10 Tips for New Teachers

March 14, 2015

If y'all have spent any amount of time around this little space then you know that I was a high school teacher for six years and I loved my job. While I don't know what the Lord will have me doing in the future, I do pray that when I am healthy I can return to teaching. I truly loved being in the classroom. Off and on here on the blog I have chatted about teaching and education. One of my favorite quotes as a teacher that I would remember often was: 
Throughout this journey I have cried many tears behind the scenes as I long to be back in the classroom. But in the last month the Lord has given me a sweet gift that is so precious to my little heart. In the last couple of weeks I have heard from ten of my former students (from all different schools) that are going into the classroom in this coming year. Their words and their sweet decision to contact me has been a blessing that brings me to tears. But I was stopped short in humility when all of them asked me for advice on how to be a good teacher. I don't have lots of wisdom on the subject. I think back to how many times I failed as a teacher ... but today I wanted to share ten tips I have for new teachers. May you be blessed in this endeavor sweet friends that you have undertaken! (p.s. These pictures are just a snippet from the wonderful years of teaching... so many precious people have been left out (and ASCS there are no pictures of y'all but I LOVE y'all soo much!))
(1) Pray often. 
I don't think that I can emphasize enough the power of prayer and the important role it plays in a teachers life. I encourage spending time praying for yourself, your students, your co-workers, your students parents, your room, and the school year. Cover yourself in prayer each day and take time throughout the day to pray. As a high school teacher (in a Christian school) I would take time at the start of each class to pray. I found that taking time to pause, pray, and ask for the Lord's help in each class was a necessary thing. I have several friends who teach at public schools and legally can not take the time to pray out loud before each class but do take the time still pray as they start their classes. Find ways to stop and pray throughout the day. 
(2) Spend time with the Lord every single day. 
As teachers it can be easy to think about all of the things that need to get done. Don't let Satan convince you that this is more important than spending time with the Lord. Make it a priority to spend time reading God's word, memorizing it, and meditating on scripture. 
(3) Create Boundary Lines immediately. 
Set the boundary lines and class rules up immediately and stick to them. As a high school teacher I have seen to many teachers who want to be "liked" and desire this more than creating a respectful atmosphere from the beginning. Look, the reality is that if you are in this profession to be "popular or liked" you are in the wrong profession. Students need teachers who know who they are in Christ and teachers that will show what it is like to be a Christian man or woman at a whatever age you are at. You are not there to be liked or to be a friend. You are there to show the love of the Lord to your students through your subject matter. Don't get caught up in the "hollywood idea" that teachers don't know anything or have nothing to offer. You have everything to offer.
(4) Create healthy relationships. 
Find ways to reach out and connect with your students. There are some students who need a listening ear, some that would appreciate seeing you at a sporting event, and some that will appreciate the after-school tutoring session that you will offer. Create healthy relationships with your students and look to find ways to connect with them outside of your classroom. Sometimes this can simply be by taking the time to say "hello" as you pass them in the hallway! 
(5) Laugh often. 
The reality is that you can find a WHOLE lot of things to be frustrated about every single day... the child who is disrespectful, the noise, the child that forgot their homework (again!), the parent that sends you the nasty email, the co-worker that didn't support you, etc. BUT don't allow those things to rob you of the joy of teaching. Find the humor in each day. Your students will be grateful and you will enjoy your job immensely.
(6) "Get on the boat. Do your job. Get back home again." 
This quote was in the movie "Breach" but was actually one of the first things that my first boss, long before the movie came out, said to me. (We lived in a Navy town so the symbolism was there. *smiles*) The point is... go to work. Do your job to the best of your ability. Get back home again. So many teachers grow tired and burned out at their jobs because they make their teaching job their entire life. The reality is that to be a great teacher - it shouldn't be your entire life. Spend time with the Lord, spend time with your family and friends, and spend time developing interests that you love. Over the years of teaching (especially as a single teacher) this was a hard lesson for me to learn but my first boss' words ring true and I have never forgotten them.
(7) Remember time is short. 
The school year passes quickly. Don't waste a moment. Treasure the moments because as you look back they will grow increasingly precious to you.
(8) Apologize when you are wrong. 
My second year of teaching I was told by a veteran teacher, "don't ever apologize for anything." This was honestly the worst piece of advice that I have ever heard but I know a lot of teachers who live by that rule. That is so silly. A child only had to spend about 10 seconds in my classroom before they realized that I was only human. *smiles* There are going to be times that you just need to apologize. Take the time to do it. (My first senior class... I am still so sorry that you had to sit through that session on Oprah on domestic violence. Worst teaching moment ever. *smiles*)
(9) Realize that each school has its own "culture". 
I have taught in three different schools in three different states so far and each one of them has been different in so many ways. My first school was a beautiful place filled with amazing people and I still treasure my memories from that school. But the culture there was different than my second school where I fell deeply in love with the community and even different again at the third school that was incredibly sweet. I will never forget leaving the 2nd school that I taught at and arriving at the 3rd school I taught at. OH MY WORD. What a learning experience! For example- at my 2nd school there was a HUGE dancing community and parents, teachers, and students alike would have fun dancing after basketball games and even had socials for dances. It was so fun. Imagine my embarrassment when at my 3rd school I was informed (kindly) by the headmaster that it was inappropriate for me to be dancing at a homecoming event. I was mortified. All of that to say... it is always a learning experience. But if you embrace the opportunity you will grow in a million different ways. I always say that I grew up at the first school I taught at, I was embraced into a family at my second school, and arrived at my third school as a brokenhearted young woman only to leave prepared for the biggest fight of my life (my health). Embrace the culture and community and you will look back with gratefulness for each place that you teach at.
(10) Learn from your students. 
At the end of the day I really don't think that I had an impact at all but I do know that my students had an impact on me. Be humble and learn from your students, because they will be your greatest teachers!

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