Your first year of teaching is an exciting time, filled with memories of firsts that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your career. It can also be a nerve-wracking time, no matter how prepared you may feel. Even experienced teachers still get the back-to-school jitters!
To help you confidently tackle the first weeks of school and beyond, we asked our teacher community to share their tips for new teachers.
9 Tips for New Teachers
1. Build relationships first.
“Build relationships with your students first,” says Sara Weaver. “Connection before correction is one of my favorite phrases!”
Taking time at the beginning of the year to create an environment where students feel comfortable and connected will go a long way toward helping them be successful in your classroom. You can check out these activities to get you started.
2. Think through your classroom routines.
Organizing the classroom is top of mind for many new teachers, but what about organizing your routines and systems? Stephanie Yi from Math With Ms Yi put together a document that helps her plan out the routines she wants her students to know, like what to do when they get to class and processes for turning in work.
“It’s allowed me to think through my routines and visualize the organization of our classroom. It also prompts me to ask questions of the school’s routine and expectations that I otherwise might have missed such as bathroom, hallway, class transitions and dismissals,” Stephanie says. You can get Stephanie’s free planning document here.
3. Have classroom management plans ready to go.
Now that you’ve planned your routines, you can build off of them and think about your classroom management procedures. Carina B. likes to have a classroom management plan ready to go from day one, which means starting off the year with routines and procedures in place.
“If you don’t know where to start with that, don’t worry,” Carina says. “You don’t have to make it up on your own. There are tons of classroom management resources on TPT.”
For a creative approach to classroom management, you can try this classroom economy system from Nancy Chung from FancyNancyin5th. “When I was a first year teacher, I was in need of fun and effective methods for classroom management,” Nancy says. “I’m so thankful for the advice that was given to me at the time to implement classroom economy as a tool for teaching financial literacy, but also for a positive reward system.”
Students are rewarded for positive behavior and can use their classroom money to buy things like homework passes, choosing their own seat, or items from the prize box. Nancy has a money template for you to make your own classroom economy here.
4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
During your first year teaching, you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of materials you need, especially since you’re starting from scratch. Before you spend hours outside of school creating these materials, remember that there are many teachers before you who have tested what works for them and passed along their knowledge and resources.
“Do not reinvent the wheel,” says Fletcher Nelson from Third Grade Swag. “There are so many amazing teacher-created resources that you can find and use that are going to save you so much time. I like to find resources that I can use multiple times or for the entire year.”
Similarly, Rory Yakubov from iteachalgebra suggests utilizing ready-to-go resources from other teachers. She has math anchor charts ready for the entire year and fills them out with students as they get to each unit.
5. Always have a back-up plan.
Not all lessons will turn out as you originally planned, and that’s okay. If you’re prepared with a back-up plan, you’ll find it to be no problem when a lesson doesn’t turn out how you expected.
“The amount of times I’ve been in a situation where my lesson went way shorter than expected and I had to fill some time . . . I can’t even count,” says Gabby Roma. “Having back-up activities at the ready whenever we finished something too quickly or some students finished earlier than others was such a lifesaver.”
6. Find simple ways to save yourself time.
Teachers don’t need to be reminded that time is a limited resource. In your first year of teaching, everything might seem to take even longer as you’re finding your footing, which is why time management is essential. Seek out the simple ways to make your days go more smoothly, and automate any tasks that you can.
“Don’t grade everything. Utilize digital resources to save time and paper,” says Brittany Washburn. You can use digital tools with auto-grading features like Easel by TPT to save precious time giving feedback.
There are countless other ways to save time. Kathleen from Miss Crafty Math Teacher minimizes her morning routine by using a flip calendar on magnetic rods for the date. She assigns students to flip the calendar each day, so she can use those extra few minutes to focus on other things in the morning.
It sounds simple, but using a system like this means you never have to write the date (or forget to change it) again. You can get your own flip calendar here.
7. Set (and stick to) boundaries.
Achieving work-life balance can be a difficult goal for your first year of teaching, where it may feel like you never have enough time to catch up. However, many veteran teachers suggested that new teachers learn how to set boundaries early. Building a foundation for good habits now can last your entire career and prevent burnout.
These boundaries between work and home look different for every teacher. Some teachers may plan to stay late at school one day a week to get ahead, while others may set a rule to never stay at school late. Test what works for you. For more tips, check out these strategies for teachers on work-life balance.
8. Learn from other teachers.
Don’t be afraid to ask other teachers for advice — they have a wealth of knowledge to share! Ask an experienced teacher to a coffee chat to talk through your questions, or see if you can observe their classroom. You can also look to the many teachers who share what they’ve learned online.
Your colleagues can be not only a source of guidance, but also support. “Get a mentor teacher to guide you and a teacher bestie who will listen to you vent without judging you,” says Tanya G Marshall from The Butterfly Teacher.
9. Take time to enjoy the moment.
If you’re overwhelmed by feeling like you need to get everything “right” in your first year of teaching, take it easy on yourself. Kasi Martin shares, “This year does not define you as a teacher or person.” Rather than trying to achieve perfection, focus on learning, growing, and enjoying the journey.
Above all, Claudia Londono reminds us of the importance of enjoying the moment. “Take lots of pictures, because your first class will always hold a special place in your heart.”
For more advice for first-year teachers, check out the New Teacher Thrive Guides.