New Teacher Advice Every New Teacher Needs
If you’re like any new teacher, you are probably searching for all the advice. Teaching is a rollercoaster and being a new teacher can be a little of a shock. That’s why I’m sharing my best advice for new teachers that I wish someone had shared with me during my first years of teaching. Remember the ultimate goal is to find what works best for you and your classroom, but getting advice from other teachers is always helpful.
You’ve rocked your interview and have been handed the keys to your classroom…Now what?!
Nail Down Classroom Management Plan
If you can get this part figured out, you’ll be miles ahead of every first-year teacher. Having a classroom management plan helps you to know what to communicate to your students and parents, but it also helps you figure out what to do in situations that may arise. This would be my number one advice for new teachers…figure out your classroom management.
Many new teachers think classroom management has to do with just rules and consequences, and while those are part of it, the biggest component is procedures. A procedure is simply an official way of how to do something. It’s how you have a smooth running classroom. If you don’t have procedures, your students will make them up on their own and it might not be what you want. So you need to think through what procedures you want and how you want them to go. Then the most important part about having procedures, is you MUST explicitly teach your students how to do it. Don’t assume your students know how to line up correctly. Some kids might walk, some might run, some might line up in the wrong spot. Here are just a few procedures you might want to think about:
- Lining Up
- Sharpening a Pencil
- Answering a Question
- Turning in Papers
- Walking in the Hallway
To see a full detailed list of procedures that I teach my students to sign up for my free guidebook for new teachers.
Set Up Routines
Routines are a series of actions regularly followed. Students thrive on routines in the classroom. It helps them to know what to expect and to feel safe in their environment. Some routines you might want to consider:
Routines and procedures help students know what to do, Rules help keep students safe. Your number one job is the safety of your students and rules make sure you are providing a safe environment physically, emotionally, and academically for students to learn. I like to have 3-5 non-negotiable rules to keep it simple for students to remember. It’s also best to keep your rules written as a positive instead of a negative. For example instead of saying, “No Running” you could say, “Walking Feet Only.” Here’s an example of rules I use:
- Show respect to others
- Respect other’s property
- Be respectful to yourself
Policies are a great thing to think about ahead of time, so when issues arise, you’ll know how to handle them. For instance, what is your policy on homework? Do you give it? When is it expected to be turned in? How will students know what to do? Make sure you check with your school to find out what policies they already have and expect you to enforce them.
Students must know that if they break a rule, there will be a consequence. You also need to make sure any consequences you have, you are willing to enforce. If you say something, you better be willing to back that up. I made this mistake during my first year of teaching when my students were throwing crayons. I took them away and said they couldn’t use them for the rest of the year. The next week, we needed crayons for a project and I gave them back. That showed my students that I was not true to my word and I needed to make sure my consequences were something I could actually follow through on. I suggest using a logical consequence to the behavior: moving away from the situation, losing the item being misused, removal from the group or class, cleaning up the mess made, etc. To see my list of consequences that I use to sign up for my free guidebook for new teachers.
Rewards & Incentives
Who doesn’t love working toward a goal?! One way to set this up is to think of the procedures and routines that your students may be struggling with. How can you turn that into a goal that students will be rewarded with after completion? Does it need to be a whole class goal, a small group goal, or an individual goal? One way I like to do this is to reward my students with Class Dojo points. If you’re not sure what Class Dojo is, I explained it all here on this blog post. Several of the positive points are our procedures, so when a student is completing the procedure correctly they are awarded points. They can also receive points for completing various jobs around the classroom. Students can use their Dojo points to spend in our Class Store. You can read more about how I run my class store here.
Plan the first 2 weeks of school
One mistake many teachers make, myself included, is emphasizing the importance of decorating your classroom. Now don’t get me wrong…I love decorating my classroom!! But there were many years that I spent all of my time decorating and crafting, that I would run out of time to actually plan for the first week of school and I was scrambling to get that done the day before school started. In order to prevent this, teachers need to focus more on creating a classroom community and building relationships than on classroom decor. The first day of school will be a whirlwind, so you really should only have 3 goals for the day: make sure your students feel loved and are excited to come back the next day, get them fed, and get them home correctly. That’s it! Take the pressure off of that day…the rest will fall in place. For the rest of the week, your TWO biggest focuses should be building classroom community and teaching your classroom management plan. If there’s time, you can sprinkle in some pre-assessments your school or district requires.
Don’t worry if you’re here and still in your undergraduate program…I didn’t forget about you. I have a whole post dedicated to my advice for student teachers.