Tips for the Beginning Teacher

 (As a student teacher and a one to three-year professional)

 I.  Be Professional

  • Be professional in dress, manner, and attitude from the first minute that you are present in the classroom.
  • Act professionally in public.
  • Use language appropriately. Don't resort to using slang too often.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard.
  • Don't be late to class.
  • Don't come late to staff meetings.
  • When dealing with confrontation, maintain your composure.
  • Know when to compromise.
  • State your opinion -- let others know where you stand.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Establish a good rapport with parents and administration.
  • Keep good, strong lines of communication open between you and the parents.
  • Don't be afraid to call parents if one of your students is having problems in class. Many parents have no idea how well their children are doing in school until report card time rolls around, so they will appreciate your efforts to keep them informed.
  • Don't be afraid to call or meet with parents. They are probably just as curious about you as you are about them. In fact, knowing them might help you to better understand their child.
  • Call or write parents when their son or daughter does something good or improves in class. Don't limit communication to bad news.
  • Encourage parents to be proud of their children.
  • Show students that you care about their lives, and show the parents that you care about their children's progress.
  • When conducting parent-teacher conferences, have handouts ready for the parents that include your philosophy, your grading policy, your attendance policies and their child's grades.
  • Get to know the principal of your school. Invite the principal to sit in on your class when he or she has a chance and ask for any suggestions that might improve your teaching. Good rapport with the administration is invaluable.
  • Ask other teachers, even the principal, for advice.
  • Use discretion in deciding which teachers to approach for information. Don't be suspicious -- be observant and selective.
  • Show respect to the cooperating teacher and the other faculty.
  • Cooperate with your colleagues, be willing to ask them for help and be open to offering your advice.
  • Get to know the custodian and the secretary.
  • Ask for a student handbook and a teacher's handbook. Be familiar with administrative expectations and procedures.
  • Familiarize yourself with departmental policies.
  • Read the latest research manuals in your field.
  • Attend workshops regularly.
  • Know your rights as a teacher (union contracts/district rules).
  • Know the resources or how to make proper referrals for special education, discipline, etc.
  • When conferencing with students in a private office, always leave the door open.
  • Never touch your students.
  • Remember that the way you solve problems will become a model for your students when they encounter problems.
  • Never share really personal information with your students. It is important to maintain a teacher-student relationship with them.
  • Devise a detailed rationale. Know and explain why your students should meet your objectives.

II. Be Prepared

  • Do not wait until the last minute to devise unit or lesson plans. Take time to research your ideas before you try them out.
  • Have daily lesson plans well prepared.
  • Always plan more for each class period than you think you can accomplish.
  • Have lesson plans ready for substitute teachers.
  • Have extra activities for students to do in that "left over" time at the end of the hour.
  • Don't expect every class to react the same to various activities and discussions.
  • Always have examples ready that are relevant to the students' lives.
  • Always have an alternate explanation.
  • Be flexible.
  • Don't ever throw anything away.
  • Know how to use equipment such as the VCR, data projector and television. Nothing is more embarrassing than ruining such a machine in front of thirty-five pairs of eyes.
  • Be self-confident. Be able to explain the importance of your curriculum or why the student received the grade he or she did.
  • Know where the fire exits are located. Be familiar with disaster procedures. Be prepared!

III. Be Organized

  • It is important to feel prepared as well as look prepared.
  • Thoroughly prepare lecture notes, mini-lessons, questions for discussion, and class activities each day.
  • If you expect your students to have all of their materials, then your should have yours, too.
  • Clearly state objectives and exactly what you expect on assignments -- students need a picture sometimes.
  • The students always want to know what is due and when. Write assignments on the board daily and verbally remind them of due dates.
  • Give students plenty of advance warning regarding assignment due dates, and give students a copy of the syllabus early in the semester. It is also a good idea to mail a copy of the syllabus home to students' parents.
  • Set grading criteria for letter grades on all tests and essays before giving them to the students.
  • When grading students' writing assignments, give them a cover sheet with a checklist. Check any mechanical or organizational mistakes the students make on the checklist. This way, the students know exactly why they received the grade they did.
  • To save time and prevent confusion, before handing back student papers, tests, and homework, categorize them by seating arrangement or alphabetize them.
  • In order to avoid the "who-needs-what-paper" dilemma because he or she was absent, keep a file. If a student is absent, put the student's name on the top of the handout, and keep it for when the student returns.
  • Have students take responsibility for their absent peers. They can collect handouts and assignments and put them in a folder designed for that purpose.
  • Acquire a school calendar so that you'll know when students have days off and when other important activities are scheduled.
  • Keep a schedule of each class in a plastic cover. If you give a student permission to leave for the library, restroom, or somewhere else, use a dry erase marker to indicate on the plastic cover where the student has gone.
  • Keep manuals in one place.
  • Keep your desk and files organized.
  • Keep two folders for student work for each period you teach, one for papers you have graded and one for papers you haven't graded yet. This is especially helpful if your students are turning in a lot of papers each week.
  • Be sure to have a record of lesson plans.
  • A good way to organize the material you collect is to keep binders for each teaching unit.
  • Try to keep track of the books you loan out. Using note cards for each book, write the names of the students who check out your books, and keep a book file.

IV.  Be Patient

  • Give students enough thinking time.
  • Don't tell your students the answer simply because a few seconds have passed in silence. Wait longer, minutes even, before restating the question, but don't answer it yourself.
  • If students don't respond to a question right away, or if they express confusion, ask lead-in questions.
  • Remember that students will be absent, so don't get too frustrated when having to reschedule assignments and activities.
  • Realize and accept that not all students will remain at the same level academically.
  • Listen attentively to students' problems.

V.  Be a Real Person, and Honor Each Student as a Real Person

  • Treat your students with respect at all times. Never embarrass a student or make a student feel bad about himself or herself.
  • Never use sarcasm toward your students.
  • Be firm, but be flexible, when it's needed.
  • Don't dislike any student -- dislike behaviors or attitudes.
  • Make an effort to include all students.
  • Keep prejudice out of the classroom.
  • Encourage leadership and confidence in all students.
  • Encourage students to dream.
  • Recognize students who do outstanding work as well as those who need to improve.
  • Always let students know when they have done a good job.
  • Don't be an enforcer or know-it-all. Let the students see the real you.
  • Do not pretend to be all-knowing -- we all learn together.
  • Admit when you are wrong.
  • If you make a mistake, don't give up. Keep trying until you get it right. It is OK for a student to see a teacher mess up -- this makes teachers seem more like real people.
  • Do not be unapproachable.
  • Do not follow the "Never Smile before Thanksgiving" rule.
  • Smile. Enthusiasm is an important ingredient for a good learning environment.
  • Maintain a sense of humor with students.
  • Know students as well as you can. Know their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Know the students' names. This will help establish a good rapport with them.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Let students know that if they have a problem, they can share it in confidence with you.
  • Let your students know that you enjoy your job and that you want to be with them.

VI.  Be Sensible with Discipline

  • Establish firm ground rules regarding class conduct on the first day of class and stick to those rules. Having a firm discipline policy laid out at the beginning of the school year is essential for new teachers.
  • Always make clear to students what you expect and follow through.
  • Know the school's discipline policy and adhere to it.
  • Always document discipline problems, especially recurring ones. You may need this documentation when talking to parents or administrators.
  • Don't be afraid to talk to fellow teachers about problems you are having or to the school counselors -- that's what they are there for.
  • Be sure to let parents know early if there is a problem.
  • Don't let problems occur more than three times without doing something about them. If necessary, take students out into the hall and discuss problems there or ask the student to stay after school to work out problems.
  • Avoid confrontations in the classroom at all costs!
  • Do not argue with a student during class. Discuss the problem one-on-one after class.
  • Have solid rules and procedures for discipline. Do not send every discipline problem to the principal because it will show that you cannot handle your class. Keep the discipline and the students inside of the classroom.
  • Do not be too strict in class. Do not yell or reprimand students each time they talk out of turn or break the silence. Give students some freedom.
  • In disciplining, don't approach students from an adversarial standpoint. Let them know that the rules are designed to provide guidance so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve without any interference from others.
  • Let students know that you have confidence in them, and that you have set high expectations for their achievement. Affirm positive behavior and achievement.
  • Be consistent in the way you deal with students; don't offer special treatment or excessive punishment to anyone, ever.
  • Respond fairly and wisely.
  • Give the students the benefit of the doubt.
  • If a student is acting up, try standing near the student and make clear eye contact with him or her.  Giving the student a stern look works well too.
  • Walk around the class. Move about through their desks and make your presence known.  This increases attention.
  • Do not judge your students by your own personal standards.
  • Make the rules and punishments reasonable.
  • Be authoritative, not authoritarian.
  • Set the tone for the day if you go on a field trip.  Discreetly let students know that you are still the authority, even though you are in a different environment from that of the school.
  • "Never let them see you sweat." If they know they can walk all over you, they will. (crying isn’t a good idea either…)

VII.  Be Aware of Your Own Needs

  • Give yourself relaxation or "self" time every day, even if it is only thirty minutes.
  • Take time out to deal with stress when it does happen.
  • Don't take on more activities than you can handle.  Learn to say, "No!"
  • Try to get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Inform your significant others that you will be busy.
  • Read and write for yourself
  • Strive for excellence, not perfection.
  • Reflect, reflect, reflect… and modify following reflection