Espresso Shot: Our Best Advice for First-Year Teachers

Ten years later, I still remember my first day of teaching! One of the best tips I can give new teachers would be to set out time to get to know your students and make connections as early as you can. Once the semester starts rolling (and you have piles of work to grade), this is easy to forget to do. Designate a few days each week to spend with each of your students. It does not have to be long, even a minute or two. Check in with your students and see how they are doing. Ask them what kinds of books they are reading, ask them what they are most looking forward to in the class or simply make a comment about their progress on a recent assignment or activity. The smallest compliments can really change their day and trust me, they notice the small things. You will not regret the time spent getting to know them on a one-on-one basis!

Congratulations on your new teaching job! My biggest piece of advice is to find someone on staff who can be a mentor. Someone to help you navigate paper work, challenges with students / parents and someone to help with the myriad of questions you are going to have. If you’re not comfortable asking someone see if your department head or principal can facilitate a partnership. I am forever grateful for a wonderful colleague who mentored me through my first few years.

Have clear, laid out routines for self-care. Trust me, you will need your go-to strategies in place for these first few years of teaching: be that making sure you always have a pint of your favourite ice-cream in the fridge, or knowing that after an exhausting day you need a long bath, or perhaps it is making sure that you have some non-teaching related podcasts ready and a clear walking loop identified. Whatever it is, be intentional about knowing how you disengage, relax, or recover after a long day or week, because you will need these routines to be easily accessible - you can't just wait for vacations. Teaching is a rewarding, fulfilling career, but let's be real: it can also become all-consuming if you aren't careful, and it can take an emotional toll. Start your career off right by being intentional about work-life balance.

Welcome to the wonderful world of teaching! When you meet your first class, be yourself and show your students that you are a real person with a sense of humour, with hopes and fears, and with a tendency to make mistakes. Don't go in there trying to be this perfect, polished person who knows it all. There's nothing more powerful than showing your students that you don't know something -- and then what you do to change that. However, while you're being "real" with your teens, remember that you are the teacher. Be friendly, be ready to take a stand and draw the line when you need to; you are the adult in the room who has a very important job to do. You can be fun to be with, but in the long run your students will respect you more if you give them structure and discipline.

Congratulations on your first teaching job. One of my biggest pieces of advice for new teachers is to not be afraid to ask for help. On top of having your own classroom and students for the first time ever, you’ll also be navigating a new school and new district. It is perfectly acceptable if you don’t have all of the answers or don’t know all of the school policies. Reach out to your department chair or to teachers in your department and ask for help planning. Ask to collaborate. Ask someone to explain the school’s beginning of the year procedures. Most importantly, ask for help before you get overwhelmed. You have an entire community of teachers, and don’t forget the online community as well, who are there to help you thrive as a new teacher.

Congrats! You made it! One of the best things I did during my first year of teaching was to make a core group of teacher friends. We dedicated time to hang out each week {it was pub trivia!} to relax and connect. But here's the catch... we made a "no shop talk" rule for that time. No complaining about students, no sharing lesson ideas, no stressing over admin... no nothing! Just a chance for us to connect as friends.

Congrats on your new job! One mistake I made getting ready for my first teaching job was spending too much time on how my classroom looked and not enough time planning and preparing for instruction. When people told me to over-plan and over-prepare, they weren't kidding. It's much easier to cut your lesson short than to finish with 10 minutes left in class. Your picture-perfect classroom can come later; for now, utilize this time to focus on your instruction and on building relationships with your students during those first few weeks.

Congratulations on entering this wonderful profession! While I completely agree that it’s important to set routines and procedures in place, I’ve also learned to make sure all of the promises and expectations you set are sustainable. Don’t “bite off more than you can chew”, especially before you’ve met the students and have a clear vision of what they need. It’s almost better to underpromise and overdeliver in this early phase when students and families are still getting to know you!

There is so much to learn from your colleagues. Inspiration, classroom management tips, and professional development can be found right down the hall. Ask teachers if they mind you sitting at the back of their class during your preparation period from time to time. Tell them you admire them as a teacher and want to learn from them, and bring some marking, so you are also being productive! Every teacher has a different style, and observing many different teachers helps you to reflect on what methods you want to use, routines you want to establish, and atmosphere you want to create.

I would also recommend you share your work. When you create something bring it to someone who teaches the same subject that you do. Don’t expect them to always use it or even assume you will get anything in return, but in my experience, this almost always leads to that teacher reciprocating and sharing their work with you. This leads to a more collaborative school climate and also helps you grow your bank of resources.

Woohoo! Congratulations! This is going to be a year of teaching that you ALWAYS remember, so let’s make it the best. My biggest tip is to not lose yourself on a personal level. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with meetings, grading, and making sure you’re upholding all of your standards in the classroom, but the work-life balance can be a challenge. Set aside specific times during the work week to treat yourself. It doesn’t have to cost money... it can be something as simple as taking a bubble bath, taking a spin class, or meditating. This will help you reset your priorities and you’ll be a much more effective teacher if you are feeling rejuvenated and happy in all facets of life! Best of luck!

Back to Top