This post originally appeared on the blog Teaching High School Math. 


A new school year is here. It’s exciting to finally have your own group of students, but there is also a feeling of anxiety. “How am I going to handle these kids all by myself???”

Here are 10 tips that I came up with for the new teacher…most are tips for every new teacher – but a couple are specifically for new math teachers.

1) Play nicely. Schools are full of gossip and not just among the students! You are a new teacher – don’t participate in it. Be nice to everyone. Be happy and cheerful – no one likes someone who is gloomy and down all the time! Make friends – listen.

2) The secretary is your best friend. Secretaries know where everything is and who everyone is. If you have a question – secretaries are a good great resource. Ask nicely, bring chocolate 🙂

3) OK, the maintenance person is also your best friend! Do you need a mess cleaned up (throw-up is the worst!)- is something broken? Enough said 🙂

4) Listen more than you talk. The old saying “God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason” is certainly true. You have plenty of time to try to change the entire educational system – for now, listen to people who have worked in it for awhile. They have valuable opinions. Find out why they are doing what they are doing and what happened to cause them to do it that way.

5) Dress appropriately. This seems rather obvious, but at my school we have sent more than one student teacher home for the day based strictly on their dress. Remember that what is fashionable is not always appropriate for the classroom.

6) Be on time. School doesn’t start at ABOUT 8:30 – you want to be there long before your students. Don’t plan on finishing something right before class starts. It’s stressful to not have everything ready the night before. Something always comes up right before school starts!

7) Do the homework! I can’t tell you the number of times I thought a certain problem that I assigned was going to go in one direction and it went in a complete other direction. When you are a new teacher, it is especially important that you develop a rapport with the students. The students need to trust that you are doing the math correctly. Although it is certainly true that everyone make mistakes, you don’t want to stand up at the board regularly without knowing how to solve problems.

8) Every student is someone’s child! Even though Jimmy will be driving you nuts by the end of the second day of school, he is still someone’s little angel. Kids can quickly tell who your “favorites” are – don’t show it!  Let everyone have the same opportunities.

9) Communication is key – talk to parents – keep an open line of communication. Call them when something good happens! When someone is upset with you, listen and then ask how you can help. Sometimes parents just need to get things off their chest.

10)  Students will try to get away with whatever they can – don’t let them! It’s ok to tell them no they can’t get up whenever they feel like it to walk around the room 🙂 If you let them, they will! I have found that kids (for the most part) rise to your expectations – have high ones!

A BONUS TIP – The first year is hard – there is no getting around it. Give yourself a break. Everything doesn’t always go smoothly even for the most senior of teachers. Do nice things for yourself on the weekend. Get plenty of sleep – you’ll feel better 🙂

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Teaching High School MathJennifer is in her 26th year of teaching high school math at a private high school in the south suburbs of Chicago. She has taught all levels of math from Algebra One to Calculus AP – she has even taught science a time or two! She enjoys integrating all types of technology into her classroom and finding fun projects to engage her students. Stop by her blog or TpT store to find puzzles, task cards, games, and activities to use in your classroom.