Suggestions for New Teachers (high school edition)

At the last school I worked, a good teacher was defined as someone who gets along with the kids, is an expert in the subject matter and doesn’t involve the administration very often.  But it’s a little more complicated than that, so I started working on a list for new teachers.

Surviving Teaching:

  • Ask for help.  You don’t have to pretend to have it all together.  None of us did when we first started. Many of us are willing to share materials with you.  But please don’t just take things from our web sites without asking.  If you have time, try to adapt lessons to fit your own needs and style.

  • Seek out a mentor:  Look around.  Who do you admire?  Who has reached out to you?  Who has a similar teaching style as you?

  • Remember why you are here.  Why did you want to become a teacher?  Try to keep that in mind every day.

  • Don’t teach to the test.

  • Don’t assign unnecessary homework.  You don’t have time to grade it and your students probably won’t benefit from it.  Think quality, not quantity.

  • Avoid teaching summer school.  You need a break.  If you need a second job, try something else.

  • Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.

  • In the summer, try to take at least one professional development class, read a book about teaching and learning, build an online professional learning community,or work on lesson planning a little.

  • Keep a file with every positive email or note that you receive from a student, parent, or anyone else.  It will be there for you when you are having a bad day.

Behavior Management:

  • Never get into a power struggle with a student.

  • If you do get into a power struggle with a student, do not lose.

  • Never punish a whole class for what only some people have done.

  • Build individual relationships and community throughout the year so that you have a way to prevent and solve problems.

  • Apologize to your students when necessary.

  • Ask for help when a class isn’t going the way you would like.  We all have classes like that from time to time and we have learned some strategies for dealing with them.

  • Be honest.  When you don’t know the answer, admit it.  Students will respond better to a person who is authentic.

  • Sending a student out to the hallway for a few minutes can help both of you calm down.

  • Don’t threaten anything you are not able or willing to follow through with.

  • Students WILL try to test the limits of every teacher, particularly the new ones. Be ready.  Have a plan.

  • If you have to yell, you have already lost the battle.


  • Be on time for everything.

  • Look around and see how your colleagues dress.  Make sure that you are not the most casual of the group.

  • Always treat the support staff respectfully.  They deserve it and they run the school.  While you are at it, treat everyone respectfully, too.

  • Don’t complain a lot.  You don’t want to be known as that person.

  • Don’t take things without asking.   We teachers are protective of what little supplies and space we have.  But please ask for what you need.

  • If your colleagues eat lunch together, make an effort to join them a few times a week.

  • If you are sick, stay home, but don’t take a lot of “mental health” days.

  • Attend IEP meetings when you are asked, particularly if you teach a core subject or anything the student is struggling in.

  • If you are sharing a classroom with another teacher, clean up before you leave.

  • Listen more than you speak during department meetings until you understand the issues.

  • Respond to emails and phone messages promptly, within 24 hours if possible.


4 comments on “Suggestions for New Teachers (high school edition)

  1. Always tell them why. Because if you don’t, they will make up their own reasons.

  2. Nf says:

    Remember that you can be respected without being their friend – watch that line. Maintain order and structure, have a solid routine, high expectations and be fair, and they will respect you.

    Mean what you say and say what you mean.

    Fair does not mean equal.

  3. What a great list you are compiling! I especially like “If you have to yell, you have already lost the battle.” I also like the fair doesn’t mean equal from Nf. I wonder about one having to do with talking to students–Talk to them–have an authentic interest in aspects of their lives outside of school…You could really make a difference with this list in the lives of new teachers and in the lives of students. Nice!

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