture my students in my own emotional wellbeing. Even if it meant I needed to throw the lesson plan out the window, I would tell myself to be patient and to remember that every day I’m growing an everyday coming closer to the teacher I’ve always wanted to be.Caitie Cupples
Connect with Caitie:
I love how Caitie focused it back onto her kids. Your kids are not gonna remember that lesson plan. They’re not gonna remember you staying late, they’re not gonna remember all these amazing activities that you stayed up past midnight prepping. They are gonna remember how you made them feel.
And I know you are in this battle right now of trying to balance getting everything done. You’re trying to have the Pinterest perfect classroom, get ahead, stay afloat, all the while trying to make your kids feel seen, heard and understood. That’s what makes this First Year Teacher Tip so great.
#6 It’s Not About Being First
Along with prioritizing your kids it’s important to focus on yourself. Which is why I love this next first year teacher tip from Emily Eggers from Teach From the Couch. In this teacher tip she talks about the importance of focusing on the things that matter and leaving the things that don’t.
One piece of advice that I would give to first year teacher me is that showing up at the crack of dawn and leaving after it’s dark is not a sign of dedication or of your worth as a teacher. It is the early signs of burnout. And as a teacher we need to set boundaries, uh, with our time and make sure that we are putting systems in place that will help us be efficient with our time. So it is not impressive to your admin that you are staying late or getting there early and doing tons of work and spending all your time in the building. It’s just showing them that you are willing to stretch those boundaries and they may take advantage of that later on. So make sure you put those boundaries in place and set up systems for yourself so that you can um, be more efficient with your time and not spend all your time at school.Emily Eggers
Connect with Emily:
One of the hardest lessons to learn as a first year teacher is that you don’t have to stay late and stretch your boundaries in order to be a good teacher. You might be looking around wondering:
- What’s the secret?
- What do you not know that gets everyone out the door on time?
- Or you might not realize that there is another way and you don’t have to spend hours and hours after work to get the things done.
Just like Emily said, it’s important to create those systems and put them in place so that you can have the boundaries to thrive inside this profession for years and years to come. Which brings me to my next first year teacher tip which is to focus on grading.
First Year Teacher Tip #7 Focus on Grading
If you are like many other teachers I’ve talking to, I’ve spoke to, maybe you have trouble figuring out what to grade. This is one of the first year teacher tips that Lesa Smith shares with me. Lesa is a literacy teacher and she helps literacy teachers thrive inside their classroom. And she talks about some advice she has when it comes to grading things.
If I were to go back and give myself advice after 15 years of teaching in the beginning it would be actually two pieces of advice. One, you don’t have to grade everything as a high school English teacher. There’s so much that can be marked and really what is the best use of your time and the best feedback to give students And that’s not long comments and editing on all of their assignments. So try and streamline looking over something, peer reviews, um, even just a quick check mark sometimes is enough just as a check-in. And then the other is before you leave on Friday, have a plan for Monday, do your photocopying, upload whatever to your learning management system. And this to me saves so much anxiety on Sunday nights that I know when I leave on Friday, I don’t have to think about the week until I get to school on Monday.Lesa Smith
Connect with Lesa:
It is so important to figure out the right way and what things to grade, but it’s also important to set yourself up for success for the upcoming week.
And one way to do that is to get organized digitally. I cannot tell you how much time you’re gonna save if you organize your files and resources now so you can use them for years and years to come.
Which is what our very next first year teacher tip is all about:
#8 Organize Your Classroom Now
When I heard this first year teacher tip from Lisa McHargue I just knew I had to include it in this blog post. Lisa is an organization guru, but it didn’t always start that way. Here’s what she has to say about organizing your classroom right now:
If I could go back in time, I would tell first year teacher Lisa to organize her stuff better because my first year of teaching there was so much to do and I thought I was being so smart with how I was organizing my lesson plans. So year two comes around and I cannot figure out where my files are. Luckily I figured it out real quick and fast forward about seven years into teaching, I had a flawless for me system, which is probably why I spend most of my time now helping people get digitally organized. So first year teacher Lisa, put some thought into what you’re gonna name your files and how you’re gonna save them cuz it’s gonna save you a lot of time down the road.Lisa McHargue
Connect with Lisa:
I cannot tell you how important it is to organize your files now. That way six or seven years down the road you will know exactly where everything is and you won’t spend hours looking for resources for your lessons. (Yes I’m calling myself out here…. first year teacher Helena…)
P.S. If you have LOVED all these tips so far, make sure to join us inside the Thriving Teacher Summit where all of these wonderful teachers will share with you step by step how to get these strategies in place now so you don’t have to learn the hard way…like we did.
So make sure to save your seat here.
First Year Teacher Tip #9 Organize Your Supplies
Speaking of organizing items apart from digital files, there’s something else you might wanna consider when it comes to organizing and I bet it’s not what you’re thinking… it’s your supplies.
I speak with Amy Rodman and she is a art teacher who inspires educators to incorporate more creativity in the classroom for themselves and their students. And Amy has a little bit of a history when it comes to organizing supplies and she shares her first year teacher tip on how to keep your class organized so that way you have systems and procedures in place for you and your students.
My tip to you as an art teacher who had a ton of supplies that were constantly messy all over my room until I really learned a system of organization is to find a way to organize that allows your students to manage it for you. Because at first I thought I had to do everything myself and every horizontal space was covered. It was just always a mess. I had to get things out for them because they didn’t know where to find things and it took a lot of time and sometimes you don’t feel like you have the time but believe me it will save so much time in the end. So my structure, I actually learned it from a science teacher friend who had similar cabinets. Which was to label things with the red light, green light system.Amy Roadman
Connect with Amy:
Amy continues to explain her green and red light system to organize your supplies. Here is how it works:
- Green Label- These supplies are for you to use at any time without asking, but it only stays a green label if you are using them properly and you’re putting them away whenever you’re done.
- Yellow Label- Ask to use these supplies because they are messier and sometimes you might not have time for these supplies.
- Red Label- These supplies are only for special projects or there is limited supplies so students are not allowed to lose them.
Overall, creating procedures so your students are responsible for the supplies in the classroom is a great first year teacher tip I would have followed at the beginning.
#10 Be Kind to Yourself
Another first year teacher tip I wanted to make sure to cover was to make sure that you are being kind to yourself and being your very best number one fan.
I know all too well that as a first year teacher you are going to be extremely hard on yourself. But don’t forget to give yourself some credit and honestly you know you better than anyone else and you have amazing ideas.
You are here for a reason, you’re here to make an impact. And each day it’s all about bringing that to life, which I talk about with Khristen Massic. And she goes into depth about the importance of listening to yourself when it comes to creating activities and classroom lessons inside the classroom.
The one thing that I wish I would’ve known as a new teacher is that my first idea when I’m planning like for my lesson, for my learning activities is probably a great one and that I just need to try it out to see if it actually works. And then with that, if I have figured out a structure or routines or protocols that we’re working really well in class and that my students were really engaged in to, just keep using those over and over and over again with my different content.Khristen Massic
Connect with Khristen:
Khristen is absolutely right, when it comes to your classroom, trust your intuition and try it out. If it doesn’t work out that’s okay, you can adjust next time. But never forget to find the joy in things. Which brings us to our next first year teacher tip:
First Year Teacher Tip #11 Find the Joy
The next first year teacher tip is from Emily Person from Teacher Joy. She was on the podcast earlier this year and talked about the importance of finding joy. If you haven’t listened to that episode, you can find it here. Here is what Emily had to say as far as what first year teacher tip she would give herself.
First thing I would say is don’t give up and it does get better and that every year is different. And I think to my teacher self, I would tell her not to be so hard on herself. There were, I could not tell you how many conversations I had with my principal at the time of like, am I gonna get fired? But I would say don’t be so hard on yourself and just be true to you. Like if I, if I had known what I know now and be like, hey, like you’re gonna be successful, it’s going to be okay, but be true to you. I feel like my first year teaching would’ve gone a lot smoother had I have done that. You’re gonna make mistakes and that’s okay, we’re gonna work through them. But just I would say be true to you. Be authentic.Emily Person
Connect with Emily:
It is so important to be authentically you and to never forget why you’re here and who you are. And I know deep down you have this huge image of what the ideal teacher you looks like. But at the end of the day it’s all about finding that with joy and figuring out how you can be authentically you.
#12 Get Clear on Your Boundaries
Which brings me to our next first year teacher tip from Brittany Blackwell from Teaching Mind, Body and Soul. In an earlier episode she talked about her journey from getting out of burnout herself to helping thousands of teachers around the world do the same.
If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, you can find it by clicking here.
This is what she had to say when it comes to her first year teacher tip from the past:
My tip is getting clear about your boundaries. Like really like just going hard on the boundaries. Like really just being aware of your energy boundaries, your time boundaries, all of these different things so that you can kind of boundary work not only kind of helps you get out of burnout but it also prevents burnout.Brittany Blackwell
Boundary work is so important when it comes to making sure that you can enjoy this profession long term. And I really love how Britney touches on the importance of that and how it can save you in the long run.
Connect with Brittany:
First Year Teacher Tip #13 You’re Best is Enough
One of the final first year teacher tips I have for you is that your best is enough. And this tip came from none other than Annabelle Williamson from La Maestra Loca. In this podcast episode (soon to be aired next month) is all about how Annabelle uses the importance of community inside and out of her classroom to make an impact.
This is her tip if she were to go back and talk to her first year teacher self:
I desperately needed people to tell me, one, your best is enough. Like and it’s gonna look super different from your best five years from now. And also you need to stop saying those things about yourself or to yourself cuz you’re not helping anything, you’re just putting yourself down and and it puts you in a really ugly place. I would’ve cried a whole lot less if people had told me like, stop being so mean to yourself. Just be kind.Annabelle Williamson
Connect with Annabelle:
Annabelle is an awesome human being through and through. If you don’t follow her, definitely go follow her because she is one of those genuinely nice people that you just are so grateful to have in your life.
I love how she got super vulnerable and talked about how you need to be kind to yourself. And I know that you’re gonna be your own worst critic when it comes to your first year of teaching, but you are doing an amazing job. I know not a lot of people are telling you that and I know some days it’s not going to feel that way, but you are and I am so proud of you. You are making a change, you are making a difference and you are reaching those kids even when it doesn’t feel like it.
#14 Be in the Moment
The second to last first year teacher tip for you is a really important one. In fact, it’s one that I learned the hard way after my first year of teaching and it’s this:
You won’t get your kids back after this, unless you loop with them. So as a first year teacher tip, enjoy the moment while it’s here. Because you will never get those moments back.
Which brings us to our final first year teacher tip.
First Year Teacher Tip #15 Learn From Us
The final first year teacher tip is to learn from us. Learn as much as you can from the educators around the world so you don’t make the same mistakes.
These educators are here to support and guide you. Learn from these tips and continue to learn. And I have a way you can achieve that which is to join The Thriving Teacher Summit.
The Thriving Teacher Summit is all of the teachers above creating resources for you to thrive inside and out of the classroom. If you liked the advice you got from the educators above, make sure to tune in to this Free 3 Day Digital Summit where there are over 20+ presentations.
Click here to save your seat before it ends!
All in all, there are a lot of lessons to learn when it comes to your first year teaching. If you aren’t done learning and you want to find out more, don’t forget to click here to learn more first year teacher tips.