Top Tips for New Teachers

I’ve worked in education for 9 years. One year spent in an afterschool program, four in the [middle school] classroom, and four as the Math Department head. Some of my closest friends are teachers, and after attending a conference last Fall, I came up with a list of “Top Tips for New Teachers.” Friends and administration have edited this list, so I am somewhat confident sharing it with you. :)When I started teaching, people kept telling me not to smile. “They’ll eat you alive!” You guys, smiling is okay! You can be a nice person as well as strict. It’s probably the best combination. But here are some ways to make sure that you add some structure along with your amazing relationship building skills. 🙂


Top Tips for New Teachers



High Expectations.
[from the start]

Don’t become complacent based on what students are doing versus what you want them to do. If that homework is due Wednesday, don’t give an extension without deducting points. Missing work? Failing? TUTORIALS. Talking back or cursing? STAY AFTER CLASS. Doing these things right away is incredibly important. These are students’ first impressions of you and the way you run your classroom. [[And for the love of God, don’t encourage them to get excited because they made the minimum passing score…]]



Consistency goes hand in hand with high expectations. Administer consequences from the get-go, consistently [I cannot stress this enough]. If you say you are going to call home, call home. Don’t even give them a “next time.” That doesn’t mean you need to have a constant frown on your face! Just let students know that you mean business and they probably don’t want to cross you. Eventually, they’ll assume you are going to call their parents, or write them up, or issue them detention, and then you don’t have to worry about it too much.
We all know those teachers that always threaten to call home…and don’t. And the kids know it. A lot of good that does.



Duh. This had to be in here somewhere. What I mean is: fairness, sincerity, and honesty-ish. You need to have a good attitude in general. Teach and display how students should treat others. Use please and thank you often. Talk to the kids as if you are equals [not to be confused with friends]. Take students aside or outside to address them…yelling across the room is not a quality you’d like to instill in them, is it? [Obv. this is assuming it’s not an extreme behavior]. Often overlooked is students’ treatment of substitute teachers. Make sure to leave a note for the sub, asking for a note back. Administer rewards/consequences* based on student behavior while you were out. That way there’s no need to go all Miss Nelson is Missing on the class.
Sadly, there are far too many students who aren’t taught proper ways to interact with each other, let alone adults. You aren’t just teaching kids a required subject anymore.



Be direct.
This one’s easy. Don’t assume students know how to behave or follow procedure. Be extremely specific all the time. At least until the routine is down. And then still remind them. Write your name on a piece of paper – show them where. Quietly line up for lunch – show them how.



Shut it down.
As soon as you catch yourself arguing with a student, they’ve won. Do not engage. It will only escalate. A stern “NO” usually does the trick [if this has been consistent behavior from you, the teacher]. Or maybe a, “We can continue this conversation in detention.” If necessary, document the situation and call home or it. will. continue.



You need to keep your sense of humor to maintain your sanity. Laugh and vent with co-workers. Brush off the little things that are out of your control. Chuckle to yourself towards the end of the day when you are tired and need to keep functioning. That was my go-to. The joke might’ve gone over their head, but I’m in tears over here.


Another duh! When teachers are enthusiastic, students tend to be engaged. Stop students after a few minutes to check on their progress, make activities relatable and unique, show video clips, and play with technology!
Feel free to share appropriate stories from your own life, too. The kids will still think of you as a robot, but who doesn’t want to hear cool robot stories?? 😛



Ask for help!
Don’t be afraid! People will respect you for asking for assistance when you need it. You have your co-workers, specialists, assistant principals, and a slew of other folks there to help you out. Look for different teacher forums on the web, and of course, seek help from parents – whether you’d like them to visit the classroom, or offer advice on interacting with their child.
And happy hour is a great place to seek advice from your teacher friends. 🙂



Need rewards and consequence ideas? Ask your fellow teachers.
Here are a few basic ideas to get you started…
1. Bathroom/water break [depending on the amount of work student has completed].
2. Praise!
3. Blow pop for an A on a test or quiz.
4. Instead of starting homework in class, free time to read a book or work on something else.
1. Stay after class [For “counts” or 10, 20, etc. Trust me, they hate it.]
2. Phone call home [immediate or during off period].
3. Detention [immediate or next day – depending]
4. Lunch detention.
4. No bathroom/water breaks.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! One of my friends likes sending students across the building to deliver stacks of books. 🙂

Your first year doesn’t have to be your crappiest! Have faith and be consistent!

Do you have any tips to share? Or any favorite consequences/rewards?



  1. Great list! I don't teach any more, but we were discouraged from using candy as a reward, and from keeping kids after school, also really for lunch/recess detentions. (Plus it felt like a detention for me giving up time away from them! haha) I definitely did it though, and made them write a letter explaining what they did wrong and how they should have behaved, this was more effective for younger kids. The middle school kids were good at just giving me what I wanted to hear in one line. Mostly we were expected to call home, which was so much anxiety for me! I hate using the phone. Basically I sucked at behaviour management. I only made it out alive because I had a good (and juvenile) sense of humour. Anyway, I meant to just say great advice!

  2. Great list! I'm going into my 3rd year teaching now and I feel like these are all things I've found out the hard way. In the beginning I thought I needed to be stricter because I was so young, that blew up in my face pretty bad. Now I've learned that an open dialog about respect and expectations is all you need to run a successful classroom!

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