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Top 12 Tips for New Teachers Starting Their Classroom Careers

By Susan Shepard

Beginning a career in the education profession can be a challenging endeavor. Once you’ve completed your program coursework and you are ready to enter your field placement the real work begins. What we cannot teach you in the classroom is your passion and attitude toward the daily tasks that an educator faces. Every day is different and there is no possible way to determine what your day holds. You must rise to every occasion as you are working directly with children who are impressionable and delicate. Here are 12 tips to keep in mind as you enter the school setting:

  1. Be on Time
    Punctuality is very important. If you arrive late you are not starting out on the right foot. Your students will be on time and you should definitely arrive before they do!
  2. Dress Appropriately
    In our casual society today everything doesn’t go! You are an example for your students. You want them to respect your intelligence. This is a time when the book is certainly judged by its cover. It is okay to overdress especially if you are young and you are teaching high school students. You need to be set apart for effective classroom management.
  3. Be Flexible
    Remember, you are a guest in this school and being a site teacher has a lot of pressure. If your site teacher needs to make changes to your teaching schedule, honor them with flexibility. Seasoned teachers know how difficult schedule changes can be, so they would not ask you to do so unless it was absolutely necessary.
  4. Follow the School Rules
    I know you may feel like you are going backward when you enter your student teaching when it comes to following the basic rules. Remember little things like gum chewing, dress code and cell phone use may seem small to you, but to the students it is a “big” deal.
  5. Plan Ahead
    Good things come to those who wait? I am not so sure that this holds true when it comes to waiting to prepare your daily lessons. Prepare ahead of time and don’t wait until the morning of. Collecting your materials for a science experiment or making copies of a math test or gathering necessary colors of construction paper for your paper books project the morning of the assignment is not a best practice. One successful strategy that has helped me is to choose a day when you have double planning or a day that you can stay a little later after school. Make it your routine to gather materials for the next full week ahead of time. You will sleep better and this strategy will help you stay focused on your plan and carry it through because you are better  prepared.
  6. Befriend the Office and Custodial Staff
    The custodians, librarians, office staff and cafeteria staff are your best friends. It is up to you to maintain that friendship. These are the people who make the school run smoothly. If you decide to bring a treat in for your faculty make the delivery to these people first and do your best to remember them on holidays and birthdays. They will appreciate it!
  7. Coworkers and Teaching
    Remember you are in the school to do a job. It is fine to develop professional friendships but your students are watching and if they see you spending “too much” time with another teacher they will begin to speculate and this is how rumors start. Stay under the radar and with so many options for social connections these days there is simply no need for it in the school setting and especially in the presence of children.
  8. Maintain Confidentiality
    Remember the child you are working with has a family. They have parents, brothers, sisters and possibly grandparents who care about him or her very much. Please confine all conversations about your student or students to the school building and preferably behind closed doors with only the teacher and/or a school official present. It is easy to casually share information whether it is positive or negative in a public setting but teachers need to honor the privacy of their students and families.  
  9. Don’t be a Gossip
    It might be fun at the moment when a joke is told in the teacher’s lounge or a fellow teacher tells a funny story about something that happened in their classroom. But don’t hang around for the next joke or funny story. Move on and leave what your heard behind. Don’t be a gossip. You may be quoted for saying something you did not say or your mind might be clouded when working with another faculty member or student. You want to be able to hold your head high when you walk the halls and you will not be able to do this if you participate in this behavior.
  10. Be Professional with Other Teachers
    Please remember when you step into another classroom to borrow materials, return materials or summon a child, the teacher is probably in the middle of instruction or a classroom activity. If at all possible, try to avoid entering the classroom at all but if you have no choice, do it quietly and quickly and remember to apologize to the teacher at the first possible opportunity.  
  11. Don’t Wait until the Last Minute to Call in Sick
    You will probably get sick at some point. Often new teachers catch a little bug their first week or two of school, especially if they are not used to being around children. Please make the call to your site teacher as soon as you know so he/she can plan and prepare to lead the classroom. You don’t want to leave them holding the bag in your absence and looking unprepared in front of their students.
  12. Enjoy your Experience
    Please take time to enjoy what you are doing. It is better to take the class on slowly and comfortably and still have time to enjoy it. You will remember this student teaching experience for the rest of your life and your “take away” should be a fond memory. By following the best practices listed above, you will make way for a positive experience for you, your site teacher and your students.

Susan Shepard spent 16 years in public education as a classroom teacher, instructional specialist and school administrator and now an instructor in higher education in the online classroom. She earned her Bachelor’s in Education from Shepherd College (University), her Master’s Degree in Reading and Instruction from West Virginia University and a Post-Graduate Degree from West Virginia University in Educational Leadership and Administration. She is currently in pursuit of her PhD in Leadership for Higher Education and Curriculum and Instruction. Susan joined American Public University System in 2009. She treasures her time with students along their academic journey. 

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