Dear New Teachers, My Top 6 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers


I was ultimately assigned to two schools and I had to travel at lunch. I had two principals who were polar opposites of each other and were not easy to get along with. That being said, I was a teacher. Now, I’m starting year 30 of teaching and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have been a mentor to many fantastic teachers over the years, and I hope to help many more to come.

new teachers, advice #1: Own it!

New Teachers, I was so excited with my first teaching job. There was never a doubt I’d be a teacher and it was all coming true. However, my first year wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I was told the week before school started the job I thought I was going to have, wasn’t going to be filled. I had to wait and see what openings would be available in that school division.

New Teachers, don’t be ashamed you are new-to teaching.

We need you. We need teachers who want to be teachers.

We need teachers who have up-to-date training with best practices. We need teachers who are excited to teach.

DO NOT let the anyone take your joy or your enthusiasm.

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.

Let me tell you a secret: there are too many people teaching who haven’t had quality professional development since 1984, teachers who have forgotten why they wanted to be a teacher, and teachers who don’t actually like children.

I call those teachers M.G.O.Ts. (Mean, Grouchy, Old Teachers).

These teachers are the ones who are “sick” on a work day or have an “unexpected doctor appointment” during professional development.

I have literally had a teacher turn her back to me during a training and NEVER look at the materials or the presentation. Own your love, passion, and enthusiasm…we need it. Ignore the teachers who want to temper your enthusiasm. Honestly, they are afraid of it. They know how bad they look, especially around excited people.

I would highly recommend reading The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King. This book spoke to me so boldly by combining passion, student engagement, growth mindset and teaching into one easy-to-read book. The best part of this book speaks to allowing your light to shine.

new teachers, advice #2: Beg for Forgiveness.

Dear New Teachers, My Top 6 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers

You’ve heard the saying, it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

I realize this is odd advice, but do what you think you need to do what is best for your students.

If you believe your students can benefit from flexible seating, do it.

If no one else in your building is doing this, start slowly.

Maybe you only have one alternate seating area to start and make a plan to add some later.

BUT you have to be clear in your reasons.

Someone always questions new teachers and their reasons for flexible seating, so know your reasons and what research says about it. You don’t have to blend in or back down, but you will find someone willing to be brave with you. You may want to ask your principal for a go-to person in your building that can be your mentor and your partner. You need to find someone in the building you feel comfortable asking real questions.

Hopefully, this person is your mentor. Hopefully, you have been matched with someone who wants you to succeed. If not, find someone else. The saying, “Be the energy you want to attract.” If you are excited, you will attract excited people.

new teachers, advice #3: Have a Feel Good File

I know this sounds silly, but it’s not.

I have a hanging file in my room labeled “Feel Good.”

It is filled with notes, pictures, and love notes that make you feel good.

When you get a note from your principal for a job well done, put it in the file.

When you get a love note from a student, put it in there.

Dear New Teachers, My Top 6 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers

When you get a letter from a parent thanking you for a good job, put it in the file.

When your mom gives you a card congratulating you on your first job, put it in the file. There will be a day when nothing is going right and you question why you chose this job, you need to spend 5 minutes before you leave for the day and read EVERYTHING in your “Feel Good” file.

These are two pieces in my “Feel Good” file. The letter is from a parent thanking my teaching assistant and I for teaching her child to read. “Thank you so much for giving … such a great gift.” The note at the bottom clearly says “I love you Mrs. Collier.” This student had been practicing “writing what you hear” in his journal and he wrote exactly what he heard.

new teachers, advice #4: Give Yourself Time

Dear New Teachers, My Top 6 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers

I was born to be a teacher, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle some days.

Anyone in a new profession needs time to learn.

Some college programs are limited to a few weeks in a classroom with a veteran teacher, which is vastly different from 7 hours a day, every day.

It takes time.

It takes time for new teachers to be old teachers.

Focus on small wins and small routines.

Routines are the key to success and one small routine added to another routine, creates success. The quote to the right is from Hope and Wade’s book, The Wild Card. They have a free download of quotes from the book on their Teacher Pay Teacher store. Clicking the link on the book title will take you to the store.

new teachers, advice #5: Finally, Write it Down

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.New teachers understand how to use their phones. I find myself keeping more and more notes on my phone, but I also know if I write it, I remember it. Keeping a desk calendar can help keep us focused on small tasks or a small length of time. There is a goal box at the top of each sheet. We can’t achieve a goal, if we don’t make a goal.

Goals can be as small as “Get to PE on time” or “Write in journals daily.” There are spaces for notes each day of the week, a Things To Do list, and a Special Events box for writing notes unique to the week. Each of the 6 pages has a different encouragement quote. For a colorful weekly calendar put 6 alternating colors of paper in the printer and print pages 2-8.

Clicking the Desk Calendar FREEBIE or the picture gets you a set of desk calendars.

new teachers, advice #6: Bonus Advice…Be Nice to Everyone…

Being nice to your co-workers always wins. Even if you don’t have anything in common or don’t agree with what they are doing, be nice. Nicely ask if they would consider doing something differently.

Maybe suggest you and a partner try a new approach to a lesson while others do the “traditional” lesson and check out the results. This is a non-confrontational approach to change. I also suggest being especially nice to the M.G.O.T.

If you are especially nice to someone who is generally grouchy, you may just throw them off their game. But, it’s hard.

Finally, the most important people in your building are the custodian and the secretary. New teachers, old teachers, good teachers, bad teachers all know the value of being nice to the custodian and the secretary.

Be nice to them, give them compliments, give them small tokens and surprises. You want them to have your back!


Cathy Collier

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