Advice for New and Novice Teachers from Veteran Colleagues

Are you a new or novice teacher nervous about the upcoming school year? Here is some great advice from veteran teachers to help you have a happy, successful, and productive year

The new school year is right around the corner. Even after twenty years of teaching, I still experience a certain amount of anxiety this time of year, and I know my new and novice colleagues may be even more nervous. So I turned to some outstanding veteran teachers and asked them “What advice would you give new or novice teachers for the upcoming school year?” Here’s what they said:

Suzanne Daywalt has been teaching Social Studies for 22 years. She currently teaches at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Sue encourages teachers to:

  • Be as prepared as you possibly can . . . for every class you teach . . . every day;
  • Model a “hard work” ethic – it’s a tremendously valuable skill to impart to your students;
  • Show genuine concern and interest in helping every student to achieve his/her highest potential;
  • Let your passion show – if you’re excited about being with students, they will pick up on it and be excited to come to your class.
  • Don’t worry about whether your students like you – and don’t try to be “friends” with your students. If, as a new teacher, you do all the things listed above, your students will respect you, appreciate you, and admire you. 

Caitlin Brennan is a music educator at Revere High School in Revere, MA, but she has also taught middle school students. Caitlin has been teaching for 9 years. When I asked Caitlin for her advice, she remembered back to the day she sat in New Teacher Orientation nine years ago when she was told, in all seriousness, “Don’t smile until Christmas.” Caitlin’s advice would differ. She states:

  • Students should know to respect your class. Sometimes disciplinary tones and actions are needed, but it’s essential to smile and laugh with your students, too. It makes you more human to them; they will respect you more and you can build great relationships from there.
  • If a student is acting in a disrespectful manner (he or she is unresponsive, seems to be daydreaming, speaks with a tone that would be considered rude, refuses to participate, etc.), the reason is not necessarily that he or she is just a “bad kid.” Sometimes there are things happening outside of the classroom that cause agitation, anger, stress, and/or depression. Take time to listen to your students. Sometimes all students really need is an adult who will listen to them and show that s/he cares.

Lisa Devine has been teaching middle school for 22 years – 15 in Revere, MA. Lisa offers great advice for a very productive and successful school year:

  • Over-plan and photocopy as much as you can in advance – not the morning that you need it. Life happens, schedules change, and often the photocopiers will be down – sometimes for days.
  • Befriend the school secretary, technology staff person, and custodians. They are really running the building and will help you out in an endless number of ways.
  • Keep a journal of interesting and funny student interactions. It seems time consuming, but it is worth it. You will regret it one day if you don’t. I do – I never took that advice.
  • Listen to what veterans tell you. Don’t think they are old or disgruntled. They know the deal, and some day you will, too. Even if you think they are wrong, you are still acquiring information.
  • Organization and time management are critical. Develop a system early on and revise it if needed. This is important not only for your own sanity, but also for accurate record keeping. It makes it clear to students, parents, and staff that you have your act together.

 I can’t thank Sue, Caitlin, and Lisa enough for their outstanding advice. Even as a veteran teacher, I’ll be taking their recommendations to heart, so that I, too, can have a successful, fun, and exciting year!

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