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15 First-Year Teacher Tips From 15 Experienced Teachers

Wondering what advice you would give yourself if you could go back in time? This is what 15 educators said they wish they would have known their first year of teaching.

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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:

[su_spoiler title=”15 First Year Teacher Tips From Experienced Teachers From Around the World” style=”fancy”]Helena (00:00): Have you ever wondered what mistakes you might be making? Or better yet, 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, or 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 wondering any of these questions, I got you covered because I got together with 13 amazingly experienced teachers from around the world and talked about what advice they would give first year teacher them if they could go back in time. So make sure to stick around and listen to the advice of these 13 educators and see if you are making any of these mistakes. Also, there is a bonus tip at the end making War 14 educators and a special invitation. So make sure to stay tuned because you won’t wanna miss this. Hey teacher bestie. My name’s Helena and I’m the creator of the Present Teacher Podcast. I’m a first year teacher coach and in this podcast you are gonna learn everything from simple actual classroom management, socialist learning, and teacher wellness strategies, you know that impact you wanna make in the classroom. We’re gonna make it happen here. (01:24) Okay, I am super excited for this podcast episode because I got to speak with 13 amazing experienced teachers from around the world and I was genuinely curious for myself what mistakes did these teachers make so much so that they would go back in time and tell first year them some piece of ad of advice and what can we learn from that? So the first person I spoke to was Rebecca Poe. Rebecca is an amazing educator that helps other educators incorporate best practices in the special education world. And here’s what she had to say as far as advice that she would give her first year teacher’s health, Rebekah Poe (02:08): 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. Helena (02:28): Yes, I love this piece of advice. 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. 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. Rainy Barton (03:40): 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. So like 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. So like do research, go on Google, find blogs of people that you like, find other T P T people that have like YouTube channels and all this stuff. Basically just really take the time to figure out like what’s good and what’s trash because you’re gonna get so much information thrown at you in your first year of teaching that it’s really important to like weed out the good from the bad. So if anything, just be really considerate into what you allow in your brain in that first year as a teacher. Helena (04:42): So true. And when you first start out it can be really hard to figure out is this person aligned with me? Does this resonate with me? Is this a teacher that I wanna invest in or mentor? I wanna follow. And I would ask yourself when you’re considering this, do I like this person and what they represent? What does their life look like? And does that, is that how I want mine to look like? Do they align with my values and who I am authentically or is it just some information I found that is relevant right now and might help me but down the road maybe it doesn’t feel right as I present it to my kids, it doesn’t feel like it’s authentic to me. So definitely taking that into consideration as you find a mentor or teachers online to help support you is really important. (05:39) I can speak from experience, 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. And by putting 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 Shametria Routt (06:40): 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. (07:27) I know for me in my first year, uh, of course I had so many ideas for things I wanted to do, thinking about going into the second year, um, that I was overwhelmed with uh, how to spend my summer, but I decided that I would really focus on just one area. Um, math was going really well for me. Math is my thing. So I decided that science was the area I wanted to improve in. And so I spent the summer looking for ways to improve in science and and coming up with new and engaging science activities for my students. And I feel like that really paid off because my science program the next year was amazing. So I encourage you to just make one change at a time. You’ve got plenty of time for more. Helena (08:08): I love how Shamiro says focus on the one thing, make the one thing the main thing and focus on that until it becomes automatic. Until you can do it without thinking about it. [inaudible] it was science. So maybe take some time to ask yourself what is an area I would like to improve on this year instead of trying to tackle everything and be an amazing teacher from the get-go. It’s an adventure, it’s not a destination. So maybe one thing you wanna work on is classroom management and community. I know that you probably didn’t have a lot of experience as far as prep school and training in classroom community and classroom management and that’s where I spoke to Angel Honts and she is an educator who empowers other teachers to focus on classroom community and classroom management. So this is what she had to say. As far as her first year teacher tip, Angel Honts (09:08): 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. Helena (09:37): 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. She has been on here before, I’ve loved Katie and she talks more about the importance of community with this amazing quote. Caitie Cupples (10:21): Hey this is Catie from Catie Cupple’s teaching and 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 know 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. Helena (10:58): Wow. What I love about what Katie had to say was how she 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. And I can really feel the message inside of what Katie has to say, which is focus on your kids, leave the rest even if that means throwing stuff to the side. And this is a perfect segue to another conversation I had with Emily Eggers from Teach From the Couch and she talks about the importance of focusing on the things that matter and leaving the things that don’t. Emily Eggers (11:59): Hey there, this is Emily Eggers from Teaching from the Couch. And 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. Helena (12:58): One of the hardest lessons to learn 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. And one system I highly recommend that you focus on is 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. Well Lisa Smith from Lisa Smith teaches nine to 12. She 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. Lisa Smith (14:08): 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. Um, 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, uh, 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. Um, so that allows me to sort of differentiate my time between school and personal life and trying to build in that balance is really important, particularly when you’re learning everything else. Um, being new to a school, new to a subject, new to teaching and just have grace with yourself, you’ll be fine. Continue along. Use the supports that are available to you. Helena (15:25): 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 ’em for years and years to come. And that’s where Lisa from Lisa M c h talks about the importance of organizing your files now so you can save time and stress later. Lisa McHargue (16:01): Oh my gosh, 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, like saving them um, what I was naming my files and everything. Spoiler alert, , I was not being smart. So year too comes around and I cannot figure out like my lesson plans are a nightmare. I can’t figure out where my files are. Like it was just awful. And I, I was and I, I was a really organized person before I started teaching but nothing prepared me for the amount of digital files and emails I was gonna have. And this was back in like 2011. So you know, as time went on there were just more and more. 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. Helena (17:22): Lisa is an absolute expert when it comes to organizing. Trust me, this is something you wanna tackle now and not five, six years down the road. Learn from experience, trust me. Definitely go check her out. Which brings me to my next thing. We are about halfway through this podcast episode so if you resignated with any of these teachers, first off I would really appreciate if you would go onto their Instagram right now and go follow them because they are amazing people and I am so excited for you to connect with them. I will make sure to put their socials down below so you can go connect, go say hi and let ’em know that you came from the Present Teacher podcast and let him know that you listen to their advice. I know it would absolutely make their day. 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 tip on how to keep your class organized so that way you have systems and procedures in place for you and your students. Amy Roadman (18:54): Hi, this is Amy Roadman from Igniting Creativity. 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. ASME, was to label things with the red light, green light system. (19:42) My labels were green. If it meant go for it. 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 meant please ask because sometimes they were messier, we didn’t have time for those supplies. The answer was usually yes but they just knew to ask first and then red meant to stop. These are only for special projects or I only have a certain amount of supplies that we need for something else. So they knew that they could not use them. It worked out so great and developed really great routines in my classroom. Helena (20:23): I absolutely love this organizing strategy for the classroom and I will definitely be using it for my second grade class. Another thing I wanted to make sure to hit on in this podcast episode 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. And she goes into depth about the importance of listening to yourself when it comes to creating activities and classroom lessons inside the classroom. Khristen Massic (21:23): 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. Helena (21:57): Kirsten is an absolute guru when it comes to engagement and planning out your day with lesson plans. So definitely go check her out. She is absolutely amazing when it comes to that. And I also wanted to wrap up with a couple of first year teacher tips from some people that have been here on the podcast. Now the first one is gonna sound familiar, it’s from Emily from Teacher Joy. If you haven’t listened to that episode, definitely go check it out. In that episode, Emily talks about the importance of incorporating joy into your classroom. So here is what she had to say as far as what first year teacher tip she would give herself. Emily Person (22:42): 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? Like I thought I was just gonna get fired. And I think that’s cuz I was on a probationary certificate cause that’s what they give you when, no, it was not a probationary certificate, it was an intern certificate and was only good for one year. And I was like, man, this class is so rough. Like what if I can’t be a teacher after this? Like everything that I’ve worked for is gonna be gone. 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, you know, known that. Um, and that it’s, it’s okay. Like it’s, 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. Helena (23:54): It is so important to be authentically you and to define yourself in teaching and never to 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 and it’s all about finding that with joy and figuring out how you can meet authentically you. Which brings me to my next guest who was Brittany Blackwell from Teaching Mind, body and Soul. And she talks about what tip she would give first year teacher her if she could go back in time Brittany Blackwell (24:33): 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. You know, like if you’re really focused on okay, this one section of your life and you set a boundary there, it’s like it can’t get past it, right? And really learning to just say no when somebody asks you to do something. Helena (25:13): 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. The final person I wanna share with you, if you are listening to this podcast when it releases, I’m kind of giving you a sneak peek into a future podcast episode, but I have Annabel Williamson, la May Star loca coming onto the podcast here very soon. And she shares what she learned her first year of teaching and what she wished she would’ve known back then. Annabelle Williamson (25:54): Yes, so much so. Um, I honestly didn’t think I was so ready to go into teaching to be clear. Like I knew that that’s what I was supposed to do. And then when I got there and it was nothing like I expected and so much more work and so much more stress and I just thought like maybe I’m not , maybe I’m not cut out for it and what am I gonna do? Like what will I do? I’m not good at anything. 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. You know, Helena (26:53): 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. And 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. So I wanna wrap this up with my final bonus podcast or bonus expertise tip. (27:47) Surprise, it’s from me but my piece of advice for you is make sure to be in the moment with your kids. I cannot tell you strongly enough that you will not get these days back with your kids. And when summer comes around, you’re not gonna think back to whether or not that was an amazing lesson or not that you delivered. You’re not gonna think about those days that you didn’t get grading done on time or you fell behind. What you’re really going to miss are your students and those connections. So take some time today, sit down with your kids and actually laugh. Have some joy, incorporate some joy with them and be in the moment because you will not get these moments back next year. A new group of kids are gonna come and you are going to forever miss that first group of kids. (28:38) I definitely know I did. So that is my tip. Last final tip of advice for you from veteran or experienced teachers. And I did promise you that there was an announcement at the end of this podcast episode and that is that there I am hosting a free thriving first year teacher summit at the end of March. Yay. Surprise. I’m super excited to announce it. And here’s the thing, it is completely free during the live event and then you can always upgrade an access for a V I P pass for backdoor pass and bonuses, but also lifetime access to the replays. So I will make sure to put the link down below To join, like I said, is completely free. I have been working with not only the speakers and the amazing teachers that you heard on this very podcast episode, but other teachers as well. (29:37) And I created a put together a online summit for all first and new year teachers to join to learn different things like time productivity, classroom management, how to get grading done and self-care and everything in between. I pulled and asked you guys what you wanted and I made sure to find somebody to present on that. There are 25 presenters and it’s over the course of three days. So make sure to get in cuz like I said, during those three days of the event, it is free and I don’t want you to miss out on this. So we’re stronger together and I will talk to you soon. (30:17) Thank you so much for joining me on today’s episode. I hope that you were able to take away some value that will help you thrive inside and outta the classroom. It would mean the world to me. If you could take five seconds right now and leave a review on this podcast and if you found this podcast especially helpful, make sure to take a screenshot of this episode right now and tag me on your tilt school. Let me know you’re listening. As always, remember that we are stronger together with all the love in the world, Helena, aka the P teacher. See you next time. Teacher bestie. [/su_spoiler]

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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:

Make sure to be in the moment with your kids. I cannot tell you strongly enough that you will not get these days back with your kids. And when summer comes around, you’re not gonna think back to whether or not that was an amazing lesson or not that you delivered. You’re not gonna think about those days that you didn’t get grading done on time or you fell behind. What you’re really going to miss are your students and those connections. So take some time today, sit down with your kids and actually laugh. Have some joy, incorporate some joy with them and be in the moment because you will not get these moments back next year. A new group of kids are gonna come and you are going to forever miss that first group of kids.

Helena Hains-Daubenspeck (The Present Teacher)

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!

Overall

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.