Beginning a teaching career is an exciting time, full of hope, possibility, and, if we’re being honest, a bit of stress. Here’s some real advice for new teachers from some experienced early childhood educators. This advice is excellent for all teachers, though – full of reminders, new ideas, and a sprinkling of humor. New to preschool or new to teaching overall, enjoy some encouragement and tips for new teachers from teachers with years of experience!
One of the most significant pieces of advice for new teachers: remember what is most important. There are hundreds of things to worry about daily, but the most important thing is the relationship with your students. When all else fails, when the lesson plans don’t hold up, the art project flops – the thing you can control is how you relate and connect to the students. If there is nothing else you can do, you can spend time building relationships. Everything else will come in good time.
- Hang in there, and build relationships with students before focusing on outcomes. – Carrie J.
- Focus on safety and connection…the rest is extra! – Janelle V.
- You must love them before you can teach them. – Salecia H.
- Relationships are the key to success – and not just relationships with students. Build relationships with parents, coworkers, and especially the secretary and custodians if you have them. – Mary A.
- Show your students your love for teaching them, and they will love learning. Enjoy your students, and by all means, get to know each one completely, including their talents, hobbies, struggles, and more. – Sandi S.
- Build relationships with all your students, even the most difficult ones. Often, the difficult ones are the ones that need it the most! – Debbie R.
- Give lots of hugs and praise. Some kids don’t get this at home, and even those that do always need more! – Sara B.
- Remember that the students are PEOPLE. They are young but have real feelings, opinions, and ideas. Treat them as such. It’s easy to forget that in the hustle and bustle, but children really respond to being treated as individuals and with respect. -Myranda F.
- Connection before correction. You have to connect with students before you can expect them to want to listen to you. – Tara T.
Find a Mentor
An amazing mentor is priceless. Find somebody in your building, neighborhood, community, or even online, and tap into their knowledge as you develop your own teaching style. Every teacher has been a first-year teacher, so finding someone willing to share their experience with you is just another resource waiting to be used.
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Be careful not to compare yourself to others, especially those who have been teaching for a long time. It’s an entirely different ballgame. Year one is so different from year ten. Everyone was a first-year teacher at one point, and there’s no way around it. You could be the best first-year teacher and still look back five years later and wonder what you were doing.
Start the Day Right
Every day starts fresh and new, and how you approach each day can set everyone up for success. It’s important to remember these bits of advice for new teachers, or remind yourself if you’re a seasoned veteran!
- Start every day with a positive attitude. And if you’re not feeling it, fake it ’till you make it! – Hannah L.
- Give yourself time in the morning before the class enters the room to get things set up for the day. If that’s not possible, do it the night before you leave. – Aria J.
- Make sure to be well-stocked on your caffeine of choice! You’ll need it! – Brian W.
- If it’s up to you, provide breakfast or a snack in the morning when the children have arrived. Some kids don’t eat much in the mornings at home, and it really impacts their behavior and ability to learn! – Rose L.
- Have a morning routine where you greet each child by name with a high-five, handshake, fistbump, silly dance…whatever floats your boat and theirs! It will make them feel welcome and help them look forward to starting the day with you. – Lyla C.
- I start class with a story and a song. It helps get them settled and interested in what we are learning that day. – Marie H.
- If little ones have a hard time saying goodbye to their mom or dad, have them wave out of a window and be prepared to engage them immediately in some irresistible activity like play dough or painting. – Lauryn D.
Music to Their Ears
Another essential piece of advice for new teachers is all about music. Music is universal – even if you have little ones that don’t respond to much else, they’re likely to respond to music. Make up your own songs, or use songs from other teachers and singers. Singing to them is a beautiful way to connect – and they don’t even mind if you’re off-key.
- Sing, sing, sing, have fun, act silly, and show them that you love them! – Tracy F.
- Use music all the time, even when they are at centers. I play music, whether it is nursery rhymes or Kidz Bop, or I’m singing to them. – Krystal G.
- Music activates different parts of the brain, so it’s important to use it whenever you can to keep those neurons firing! Also, if you have a kid with autism in your class, they might respond to directions that are sung better than if they are spoken. – Megan J.
- Use pop tunes but make up your own words. Disney music works great, too – I am always telling my kids to “Let it go, Let it go…time to go on out the door….let it go, let it go, it’s not naptime anymore..” -Patty G.
It’s always important to be prepared when teaching a preschool class. Here are some ways to be ready to tackle your day!
- Plan more than you’ll need. Better to be over-prepared than under. – Amber B.
- Wear comfy shoes – it’s hard to teach when your feet hurt! – Emily M.
- Make yourself a “teacher cubby” with extra clothes, chapstick, lotion, deodorant…anything you could use in an emergency! – Michelle F.
- Use your time wisely! Prep for the morning before the children arrive and use naptime to prep for the afternoon or the next day. Dar D.
- Have a system for incoming and outgoing papers, or you’ll end up drowning in them! – Joy Z.
- Dress for success – I mean, dress ready to get down on the floor to play. It’s hard to teach preschoolers if you’re worried about ruining your outfit or are in a skirt and heels. – Jenn P.
- Teach little routines like “When I say Peanut Butter, you say Jelly” to get their attention when needed. Practice this often and praise them when they do it. It makes getting their attention much easier! – Danielle A.
- Be prepared for change. There is ALWAYS going to be change, whether it is a new child in the classroom, a change in family dynamics like a new baby, or changes in schedules. Have a routine but be prepared to “go with the flow” – Erica R.
- Know how you will transition from one activity to another. Transitions are glue. – Kenya D.
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These bits of advice for teachers will make people think you’ve been teaching for years!
- When making black and white copies: Write “Master Copy” on the original with a yellow highlighter. The yellow highlighter doesn’t come through in the copies. This prevents the master copy from being used in the classroom by mistake! – Justine B.
- When working with a theme, keep all the notes, lesson plans, master copies, and such in a binder or bin labeled for that theme. Use clear plastic page protectors and binder-friendly pencil pouches to store smaller pieces. When the next year rolls around, that theme is ready to go. – Anna A.
- If making games or activities with file folders, tape a small zip lock bag or envelope to the back of the file folder to hold the pieces, so the pieces stay with the folder. – Stephanie K.
- When labeling shelves, always make two labels: one for the shelf and one for the container holding the item. This makes it easy for children to return the container and the objects.
- Use plastic clear sticky pockets to put labels on shelves and bins to make it easy to switch out labels when a new item is in that location. – Roseanne L.
- Put a sandwich-size zip-top bag inside the paint cups at the easel. Next, pour the paint into the baggie. Snap the paint cup lid over the top. When the students finish painting, just remove the paint cup lid and throw away the baggie. No more washing paint cups and muddy colored paints! – Cheryl G.
- Use some type of plastic on the floor to catch paint drippings. If your easel is too close to the wall, hang a plastic tablecloth or a shower curtain liner to protect the wall from splashes and drips. – Kirsten M.
- Wrap a piece of tape around the thumb hole to help children see where to hold the scissors. – Kim T.
- When using a bubble machine in the classroom, be sure to put it inside a tin pie pan or a similar container. They sometimes drip and make a slippery mess. -Deb E.
- Follow early childhood educators on social media. These groups often have wonderful advice, freebies, giveaways, recipes, and videos that are fantastic tools. -Jodi S.
- Sign up for an account at Teachers Pay Teachers (aka TpT). It’s an online store where many seasoned educators sell resources very inexpensively, and there are a lot of free resources there as well. Work smarter, not harder! – Nicole M.
- Count your children every time you leave your classroom. And when you’re in the classroom too! – Jen T.
Take Time to Recharge!
Relax, recharge, rest, and don’t get burned out the first year. You could spend 20 hours a day planning, preparing, cutting, laminating, researching, organizing, and more, but what would you have left to give? One of the most essential bits of advice for new teachers is this: You must take time for yourself, or before you get to the fifth year, you’ll be looking for a job at Target. A relaxed teacher is the best way to connect with your students. Remember – you can’t fill someone else’s cup from an empty bucket.
- Give yourself GRACE. Also, don’t try to do everything in one week or even one year. Go slow and steady; give yourself time to get comfortable in your classroom with your students. Love, explore, and enjoy together. – Nora D.
- Go to bed early. – Ruqiya J.
- Reflect on how to improve things, but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go right. – Kelly S.
- Remember that good things come with time. So be patient with yourself and remember you are of value. The world needs educators like you to shape the next generation. – Monica A.
- Be patient with yourself. Don’t be afraid to throw out your lesson plan and let the little ones lead. – Shakina G.
- Relax and enjoy the job. I used to stress, but then I learned that the kids feel that and react to your energy. – Karen S.
- Pace yourself. There are always 110 things you want to do or try. Don’t try to do them all at once! – Katie O.
- Be fluid, have fun, and when in doubt, sing and dance! – Tabitha L.
- Relax, focus, and remember that a young child’s mind is like a sponge just waiting for outstanding teachers like you to guide them. – Justine B.
- Don’t be afraid to laugh with the kids, laugh at yourself, have fun, and sometimes you just have to take that extra recess. – Heather S.
- Set boundaries with parents and children. I don’t advise giving out your phone number. And don’t babysit your students. It’s confusing to them and the parents about your role. -Alexis B.
- Leave work at work. Home is for self-care and family. If it doesn’t get done today, it will be fine until tomorrow. – Lindsey C.
- Never pass up a chance to pee! – Margaret G.
Patience and Flexibility are Key
In early childhood education, patience and flexibility are the most important things any teacher can have. Well, that and a sense of humor!
- It’s ok if the day doesn’t go as planned. If a planned activity doesn’t go well, change it to something they’ll enjoy more. -Sarah N.
- Meet the students at their level and know that improvement is the goal, not perfection. – Lindi M.
- Be kind, be patient, and be consistent. – Chris E.
- Remember, they’re just little people trying to figure it all out. – Lynn A.
- Stay calm, be flexible, and roll with whatever happens. Remember, you’re the teacher! – Carol J.
- There are going to be some REALLY HARD and BAD days. But there are usually more good days than bad. Be patient with the little ones, but don’t feel bad for getting frustrated – you’re human too! – Erica R.
Hang in there!
Before long, you’ll be mentoring new teachers and passing on some advice of your own!