Social Sundays: A Dozen Tips for New Teachers

My first year teaching I was ready for the students who didn't want to be there, for the pregnant teens (I had 3 that year), and for the long hours.  I had chosen deliberately to teach in a high poverty school, and I was eager to make a difference and remind each student that there was an adult who cared what s/he thought and became.  I wasn't ready for the isolation (I was the youngest teacher by at least a decade), the lack of a textbook or even curriculum guide (I was told to teach world history, that was all), the amount of my own money I would spend on pencils, paper and more, or the colds (take vitamin c every day), to name a few of the early year challenges.  And while I'm still learning, I do wish I had more support in those early years.  I asked some of my colleagues to share their tips for new teachers.  Their collective wisdom is not to be missed:

  1. Andrea from the History Gal has a tip that is a good reminder to all teachers: " It's easy to jump on social media and start feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. Don't get hung up on those beautiful classroom pins on Pinterest and Instagram and those Facebook posts and Tweets from teachers who have it all together. Remind yourself that these are highlight reels. They don't show the entire picture - just the best parts. Your highlight reel looks pretty amazing, too."
  2. "Set high expectations for all of your students on the very first day of school and hold them to those high expectations. If you don't give up on them, they will not give up on themselves and will eventually meet your goal." says Michele from Michele Luck's Social Studies.
  3. Remember that Vitamin C I told you about?  Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog reminds us that "If you are sick take a sick day - your students will be ok without you. If you are not functioning at 100% then you won't be able to keep up. Health should be your number 1."
  4. "It'll seem -- and probably be -- overwhelming for the first few months so don't forget to make time for yourself. Give yourself time to breathe during the school day! And after the kids go home at the end of the school day, give yourself a quick break to relax and refresh yourself before starting in on grading and preparing for the next day. You need mental and physical breaks just as much as your students!" echoes Susan from the ESL Nexus.
  5. Prep for next week says Stephanie from Stephanie's History Store: "It's worth staying at school for a few minutes on Friday afternoon to make your copies for the next week. This will save you stress if the copier breaks Monday morning, and it saves you time from standing in line waiting for the copier or the time it takes to make daily copies." 
  6. And prep for it all to not go smoothly: "Have a backup plan. In this age of technology, it's always possible for the projector, computer, or internet to go down at the most unexpected times. Always have something productive for students to do while you're trouble-shooting or reworking your lesson plan....task cards, independent reading, making Quizlet flashcards, etc. Just make sure it's something that students are already familiar with and doesn't require much instruction from you. It'll help keep your students calm(er) and focused in the midst of your chaotic moment." says Mandy of Thomas Teaching Tools.
  7. "Find (or ask for if your school doesn't offer) a great teacher mentor that can help you with the little things that no one tells you about. Listen & learn from them but ask questions too!" says April from Cullom Corner.
  8. Time is precious, but Becky Mandell says "Take the time to form positive relationships with your students. It's important to get to know them and ask how they're doing."
  9. And have fun, says Leah Cleary: "Enjoy the idiosyncrasies of your students and your colleagues. Keep a journal of the funny things that happen--it's truly one of the joys of the job."
  10. Passion is important, says Gail Hennessey: "Always exhibit an interest in what you are teaching. If you think it’s important , your students will, too. Have an assessment for how to grade your students."
  11. "Remember to surround yourself with other teachers that lift you up, motivate you, and push you forward."  Build your support tribe, says Amber Renee of Learned Lessons.
  12. My own words of wisdom?  Be your own teacher!  You will get lots of advice on "how to teach" and you will make mistakes.  You will try out different ideas and styles and some will succeed spectacularly while others fail miserably.  I learned that lecture doesn't work for me nor do tests.  I have no Powerpoints and assess in multiple ways including projects.  I like "controlled chaos" but other teachers can't imagine teaching that way.  It's okay.  Develop your own style and you will soar.

One final thought:  after a few months in my first year teaching, a veteran teacher who had previously spoken to me exactly twice told me that students loved my class. They were learning nothing, she told me, but they liked my class. I said nothing.  The next year I moved schools.  The veteran teacher called me in August and asked if she could have the curriculum I wrote.  She couldn't wait to use it.  

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should include or that you want to know more about, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  



  1. This is a great post for new and veteran teachers alike--great reminders!

  2. There are great tips in here, thank you for sharing! ~Stephanie

  3. Great tips for new (and even experienced) teachers. It's sad how we can sometimes be our own worst enemies. :(


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