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Advice for First Year Teachers: Tips and Essentials

Drexel University School of Education

As new educators get their bearings, the first year of teaching can be hectic. Some new teachers in their first year may have so much going on that they have little time to stop and reflect on the experience. Making it through these initial phases of first year teaching can be difficult, however, with the aid of some tips for new teachers -- and your own professors, mentors, and others who have tread the same path -- you can learn how to better manage the process.

Depending on how well your education has prepared you for the task, your first year of teaching can be challenging, but rewarding. To learn more about how to prepare for being a first-year teacher, take a moment to request more information about graduate degree and certificate programs from the School of Education.

How to Prepare for Your First Year of Teaching

Teacher Tip #1: Talk with Other Teachers:

Who could help you prepare better than fellow teachers? Consider reaching out to your peers, especially those who are teaching the same subjects or teaching students of the same age. They will often have classroom materials you can utilize and also serve as a voice of support. Similarly, consider identifying a mentor to give advice and support as you begin your career. A mentor can be extremely helpful for the first few years of your teaching career.

Teacher Tip #2: Don’t hesitate to ask for help:

When everybody around you seems like they know what they are doing, it can be tough to be brave enough to ask simple questions. “Seek out support and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” noted Dr. Lori Severino, EdD Assistant Clinical Professor and Program Director of Special Education. During your first year, you’ll have the support of other veteran teachers and your principal. When you don’t know something, the simplest way to find out is to ask. Not sure how to handle parent-teacher conferences? Ask! You can ask for lesson plans, general guidance, or any other number of general tips for new teachers.

Teacher Tip #3: Do your research on classroom management:

How do students know when it’s time to be quiet? How do they ask for a hall-pass? Refining what you’ve already learned about classroom management can help you establish more effective routines, and clearer student boundaries. “Over plan,” observed Dr. Severino. “Over plan. Some lessons will go faster than expected. It is better to be over-prepared than underprepared. Connect with other first year teachers for support.”

Teacher Tip #4: Find an organizational strategy that works

Finding an organizational strategy that works for you can be a very helpful tool when managing a classroom with many students. Consider setting a daily schedule that includes planning lessons and grading student work. The most important part is identifying a system that fits your schedule and can stick with throughout the school year. If you are teacher that teaches multiple classes and lots of students, it is important to stay organized. 

Teacher Tip #5: Learn to interact with parents:

It's not always obvious what you should do during a parent teacher conference, or how you should talk about a child’s strengths and weaknesses with their loved ones sitting across from you. The most important skill you’ll develop is to create a dialogue about the student with their parent or guardian. For instance, one tip in this area would be, if you want to talk about a child’s math skills, have a math assignment you can use to illustrate your point. Also, be sure to include concrete examples of how parents can support their child’s learning at home.

Teacher Tip #6: Plan For the unexpected

There is saying that you should, “always expect the unexpected.” This is quite true when it comes to teaching. You never know when you may be need to take a day off. Keep a folder with notes about your students along with easy-to-lead activities for a substitute teacher to take one for times when you are not able to be in the classroom.

Teacher Tip #7: Continue Learning

Teachers should never stop learning. Take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by your school district or seek out opportunities online. Additionally, consider adding certifications to your portfolio, i.e., reading specialist, Teaching English as a Second Language, or other in-demand certifications. Not only will you develop additional skills to make you a more effective teacher, but you will also be much more sought after by employers.

Teacher Tip #8: Celebrate your success

As a first-year teacher, each day will be a likely bring new challenges and experiences. Be sure to set realistic expectations for yourself and take time to reflect on your progress and celebrate success. You could keep a journal to write down where you are making progress along with where you can improve. Do not expect to be perfect and accept help and advice from veteran teachers when you need it.

First Year Teacher Essentials Checklist

Among the lengthy list of things a first year teacher needs for the classroom, some of the most common items include:

  • sticky notes
  • tissues
  • a timer
  • pencils
  • highlighters
  • scissors
  • manual or electric pencil sharpener
  • clipboard
  • stapler
  • binder clips
  • dry erase markers
  • magnets
  • stamps
  • hand sanitizer
  • cleaning supplies (disinfecting wipes and paper towels)

Of course, a first year teacher supply list will vary slightly by grade, subject, and school.

You might consider including teaching aids, like soft dice that can be used to call on students, or decorations, which can help create an atmosphere conducive to learning.

You might also consider stocking supplies that students are supposed to provide for themselves. Often, some students may not remember to bring their notebook, or may wear out their pencil during class.

Teaching Tips for First Year Teachers at All Levels

Depending on your grade and subject, you may face different kinds of first year teacher problems. But fortunately, there are some first year teaching tips which have universal applicability.

Tips for First Year Kindergarten Teachers

After finishing assignments, large groups of kindergartners will not idly sit still at their desks. Since all students will work at different speeds, you’ll want to make a conscious decision to try and reduce time spent transitioning between activities. For instance, after students have finished a task, ensure they can continue coloring, or working on another activity.

Tips for First Year Elementary Teachers

The start of the year is one of the only convenient times you’ll have to organize your classroom. Arrange desks in the way you’d like them to remain for the year, and consider setting up seating assignments, which can always be adjusted at a later time. This is also a great time to decorate, or to post bulletins about the upcoming year for your students. Want to know more about becoming an elementary school teacher? Please visit our BS in Education for more information.

Tips for First Year Middle School Teachers

It can be difficult to learn the names of countless students, but essential to helping personally engage with them. A first year middle school teacher should consider having students make name tags for their desks, and use them to call of students. You might also stand at the door as students are coming in, and try to memorize three to five names that you can call on later.

Tips for First Year High School Teachers

Without enough preparation, you may find yourself without enough material for each day as a secondary education teacher. Consider carefully timing each lesson plan, and having a worksheet or similar backup plan for when things don’t go as planned.

Take the time to learn each of the school policies for students. What does the student handbook tell you about attendance? How about the dress code or disciplinary actions? Knowing those policies back and forth can help you better inform students what is expected of them, as well as gives you a chance to go over your own classroom rules and procedures.

Learn More About Teaching Success & Professional Development with Drexel

Drexel University’s School of Education offers plenty of opportunities for teachers to develop and improve as teachers. Drexel offers post-bachelor’s certificates in areas like Social, Emotional and Behavioral Wellness, STEM education, and Creativity and Innovation. Graduate degrees including MS in Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum: Advanced Studies track with add-on certificates is another program that teachers may find beneficial. Shorter programs such as Wilson® Language Training programs are also available.

If you found this article to be helpful, we invite you to explore the Teacher Resources section of our website for more articles for teachers including, How to Teach Online Effectively, and Ten Ways to Develop Creative Lesson Plans.