6 Lifechanging Pieces of Teaching Advice for New Teachers from Experienced Educators
Being a first-year teacher is uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s scary. And every once in a while, it can be terrifying.
That’s why so many new teachers seek answers from educators who have years and years of experience.
A lot of teachers are lucky because they may work in a fully-staffed department that gives them access to colleagues and mentorship opportunities.
Other teachers may be the only instructor in their field in an entire school or district!
(We’re looking at you, health science teachers!)
Many websites offer free advice for new teachers. But most of the time, it comes from bloggers, out-of-industry “experts,” or pundits who have never had any actual in-class teaching experience.
That’s where the members of the AES Educator Community are different.
On July 25, nearly a dozen experienced teachers gave their advice to newbies throughout the country about how they can be better teachers before their first year even starts.
These are the pearls of wisdom that any teacher can take away!
1. Patience (Patricia Carter)
Patricia Carter is a business education teacher at John M. Tutt Middle School in Georgia.
She’s an AES customer who’s worked in middle schools for years, teaching business education, career readiness, and computer applications out of the same classroom.
That’s a lot to teach, and it’s even more students to manage in different classes!
With all of that experience and teaching talent on her side, this is Patricia’s advice to new teachers:
”You’ll have to be patient. It takes time to adjust and find what works for you. That could change each year with your students, but challenge yourself to identify, make a plan, and execute your non-negotiables. That can take up to three years or so.”
Patricia’s advice is important because it’s also a hard reality to acknowledge.
The best way to get better at teaching is to start teaching, fail a lot, and improve as you go.
That’s a scary idea. It’s packed with discomfort, uncertainty, victories, failures, laughter, sadness, and more.
But if you’re going to teach, it’s the groundwork that you have to do to establish yourself.
And there’s light at the end of the tunnel! As Patricia points out, you can have your teaching methodology practiced in about three years.
That may sound like a long time when you’re going into your first year as a teacher.
But three years zoom past you when you’re in the classroom!
So take a deep breath and find your psychological center.
You’re about to embark on one of the most exciting, scary, and meaningful endeavors of your life!
2. Communicate Care to Your Students (Cheryl Krivitsky)
Cheryl Krivitsky is a health science instructor in New Hampshire.
Like Patricia, Cheryl is an AES customer who has used digital curriculum for several years.
Cheryl is also highly empathic when it comes to her students, as many teachers tend to be.
When it comes to teaching, her advice is simple, yet it entails a lot of different ideas.
As Cheryl says it:
”It always comes down to the students knowing how much you care. The delivery of the curriculum is important, but it will be a lot easier to reach the students if you focus on them and a nurturing, happy environment.”
Cheryl’s disposition toward students is endearing, to say the least!
It reflects several key qualities about Cheryl herself and many teachers across the board. The first (and most important) is passion.
From her words alone, you can tell Cheryl cares tremendously for her students and her career.
The second quality is empathy, which Cheryl shows by looking at her class from the student perspective.
It’s always challenging to understand the world from someone else’s eyes. But Cheryl has clearly accomplished that by emphasizing the importance of a “nurturing, happy environment” that’s conducive to learning.
Still, there’s more to being a teacher than just teaching (as ironic as that sounds).
In addition to your students, you also have to think about your colleagues — including your non-teacher colleagues.
3. Meet Others Outside Your Job Title (Holly Maisano)
Holly Maisano is a health science teacher in Pennsylvania.
Her advice for new teachers is as simple as it is surprising. It has nothing to do with students, teachers, or even administrators.
Holly is focused on a different group of coworkers at her school.
”Get in good with the maintenance and custodial staff!”
Now the big question — why?
First and most obviously, the maintenance and custodial staff at your school are people with their own lives, interests, and backstories. Holly’s advice is a refreshing reminder that professional associations don’t have to be restricted by job title.
Plus, meeting new people is a key part of leading a long and happy life. Success takes many forms, and so do relationships.
Second, the maintenance and custodial staff is responsible for keeping your classroom in clean, working order.
If something goes wrong in your class, it’s helpful to have someone on whom you can rely to fix it quickly.
Likewise, it’s a huge bonus to know the person who cleans your facilities every night.
Last, this outlook sets a positive example for your students.
It shows them that there is no elitism, favoritism, or exclusivity in education. They get to see completely different kinds of professionals interacting as colleagues, instead of one pretending like they’re in a position of dominance over the other.
This is enormously important for students who are about to start their careers. It gives them an empathic and kind outlook on what it’ll be like to start working in the real world.
It can also be an example they’ll remember decades into their career, empowering them to look out for the wellbeing of others and ignore the societal barriers they may feel when interacting with other professionals.
That can make it easier for them to reach out to more senior healthcare workers for help.
It can make it more enjoyable for them to reach out to more junior healthcare workers to mentor them.
In the long run, it could change their entire perception of their career, the relationships they create, and even their lives.
And you can set it all in motion by “getting in good” with your maintenance and custodial staff!
4. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare (Mary Flanagan)
Mary Flanagan is another Pennsylvania teacher, and she has a different perspective on new teacher advice.
For her, the most important advice for new teachers isn’t about your students or colleagues — it’s about yourself.
”Be prepared each day. Don’t rely on your memory. Try to think of a workplace or patient anecdote or two — students enjoy hearing them, and it will help them make connections to the content.”
It’s undeniable that preparation plays a major role in a teacher’s ability to instruct and connect with students. If you’re a classically-trained teacher — meaning you attended college, became a student teacher, etc. — this may be an obvious statement.
But for untrained teachers — like health science instructors coming from industry — this is a game-changer!
Healthcare professions like nursing and medical assisting are often dominated by a mix of urgent issues that require immediate attention and day-to-day checklists.
Either way, you don’t have to prepare for a day as a medical professional in the same way you prepare for a day as an educator.
So, as Mary so eloquently points out, you have to prepare each day! A classroom is not an environment where you can solely rely on instinct or your previous experience.
Instead, you have to know what you’ll cover. You have to decide what stories to tell to bring your classroom to life.
You even have to anticipate students’ questions and build that into your lesson plan!
So if you’re making a career change — or if you’re a classically-trained, first-year teacher who’s feeling the pressure to perform every day — take Mary’s advice and prepare, prepare, prepare!
5. Breathe & Enjoy (Sherita Harmon)
Sherita Harmon is a health science teacher in Texas, where state standards are notoriously strict.
She also has an exceptionally wide view of what it means to be a new teacher.
As a result, she gives plenty of advice that’d help any new educator handle their first year in front of a classroom!
”Just breathe! It’s not as horrible as people try to make it out to be. Have a student-first mindset. Build meaningful relationships with your students, colleagues, campus administration, and district administration.
Your experience will be what you make of it. Have fun! If you find yourself bored with something, [it’s] guaranteed your students are bored too! Be observant and you will learn about people through their actions and interactions with others. Be open-minded. If you need help, ask for it.
Enjoy the experience!
Network, network, network! Google is your friend for free resources.
The energy that you put out is the energy that you’re going to receive from your students and colleagues.
Create a welcoming environment.”
Sherita covers a lot of territory with her advice. Perhaps the most important parts are also the shortest — “just breathe,” “have fun,” and “enjoy the experience” are all pearls of wisdom that relate back to one idea.
If you’re going to be a good teacher, you have to enjoy it!
If you don’t enjoy it, you risk burning out.
Sherita also touches on an important aspect of teaching that every teacher has to overcome — student engagement.
After all, you can teach the best information in the world. But if your students aren’t engaging with the content, they’re not actually learning anything!
Sherita notes it’s also important to remain open-minded to new ideas, ask for help when you need it, network with your colleagues, and check Google for free resources.
All of these are outstanding ideas! After all, if you’re making a career move to teaching, you should learn everything you can to be prepared for your first day!
(Small shout-out back to Mary Flanagan.)
If you feel like you’ve already read everything and you don’t know your options for teaching in a classroom setting, you can always check out some tried-and-true classroom management strategies.
6. Learn the “Language of Education” (Shelley Rogers)
Shelley Rogers works as a health science instructor in Ohio.
As you’re about to read, Shelley has a vivid memory of what she wishes she knew as a new teacher.
She also talks about something that almost no one else mentions — the “language of education.”
This is the best way to start a teaching career, according to Shelley.
”Break it down – you will be surprised how much your students don’t know. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Most things are not just going to turn out like you envisioned and you are going to feel incompetent. You are not. You are doing just fine!
Thinking back on my first year, I remember how bewildered I was by the language of education. Not being traditionally educated or trained as a teacher, I was clueless about the terms like differentiation, engagement, SLOs, and the like. That was very frustrating for me. I learned to just literally make it through each day and not look too far ahead.
Also, never be afraid to ask questions, no matter how dumb you think you are going to look. I was lucky and had a good mentor who answered my questions without making me feel like an idiot.
If new teachers are not lucky enough to have one of those, I would suggest finding someone who they can bounce things off. I very well remember tears on the way home from work but I made it!”
Shelley’s advice is clearly earned through long nights, tough situations, and a driving dedication that got her through all of it (and then some).
Also, here’s a quick guide to the terms that Shelley mentioned:
- Differentiation: The process of using multiple education strategies to teach the same topic so your students can learn in the way they learn best (reading, hearing, hands-on, etc.).
- Engagement: The active interest and participation that students display toward a topic, lesson, or class.
- SLOs: Student learning objectives; the goals that you have for a group of students or individual students in terms of what they know, what they can do, what skills they acquire, etc. once your class is completed.
One unique takeaway from Shelley’s insight is the idea that you’ll at some point feel incompetent or underachieving — even when you’re doing well!
This is a well-documented psychological phenomenon called “imposter syndrome.”
Essentially, you’re hard on yourself because you know so much about your expertise that you’re aware of how much you don’t know as well.
Sounds counter-intuitive, right?
Well… it is!
As a result, you may feel underqualified for the position you have because you know how much more you have to learn.
(Having more to learn is never a bad thing, by the way. It’s an essential step on the road to long-term personal growth.)
Shelley also touches on a few points that may make you feel like an imposter as well — namely, the terminology of education.
So will you have hard times?
Are you going to make mistakes?
But will it all be worth it?
As Shelley, Sherita, Mary, Holly, Cheryl, and Patricia tell it — becoming a teacher may be one of the high points of your life.
Looking for More Advice from Teachers, for Teachers?
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It connects you with educators on a nationwide scale so you can ask the questions you need to ask without stressing about contacting your administrator or doing everything on your own.
With the AES Educator Community, there’s always someone in your corner.
There’s also always someone eager to learn from you!
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