Coaching new teachers is by far one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career—second only to teaching my students and seeing the excitement in their eyes as they learn new things. When I reflect upon my last 18 years, I would’ve done some things differently. I can’t change the past, but I can share my experience to help you make fewer mistakes than I did. I didn’t learn the important lessons from an education textbook. I learned from my students, parents, and my own mistakes. Your students will let you know when you’re not being fair, interesting, or even effective.
- When a student says, “I don’t understand,” (even after explaining something several times), I learned to go back, look over the lesson, and reteach it using a different strategy.
- When a student breaks a rule, loses their recess as a result, and says, “The other student did the same thing I just did, and she didn’t lose her recess,” I learned to be equitable and not show favoritism. Admitting my mistake, I said, “You know what? You’re right. I’m going to let you have your recess, but this is your final warning.”
Here are three tips (plus strategies) that I hope will save you time, prevent frustration, and improve teaching and learning.
Tip #1: Be the Leader in Your Classroom
For new teachers, it’s important to focus on the essentials—and fostering leadership skills is a crucial first step. Leadership starts in the classroom, and you must lead by example. Remind your students why they’re there—to learn, to improve their lives, and to support their future endeavors. Ensure they understand your role and expectations. Soon, you’ll find student leaders who will gladly take on minor tasks to assist with classroom management.
- Greet your students at the door by name. Tell them you’re all going to have a great day and they’re going to learn new things.
- Develop a positive rapport with parents from day one. Make introductory phone calls to introduce yourself. Thank them for allowing you to work with their children. Tell them you’re delighted to have their child in your class and look forward to working with them.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t just contact parents when their child is in trouble. Send home positive notes about good behavior. Frequent parent communication can help you explain each student’s status and address any concerns.
- Set classroom rules, procedures, and expectations at the beginning of the school year. Teach your students to have good manners, to respect one another, and to respect you. Age-appropriate positive behavior videos online can teach students about good manners, obeying classroom rules, and respecting one another. (Always preview videos before showing them.)
Tip #2: Maximize Student Engagement: Be Prepared
It’s essential to be well prepared to engage your students. This will help minimize classroom disruptions and negative student behavior issues behind classroom walls.
- Look over your teacher’s editions and plan several activities for each lesson. It’s better to be overprepared and have too much for your students to do than to have them finish early and become idle and tempted to misbehave.
- Think about what you want your students to learn. What will you do for those who reach their learning targets? What type of enrichment lessons do you have for those who finish early and master their material? What about the students who didn’t meet their goals? What type of intervention and remediation can you provide? Well-planned lessons require being prepared to address all these situations.
- Be reflective. After teaching a lesson, think about what went well. What strategies were effective? Next, ask yourself, what didn’t go well? What could you do next time to improve student engagement during the lesson and increase your students’ mastery of the content?
Tips #3: Build Your Self-Confidence as a Teacher
I’ve seen first-year teachers who approach their first day and first class with fear. Students quickly pick up on teachers who lack confidence, are unsure of themselves, and often misbehave in their classes.
- Talk to your colleagues or school counselors about dealing with the fear associated with being a first-year teacher.
- Read books and collaborate and brainstorm with your peers about classroom management and positive behavioral supports and interventions.
- Ask your principal about trainings and resources to help with issues like negative behavior.
Here are a few bonus tips:
- Keep a positive, optimistic mindset.
- Take your time with finding your teaching style.
- Remember that everything isn’t going to be perfect on the first day.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and admit to them.
You may not see it now, but by answering the call to become a teacher, you have made (and will continue to make) a positive impact on students for years to come. Your daily lessons and educational activities culminate in the development of respected, educated, critical thinkers and valued members of society. Students you've spent quality time with will go on to fulfill their hopes and dreams due, in part, to what they learned in your classroom. Some will even be inspired to teach, and the selfless cycle will continue. Thinking about this makes me smile, and it's my privilege and honor to share what I’ve learned to help you empower your students by inspiring them to reach new heights.
For more ideas, check out this Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast.