10 tips I wish I knew as a First Year Teacher | Authentic Teacher Audioblog Episode 18

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1. Not every parent is going to like you.

It’s just a fact of life. It never occurred to me that one of my favorite teachers as a child was not loved by every parent and student in my class. Apparently, a lot of parents didn’t want their child in her class.  So, don’t take it personally if you have parents that go to your principal and complain about you, I’ve heard lots of teachers in different Facebook Groups talking about the same thing.

Don’t take it personally

That being said, I would try to go out of my way to keep the lines of communication open with those parents and try to be as proactive and positive about their students as you can be. Some you’re gonna sway and some you are not going to budge. So be prepared, not everyone is going to like you. Same goes for principals, you are going to have principals you get along great with and others, not so much.

I would give anything for my mom’s observation forms, she has ones that say, the students in this room are going to win a Nobel Prize someday because of all the science going on in here. But she had others that weren’t so great, especially as times changed. She was one of the only teachers to still have blocks and dramatic play in her kindergarten towards the end of her career and her new principal couldn’t wait to get rid of them.

One interesting question I asked when I didn’t get a teaching job was, what could I have done better during my interview, and they said on the question, “If your principal doesn’t like a new program you brought him, what do you do?” I said, “Defer to the principal, it’s their school” and they said, “No, you bring the principal the research.”

So don’t take it personally, you will find that place where you fit in perfectly.

2. The Learning Curve is Ginormous!

I’ll never forget when I was taking Intro to Teaching way back in 1998, the mentor teacher said it’s gonna take 5 years to become the teacher you want to be! I was like no way! I’m gonna be the best teacher right away, and then it took me like 20 years! hahaha! So take everything with a grain of salt, things will change! It seems like the pace of education moves like a snail, but that’s only for the changes you want, otherwise it will be like do this one year, do that the next, you’ll be doing different things all the time. So just embrace it and try to do your best!

3. I wish I would have known more about dyslexia.

Especially with all the research I did this summer. I feel like I made so many mistakes no matter how hard I tried. If you see a student struggling, definitely look into that. They say that 1 in 5 students has dyslexia or dyscalculia or a learning difficulty so do your best to learn what you can to help them. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity is a great place to start and make sure you read Overcoming Dyslexia.

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

4. You’re never going to do it all.

You’re never going to be able to do everything. Give up your inner control freak. The only person who is probably going to know if your classroom is Pinterest ready is probably you, or maybe your principal. Possibly a coach or another teacher. Not likely your students. Angela sent out a great blog post that maybe your principal or coach will notice but not your students.

$129 to join Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Work Week Club, is better than any value you would spend in any other way.

5. Do things right away ~ Don’t put things off

This is one I am the worst at. I always would leave the PD feeling exhausted after a long day and then before I know it, things would be late. Try to get these things done ASAP. Especially at the beginning of the year, there’s all those assessments ~ CORE Phonics Screener, Math Assessments, etc. Get them done and get them handed in as soon as you can. Find something to entertain your students.

I usually would never put a movie on during class-time but last year I felt like if I was testing one student at the back, I needed something part of the time to keep my class occupied. I was surprised my students actually chose not to watch a movie but to watch how to videos like how-to draw roses on YouTube.

6. Focus on your health.

Your health is your number one priority! You are never going to get everything they throw at you done, so make sure you focus on your health. Especially if you’re not in great shape, you are going to need the energy.

  • Schedule it!
  • Make sure it’s fun!

Someone just posted in a Facebook Group how do I exercise if I can’t exercise in the morning and I’m exhausted at night and I said, figure out how to make it work and I also posted this Ben Franklin quote.

Failing to plan is planning to fail ~ Ben Franklin

Angela Watson also has a great post about getting to school just 5 minutes early to turn on the lights in her room, she’s not a morning person where I am an extreme morning person.

7. Video Tape Yourself

Give a student your iPad, camera, whatever you use, and watch yourself. You’ll learn how to do cool things on your camera you didn’t know. You’ll find yourself saying, “Wow, I did a great job that day and Ew, I could have done that better.” Get to know your students, get them recording you. Don’t be so critical. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

8. Trust Your Gut

There are so many things I quit doing I wish I wouldn’t have.


  • went to school – got your degree
  • got hired

That school might not be the school for you or you might stay there forever.

9. Have a plan for when the principal comes to the door.

Whether they are bringing a new student or they just want to talk to you, have a plan in place for what students are going to do.

  • Is one of them going to be in charge?
  • Should they take out a book and read?
  • When they finish the task at hand or if you are interrupted by a phone call, parent, colleague, what are the expectations?

And practice these, make sure there is an anchor chart somewhere you can point to without having to give verbal reprimands or directions and they know what you are pointing at, inside-out.

10. Have a plan for new students.

Create extra packets for when you get a new student ready and maybe assign a buddy to help them. When parents come, I always need them to sign 3 forms:

  • Does their child have an allergy to nuts?
  • Can they help clean the classroom and use Clorox wipes?
  • Are they willing to volunteer?

I have an introductory newsletter and a school handbook they need to sign. I need to know how do they get home at the end of the day:

  • Are they riding the bus or getting picked up?

I need their contact information and to tell them about the Facebook Group. So it’s essential to have these things in place. And you are going to have to get them a new desk plus text books etc.

Many schools have students that transition frequently, whether you’re near an army base, have parents in college so when the semester ends they are moving around, or perhaps there are different schools in the district. Sometimes students transfer in and out of private school, or maybe there was a conflict with another teacher in your own building, it doesn’t matter, just be prepared for when it happens.

Because when the parent is standing there you want the students in your room modeling positive behavior.

Bonus: #11. The Red Stapler Trick

You need to set this up ahead of time. If you have a student that just needs a break, or maybe you need a break, you send the student to another classroom to get the red stapler or blue stapler, or green folder, whatever you have set up, and just take a moment breathe.

Send the student to the other classroom, that teacher will understand, ask the student to sit down while they finish what they are doing, and you will have a few minutes to finish up an important lesson. You can’t do this on a regular basis but for those few emergencies, it can be a lifesaver.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids https://amzn.to/2ytvg1O

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids

Make sure your bucket is full. Don’t let your kids drain your stars. You know what’s best for you. If you need a mental health day take it. I am certainly very pro-union so if you have sick days or personal days, take one. Make sure your bucket is full because just like on the airplane, you can’t help the child next to you or anyone else, until you put your own oxygen mask on.

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Categories Authentic Teaching, professional development, teaching tipsTags , , , ,

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