23 Veteran Teachers Share What They Wish They’d Known Their First Year

veteran teachers advice
23 Veteran Teachers Share What They Wish They Knew Their First Year

There are thousands of books and tons of resources that can tell you how to be a teacher–but nothing can prepare you for the real thing. Experience is the greatest teacher of all. Here are some veteran teachers that offer what they wish they’d known on day one.

 1. Don’t fuss about a pencil.

Don’t fuss about a pencil.  It’s such a simple thing that teachers get hung up on that just doesn’t matter. Never write an email when you’re angry.

–Phil B., six years in education 

2. Choose your battles.

Choose your battles, build the relationships fast, get to know the WHY for the kiddos who are acting out, fake it ’til you make it with a smile— the kids are great at reading moods. Don’t give the kids the reaction they’re looking for when you’re frustrated— it’s a hard one but when you blow up, they win.

–Ashley G., 7 years in education

3. Remember, they are just KIDS!

Remember they are just KIDS! Don’t try to make them into adults yet. Teaching is caring! Remember who you care for (students, families, community) and keep that at the forefront! 

–Hollis B., 16 years in education

4. Ask for supplies/classroom decor.

Always ask admin, veteran teachers, and parents for supplies/classroom decor first! Spent way too much of my own money the first few years. 

–Paige A., 10 years in education 

5. Every child has a story you may not know.

Behind every child is a story you may not know, make them feel safe and secure first.

–Sheila L.

6. Build relationships.

Your relationship with the kids you teach is the foundation, everything else comes after. Be confident and positive!

–Yvonne G., 8 years in education

 7. Not everything is about a grade, test score or academic achievement.

If a child leaves your class a better person, be happy with what you have done for that child. Not everything is about a grade, test score or academic achievement. 

–Chelsea E., 7 years in education 

8. Never hold a parent’s actions against a child.

Never hold a parent’s actions against a child. At the end of each day, focus on the good which occurred, not the bad. This is a calling. Treat it as such. Your first year, you have the “it’s my first year” card. Use it!

–Rebecca W., 22 years in education 

9. Invest in good shoes.

Invest in good shoes. Make lists and notes (and try to keep them in the same place). Spell check and proofread emails and handouts.

–Amy G., 4 years in education

10. Educate yourself on what anxiety looks like.

Learn to recognize signs of anxiety, it presents itself differently in children. Anxiety affects millions of students every day.

–Amy G., 4 years in education

11. Add snacks to your supply list.

Snacks should be on your supply list–there are so many hungry kids. 

–Amy G., 4 years in education

12. Don’t call them out in front of their friends.

Especially for middle schoolers – try saying, “May I speak to you in the hall?” If you call them out in front of their friends, the battle has already begun…

–Melanie G., 15 years in education

13. Be willing to change and try new things.

Change is inevitable, learn to be flexible.

— Laura C., 20 years in education 

14. Focus on parent-teacher relationships.

Contact parents at the beginning of the year and keep communicating regularly. Build a relationship with them, ask their advice for helping their kid. Don’t take bad attitudes personally.

–Hannah C., 7 years in education

15. Your attitude will set the tone for the day. Smile, and have fun!

Kids are like sponges. For better or worse, they soak up everything. So, remember that if you’re having a bad day, so will they. Their success is based on the attitude you bring every day. 

–Adam S., 4 years in education

16. Be a fun teacher, but most importantly be someone they’ll respect.

Aim to be the person they can trust and respect in the school. Building relationships with your students will help the year run more smoothly.

–Marylee G., 9 years in education

17. Plan ahead but don’t be too hard on yourself.

The work will be there in the morning. Plan for a few days at a time. Learning from experience is better than any mentor. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

–Shawn C., 6 years in education 

18. Kids need & enjoy rules and structure.

We always hear that building relationships is important. I believe a lot of new teachers think this means to be friends with their students. I’ve found that if you into the classroom and provide a structured and safe environment where the expectations are high and they know you care–the relationships come easily. Kids crave structure they aren’t getting at home. 

–Danielle D., 10 years in education

19. All kids deserve a clean slate.

Never, ever base your opinion of a student on what their last year teacher says about them.  They will be totally different for you.

–Donna L., 17 years in education 

20. Don’t take criticism from administration personally.

Take criticism from administration boldly. That’s your boss and your job is ultimately their responsibility. If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Be open to trying new things.  

–Donna L., 17 years in education 

21. Always have a backup plan.

Set clear expectations and over plan. Being prepared will make you feel confident and over planning will give you something in your back pocket in case you need it. Having students consistently engaged will eliminate “down time” and opportunities for misbehavior.

–Jillian T., 4 years in education 

22. Align with Admin as much as you can.

Remember that each principal has a vision as to what they think education looks like. You are responsible for executing their vision and it may not always align with yours. 

–Jessica O., 10 years in education 

23. Be yourself, find your teacher-self.

Be yourself. For me, I tried to be like the teachers I felt were exemplar teachers but that just did not work for me. Use what works for you. Find your teacher-self, let it evolve, and be confident in it.

–Harris I., 3 years in education

23 Veteran Teachers Share What They Wish They’d Known Their First Year

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I am a Southern gal, mama to two kids (8 years and 6 months) and I have been teaching middle school for over 7 years. I love to go hiking or read a book in my free time. My favorite part of teaching is connecting with kids over things beyond just academics--teenagers are awesome!

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