As a veteran teacher, I’ve come to find that becoming a new teacher is a lot like becoming a new parent. In fact, a lot of the new teacher advice I received after graduation also doubles as great advice for new parents.
New Teacher Advice
I’ve received my fair share of new teacher advice from parents, family, friends, and other teaching professionals.
Oh all the tidbits I’ve received over the years, here’s a rundown of the best advice I ever got about teaching/parenting.
You must have a completely unreasonable amount of patience or you might lose your mind.
Don’t be a kid’s friend, but do be supportive and understanding.
Be prepared to adjust yourself, your attitude, and your expectations accordingly.
It is NOT your whole life nor does it define you completely.
Don’t be afraid to ditch the plan and let things happen naturally.
Soon you will reach a point where nothing — absolutely nothing — will surprise you. When that happens, welcome, my friend.
Don’t come in thinking you know everything. That’s the quickest way to get on everyone’s nerves.
Marry rich, if possible.
Prepare to be broke.
Be flexible, like an Olympic gymnast and Gumby had a baby.
Everyone has something to offer you- the old folks, the middle of the road folks, and the newbies! Listen to everyone and take what feels right, leave the rest.
Survive the first year. Nothing more or less. You will learn so much in that first year that your second year and beyond will seem like a cake walk (hopefully).
Know the rules that are most important to you and enforce them- period.
Know how you will react when a kid says, “f*ck you!” Seriously, plan that out now.
Don’t check work emails when you’re not at work. Ever.
Don’t be afraid, bad things will happen. Kids are stronger than you think.
The cellphone will be the bane of your existence. If you can find a way to control it you will have a much easier time.
Only do it if you can’t imagine being happy doing anything else.
It’s a thankless job and the pay is shit, but you will be able to look back at what you’ve done and feel really proud that you put in as much as you did.
Prioritize Mental and Physical Health
Parenting and teaching are both mentally and physically exhausting jobs. So much so, that a good chunk of the new teacher advice I’ve received is all about focusing on health. Check them out below.
Have a plan for non-negotiables when it comes to mental health and space. Even if it’s 30 minutes a day that you get to yourself, plan it and keep it sacred.
Rest as soon as you feel a hint of illness, or it will undoubtedly manifest into a much bigger problem.
Believe in the power of mental health days and do not let anyone guilt you into giving them up.
Always have Advil and Tums available.
Join a wine club.
Find a good therapist early on.
Try not to become an alcoholic.
Start growing tougher skin now. You’ll need it.
Don’t be hard on yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. Revisit what motivated you to do this in the first place.
You will get sick a lot. Do everything in your power to stay healthy. Wash your hands like a germophobe and spray door handles with Lysol.
Don’t take what the kids say personally but don’t be afraid to show them you are human and have emotions.
It’s okay to cry. Everyone does.
Buy bigger pants and throw away those pants you haven’t fit into in years. Between stress-eating and alcohol you will be bigger, and that’s okay.
Don’t tie a wet shoelace when it’s not raining outside.
Add tea tree oil to your shampoo and lice will avoid your head all together.
Allocate time every evening where you allow yourself to stop giving a f*ck. Easier said than done but that mental space is valuable.
If you don’t sob uncontrollably for half an hour at least twice a year, you’re doing it wrong.
Buckle up and Enjoy the Ride!
Being a teacher and parent requires that you act a little crazy and be VERY flexible. Here are just a handful of recommendations I’ve received about enjoying the ride!
Don’t take anything too seriously.
Keep a memory box. Fill it with all of the good things that happen and nice things kids have said. Look through it on tough days.
Don’t ever forget why you chose this in the first place!
Be real. Be honest.
Laugh at yourself. Forgive yourself.
Be sarcastic and pretend to be cynical. Laugh because it feels super cynical. But don’t, truly, deep in your heart, actually be cynical. Not completely, anyway.
Go with the chaos! If you try to control the chaos, it will erupt in your face.
You’ll be miserable if you don’t have a sense of humor and learn to laugh at yourself every once in a while.
Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot, because you’ll have fun and they will love you for it.
You’ll encounter stupid sh*t every day. Learn to laugh. These kids are actually pretty funny.
Be kind, be honest, be silly… but also be straightforward and take sh*t from no one.
Trust that You are Doing Great
How often do we feel like we are failing as a parent or teacher? (Pretty much every day for me, to be honest.) Trust me when I say that you are doing a great job whether you believe it or not.
Find one person who will support you and listen to you without offering unsolicited advice and/or judgment.
Don’t overthink it. You are probably doing more good than harm.
Don’t drown yourself for the sake of keeping up with someone else who looks like they have it all together. They don’t, they’re just better at pretending.
If you are doing the best you possibly can, give yourself a pat on the back and stop thinking of ways you could be better.
Know from the very beginning that the small victories are so important. Notice them.
Pick your battles sparingly.
Don’t compare yourself to Pinterest or anything else on social media. That is not real life. Look around you- THAT is real life.
Your kids won’t remember your lessons (sorry to tell you that) no matter how many hours you put into them. However, they will always remember how you made them feel!
Don’t feel you haven’t made a difference even if you don’t see it. You make a difference each day, just by showing up.
Start each day fresh. Even if one of your kids was horrible the day before, greet that kid with a smile the next day like it never happened. Let them know that you will not hold bad behavior against them.
You’ll get better at it faster than you think. Every year is different and every day is different, and you’ll make it through.
Whatever expectations you have, throw them out the window. Your first year will not go as planned. Roll with it. Forgive and forget quickly. Don’t let your anger and frustration from today bleed into tomorrow.
There are days when you think you can’t do this for one more day, minute, hour, etc. and you will get the faintest hint that what you do does matter and that these kids need you and one day they might actually value something you taught them.
Trust your instincts. Make decisions that you feel are best for your kids. You know them better than anybody else.
Whether they express it or not, you’re appreciated.
Advice for New Teachers from Teacher Misery
Now that I’ve shared all the advice that I’ve received from others, let me share some new teacher advice to you.
Expect the crazy.
Be ready for the crazy.
Be crazy in return.
Get silly. Get stupid.
Have fun even when there is no room for it.
Don’t take anything seriously.
Laugh at EVERYTHING.
Don’t be a hardass.
Be honest with your kids about everything and they will appreciate you.
You really can’t judge kids too quickly.
Some are much tougher to crack than others but almost all of them are capable of being reached in some way.
Be real with them. Tell them you don’t understand why they act the way they do.
Remind them that you aren’t trying to torture them, you are just trying to do your job and you actually care about them. They often forget that we are people too.
Lastly, don’t try to be a hardcore disciplinarian if it doesn’t come naturally to you. I am a very passive person by nature, and when I try to be strict, it fails immediately because it is so unnatural.
What works for me is having honest conversations about my feelings and my struggles, regardless of the age of the kid. This works with my five-year-old and my high school seniors. They usually appreciate where I’m coming from and change their behavior. (Though some need constant reminders to pull themselves together.)
Children like being talked to like real people. Remember what it was like to be their age. Be yourself and be real and the kids will reciprocate. I mean, a lot of them will still be total jerks. But underneath, they are grateful and they don’t even know it. And they might never realize it. But it’s still worth trying.
Words of Advice for a New Teacher
What is the best advice that you received when you were a new teacher? Share it below in the comments section! We love hearing from you and growing these conversations.
If you liked this article, you’ll love my Books! Check out Teacher Misery, More Teacher Misery, and What It’s Really Like.
Jane Morris is the pen name of a teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself, but she is afraid she’ll lose her job. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in writing from an even fancier (more expensive) university. She has a loving family and cares about making people laugh more than anything else.