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!

Related categories:
  • ReneeMoore

    Sage Wisdom

    I really like this collection of advice from veteran teachers; their tips resonate with my own experiences, and what I would also suggest to newer (and seasoned) teachers.

    It saddens me that in many places there is an unnecessary wedge driven between newer and veteran teachers. This is a profession, and in any profession the passing on of content knowledge and practical application (pedagogy) is essential for growth. Since the majority of teachers working today in U.S. schools have fewer years of experience than ever before, it’s even more important to share our common, hard-earned wisdom.

    • NancyBarile

      Reverse Mentoring

      I agree. I revered the veterans when I first became a teacher, and I learned so much from them! Administrators sometimes pit new teachers against the veterans, and I think that’s very sad. I love a system where all teachers learn from each other!

    • AmiTurner

      Veteran and Novice Teachers Working Together!

      I totally agree with this comment, and was thinking about it as I read this post. I absolutely LOVE that there is a way for teachers all over the country (and world!) to share their advice, knowledge and wisdom with newer teachers, but it also saddens me that sometimes there is a wedge between novice and veteran teachers who work together in the same school. One of my genuine wishes for veteran teachers is that they see themselves as teacher leaders who should be proud to share their wisdom!

    • Elizabeth Ferhati

      Reverse Mentoring


      Your comment resonates with my thoughts exactly! While I definitely learned a lot from this original post, and greatly appreciate the advice from veteran teachers, I often feel like the strengths of newer teachers can be easily be forgoten. I think it is important that we recognize that we all have stregnths and areas of growth and learn to foster collaborative relationships where we can all learn from each other, regardless of age or years of experience. One way that this can be fostered in education is through reverse mentoring. Please see the post on reverse mentoring at my blog! 

      Thank you again for the thoughtful post!


  • marsharatzel

    Less is always better

    My words of wisdom from hard learned lessons….Keep it simple.  

    Don’t make things too complicated, especially in the first month.  Instead streamline what content you are working on and concentrate on getting processes/procedures in place.  Instead of teaching 3 learning targets, teach 1 and layer on learning how to come into the room, getting started for class, how to write down HW.

    Teachers think students know how to do all this.  Some do.  But 80% probably don’t.  I always think that it pays to go slowly content wise while I get everything set up in their heads about behavior, the quality of their work, their participation expectations and classroom discussion expectations and even something like…..I only take your personal best work.  If turn in sloock, I give it back and you re-do it.

    Giving high expectations for a month makes it so much more fun to teach all the rest of the year.  (And I’m not talking about the old fashion don’t smile for all of August thing….I’m talking about set high expectations and teach them what that means.)



    • WendiPillars

      I love your back to basics,

      I love your back to basics, Marsha. And I love the idea of also making not only expectations for the students so explicit , but also the relationships among new and veteran teachers that this entire thread promotes–thank you for compiling this, Nancy. Rather than rush into the year, with new teachers at separate trainings and meetings while everyone else is getting into the “school flow”, it pays to remember the value of community within schools. Your simple compilation, Nancy, makes me want to do this within my own school!


    • NancyBarile


      Great advice, Marsha!

  • SusanGraham

    Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions of Effective Teachers

    Knowledge: Teaching isn’t so much about sharing what you know, as it is about figuring out what your students are learning. 

    Skills: Wait time is a powerful instructional tool; it’s free; and requires only that you learn to watch and listen while counting to ten. But it requires practice, self control, and confidence in yourself and your students. 

    Dispositions: Your students are likely to remember how you treated them before they recall what you taught them.