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10 Things Every New Teacher Should Know

A new teacher comes up with ideas

Stay ahead of the new teacher learning curve with these tips.

A new teacher hopes to be ready for anything at the start of teaching, but that is seldom the case. I asked a few teachers to tell me the one thing they wish they knew before they began their teaching careers.


Classroom Management Is Key

"I wish I knew more about classroom management techniques. That would have made my first year a lot easier. It's impossible to teach students anything if strong classroom management strategies aren't in place—especially if you're a new teacher because students will try to push you as much as they can. I learned pretty quickly only to send a student to the principal as a last resort. If you play that card too early, you'll have nowhere left to go with your students, and your principal will think you can't manage your classroom. So give detentions, call parents, have conversations with students." — Kenny, second-year high school math

Further reading: 9 Things I've Learned from Teacher Movies

Build a Classroom Community

"You absolutely have to build a classroom community before you attempt academics. You must make time to get to know each and every one of your students. If you do that early and often, classroom management will be much easier. And you can do that in a bunch of different ways. Comment on a t-shirt the student is wearing; ask about their favorite bands; comment on their involvement on a sports team." — Carol, middle school social studies

More to Math than Measurements

"I wish I knew how much pressure there was being a math teacher. I didn't see that side of it until I started. I wish that I knew how much pressure comes down from administration and even the state on making sure all students perform well on finals and state exams. My evaluation is tied to test scores, which I don't think is fair since there are so many factors that go into a student's score. Most days, I feel as though if I don't cover all the material on the state exam I am doing the students an injustice. Regardless of the pressure, I love making relationships with kids and showing them how learning math can be a stress reliever (tuning everything out in order to get an answer)." — India, first-year high school math

Flexibility is Critical

"The administrative chores will kill you. Sometimes, it seems like there's so much paperwork and so many interruptions. Assemblies, surveys, fire drills all take away class time, and I wasn't ready for it. You have to learn very quickly to be flexible because your best-laid plans can easily get thrown off track. Because the fire alarm will go off during your unit test. You can count on it." — Carlos, middle school technology

There's No Manual

"I unknowingly thought that a manual of expertise would suddenly appear on my lap. In it would be the most thoughtful lesson plans, aligned to the standards that sparked all students' interest. Boy, was I naïve. Frankly, no such thing exists." — Kasey, third-year high school English

The Common Core Isn't Everything

"One thing I wish I had known before teaching is that the Common Core is not the end-all, be-all of instruction. As a new teacher, it is easy to feel that every minute of class time must be justified with a standard. Yet, it is important to relax and have moments in which you connect with your students. It is all right if such moments are not directly supported by a standard." — Linda, third-year high school English

Mentors (and Summers) Are Integral

"Find someone to plan with—especially a more experienced colleague. You will learn more through this than you will any other way. And use your summers. That unpaid furlough is not a perk of the job. You need it so that you can feel rejuvenated and excited for the next school year." — Jill, fourth-year high school math

Literacy Affects Everything

"I wish I knew that literacy is crucial in science! I wish I knew that I'd be a reading teacher, regardless of the subject I taught." — Mike, middle school science

Supplies Are Scarce for a Reason

"Before I started teaching, I wish I knew how much of a hot commodity pencils are! Seriously, I wish I understood that it can be a genuine challenge to bring your own pencil, especially if you're more worried about having breakfast or a jacket—which is a reality for many of my students, even though it wasn't something I had to worry about growing up. It's almost automatic to feel disrespected by what seems like a lack of effort, but I have come to realize that just making it in the front doors takes a huge amount of effort for some students." — Amy, middle school special education

Further reading: Ways to Find Teaching Resources on a Budget

Hang On until Next Year

"Being a new teacher is stressful. But the good news is that your second year of teaching will be light-years better than the first. You'll have assignments created, and you'll be much better at both classroom and time management, so hang in there." — Dave, middle school English

 What's the one thing you wish you knew when you first started teaching?