Teaching Profession

‘Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions': 5 Tips for New Teachers

By Sarah Schwartz — August 14, 2018 5 min read
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Looking for guidance as they start their first years in the classroom, many new teachers turn to Twitter for advice.

In the weeks leading up to the beginning of the school year, veteran educators have shared their first day tips, self-care strategies, and suggestions for building strong relationships with students using hashtags like #ntchat (New Teacher Chat) and #newteacherjourney.

See also: Supporting New Teachers to Build a PLN

Susan Jachymiak, a 4th grade teacher about to start her first year at a Catholic school in Oak Forest, Ill., started the hashtag #newteacherjourney this June.

“When you’re new, there’s just a lot of things that you don’t think about that come up,” she said. She hopes the biweekly chat can be a place for new teachers to “discuss and get support and advice.”

Education Week collected some tips educators shared with the hashtag and in other chats for new teachers, as well as advice for rookies from our archives:

1. Develop routines on day one.

Bad habits are hard to break, say Joelle Barreau and Shaniqua McShan, two teachers at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

“Once you have a vision of how your classroom should run and you have a vision of things that you do not want to see—and actions you’ll take if you see them—you want to make sure that your rule is uniform across the board,” said Barreau.

Education Week spoke with Barreau and McShan last year, as they were about to start their second year in classroom. See their other advice for new teachers here.

2. Connect with students on a personal level.

Connecting with students also requires teachers to overcome their implicit biases, writes Melissa Garcia, a high school English teacher in Weslaco, Texas.

“Research has shown that before teachers even have a conversation with a student, they have already formulated a number of opinions based on that student’s race, appearance, and other factors—and begun to form a certain set of expectations,” she writes. Read more about how she works to combat these biases in her classroom.

3. Know that you won’t have it all figured out right away—and that’s OK.

New teachers should expect that things will go wrong and that they’ll need to readjust and grow, writes Brett Bohstedt, a 4th grade teacher in Yuma, Ariz.

“In teaching, it’s essential to view failure not as part of the process, but the process,” he writes. “It’s very easy to convince yourself that you’re an expert right away, or that you have to know every answer to every question.” See more of his advice for new teachers here.

Find ways to reflect on your practice, writes Robert Kolar, a high school teacher in San Antonio, Texas.

One option is journaling. When facing a problem, teachers can ask themselves, “What about the event concerned you? What worked well in your attempt to resolve? And most important, how can you make it better?” he writes. “A journal is not just an outlet, but a reflection and reference for your teaching.”

4. Seek out mentorship opportunities.

“A new teacher will keep on encountering “firsts"—year-end exams, student crises, college-visit season—and will need ongoing insights from more experienced colleagues as the dynamic nature of the job unfolds,” writes Janine McIlheran, a veteran teacher in Dumfries, Va.

She offers examples of the type of guidance new teachers need, and she suggests how teachers can support each other. Read more here.

5. Find a way to unwind.

New teachers will feel overwhelmed at times—it’s unavoidable, said McShan, from Dunbar High School. “When you do something for the first time, it takes so much time. It just does,” she said.

Find self-care routines that work for you, she advised—whether that be spending time with family and friends, or playing with your dog. “You have to learn to say, ‘I’m going home,’” said McShan. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you are not your best teacher.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.