25 Tips for New (and Not So New) Teachers

If you're a new teacher about to begin your first year of teaching, chances are you are mildly freaking out about the upcoming school year. No need for that teacher friends. This post has lots of tips to help you feel more at ease (and more prepared) as you begin your first year of teaching.

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And, if you're a not so new teacher, there may be a few reminders or tips that you could use as well!

This post includes 25 tips broken down by category: Classroom Management, Teaching, Efficiency, and Stress Less (tips for not letting stress rule your life).

Classroom Management
Know your students. Get to know them. Talk to them. Joke with them. They know when a teacher isn't interested in them, and getting to know them as individuals is an easy way to show them that you care. While you're at it, let THEM get to know YOU! Make a book about yourself and add it to your classroom library, or show a PowerPoint. Or both! Click here to check out my "Meet Your Teacher" book and PowerPoint templates.

Determine your classroom rules. Create a set of classroom rules (or expectations) and determine how you will follow through when they are/are not being followed.

Understand how you will manage behavior. Decide how you will manage behavior. The Responsive Classroom model is a great place to start.

Know how you will use positive reinforcement in the classroom. Choose a few specific ways in which you can positively recognize your students for their effort and choices. Whether it's reward tags, stickers, verbal praise, or a combination of all these things, pick what works for you. If you know you won't be able to keep up with something, then don't use it.

Determine a hallway routine. Most likely your school will have some rules about how students are expected to move through the hallway (independently and as a whole group). Learn those expectations and teach them to your students. Then, develop a system that motivates students to follow those expectations. Choose a mystery walker each time you leave the room, create a line monitor job, use nonverbal cues to quiet a noisy line, use verbal praise to point out exemplary habits, or award class points. Choose strategies that will work for you.

Manage those pencils. If you don't create a system for pencil use in your classroom, you will go bonkers. Create a system that details who is responsible for sharpening pencils, where to put dull pencils, how many pencils students may have at one time, and where pencils are to be stored when not in use.

Create a working library. The point of having a classroom library is to give your students access to books, but if you don't have a system in place, you'll soon find that your library is more of a headache than anything else. Determine when kids can borrow books from your library, and where they will store those books if they are allowed to keep them for several days at a time.

Use student numbers. One way to streamline student organization is to use student numbers. Yes, students are more than a number, but using a system like this isn't as impersonal as it sounds. Labeling mailboxes, sign out boards (see below), files, reward tags, and the like with student numbers is way to save YOU time. By labeling your mailboxes with numbers instead of names, you never need to create individual labels with specific student names at the start of the school year. Instead, you can just leave the numbers in place. Tip: Write your students' names and assigned numbers on their desk name plate so they never forget their assigned number.

Manage restroom breaks. Kids love bathroom breaks, well, they also need them. So, you'll want to have procedures in place for restroom breaks. Maybe the idea of several whole group breaks throughout the day will work best for you, or maybe you're better off just letting kids use the restroom as needed. If your school requires hall passes, be sure to incorporate that into your procedures. At best, make sure you have some sort of sign out board so you know when your students are out of the room. Click here for the tutorial for making your own numbered sign out board.

Create absent student folders. When students are absent, they miss out on lots of learning, classwork, and information. Use a special folder to collect all the materials a student misses out on while they are absent. This way important make up assignments and notes don't get lost while the student is out. Sending the work home in this folder is a visual reminder that the work needs to be completed and returned. Just attach a post it note to the work inside the folder with a due date, if desired.

Click HERE to grab these free folder covers.

If using a paper folder: print the covers on regular paper, trim off excess paper, glue to folder. Laminate the folder for durability.

If using a plastic folder, print the cover on 8.5 x 11 labels (Avery makes them). Trim off excess, if desired. Attach to the folder. 

Click HERE to check out the Avery 8x5 x 11 labels.

Implement Whole Body Listening. Set listening expectations from the get go. If your students don't know how to listen, they won't learn. Whole body listening is a way to teach your students to listen and not just hear. When you see students getting off track in the middle of a lesson, simply pause and say "Whole Body Listening" to redirect them. Post some visual reminders around the room for your visual learners. Chalkboard Superhero has a super cute poster set and it's free. :)

You can grab these free whole body listening reward tags in my TPT store. 

Learn more about reward tags HERE.

Find a few go to engagement strategies. Find some go to engagement strategies that will work for you. Ideally, you want strategies that you can use with any content area. This way, you can reuse the strategy with different content. The strategy will be familiar and it will go over with little issue. You can read more about engagement strategies HERE.

Let your students talk. Build talk time into your lessons. Encourage them to share thoughts and opinions, have them share their observations/what they just learned, or task them with answering specific questions. Then, regroup and move on. This is a good way to break up the monotony of just sitting there while the teacher talks and talks (well, that's how it often feels to kids even if it's only been a few minutes). Kids do not have long attention spans and they need to interact with their peers. Just be sure you teach them how to partner talk in the first few weeks of school.

Look at Your Students. When you're teaching, look at your students. Don't look above their heads at the back of the room. Scan the room. Let them know that you are present and you are noticing them. Plus, it's the best way to tell who is tuned in or tuned out. ;)

Organize ALL the things. This includes math manipulatives, leveled readers (that's what you'll find in the bins pictured below), reading materials, library books, task cards, art supplies, files, read alouds, and so on. Making sure that everything has a place (and everything is kept in its place) is the ultimate time saver. BUT, keep in mind that organization is an ongoing process. You will always be tweaking and refining your organization. You can read all about CLASSROOM ORGANIZATION here.

Make daily to do lists. Prioritize your tasks and write them down. To do lists help keep you on track and ensure you don't forget to do what needs to be done. At the end of each day, write a quick to do list for the following day. Decide which tasks need to be done before school and which ones can be done at prep or after school.

Use communication apps. In the digital age, newsletters are beginning to lose their effectiveness. Time is spent drafting a beautiful note, only to find that maybe 2 parents read them. So, if your school doesn't require you to send an actual newsletter, use a communication app like Dojo or Remind to communicate regularly with your parents. You can send last minute announcements, reminders, or message parents individually as needed.

Streamline your sub plans. Find a sub plan template that you like and reuse it. Fill it in once and save it. Each time you are going to be absent, you can update pertinent info and specifics. This turns a tedious job into a fairly quick one (like 20-30 minutes tops). You can find these (and many more) templates in my TPT store.

Click HERE for more teacher productivity tips.

Stress Less
You can't do it all. Nor should you try to. Sometimes we have this voice in our head that tells us we have to do more, we have to try ALL the things, or create over the top experiences for our students on a daily or even weekly basis. You don't. All your students need is a teacher who knows the content and practices good pedagogy with a kind heart. They will learn and they will love you.

Do not compare yourself to others. In the words of wise mamas everywhere, "Worry about yourself." Life is too short to compare yourself to others. It isn't a helpful practice. Plus, it isn't healthy. You've made it this far because of your skills and determination, don't let them fail you now. Be confident.

Learn from others. Chances are many of your colleagues have several years of experience. Instead of feeling envious of their skills or ideas, or comparing yourself to them, talk to them. Learn from them. Ask them for advice. Most teachers love to share ideas, don't be afraid to seek their help if you think it's going to help you be a better teacher.

Find yourself a bestie. Teaching is an all consuming profession. You need someone to vent to, rely on, and laugh with. A close teacher friend can help you think things through, make decisions, give trusted advice, and support you in so many other ways.

Take care of yourself. Teaching demands so much of us. As a result, life often gets pushed to the side. Make it a point to prioritize your own life, health, and happiness.

You don't have to grade everything. Or comment on every single piece of student work for that matter. You don't even need to return every single piece of student work. So don't wear yourself out being a slave to grading all year long.

Some days you will feel defeated. Some days you will leave school feeling like you failed. This happens to veteran teachers too. Step back and evaluate what went wrong and how you can do better the next day. Then, adjust your mindset. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day. You got this!

To all my new teacher friends, you've got this. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. All the things you dream of doing as a teacher in your new classroom will evolve and fall into place over time. Don't expect to implement every new teacher tip you read in one day, week, or even month. Go in with all the knowledge you have and be patient as your awesomeness falls into place. Because I know it will.


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