Help is Available: Some Advice for New Teachers

Advice (random and very incomplete) for new teachers: Please round out the list with your thoughts:

  1. Sign on to Twitter. Follow the smartest people you can find in your areas of interest. Build a great PLN – personal learning network – of the wisest and most helpful people you can find. Follow people with whom you agree and those who challenge your assumptions.  Follow people like you; follow people not like you. One place to start looking: Twitter for Teachers wiki.
  2. Expand your PLN with colleagues in your school, in other schools and elsewhere from whom you know you can learn.
  3. Assume that your older colleagues want to be helpful and see you succeed. This includes administrators. Invite them to your classroom. Ask their opinion. Ask to see them teach – or whatever it is they do. See if you can find a project of theirs in which you can participate.
  4. Understand that you are going to fail. Don’t be afraid of failing. The ratio of success to failure is about equal so fail fast and frequently and try again.
  5. Read and understand the mission of your school. Talk about it with colleagues. Find out what it means to people and how they strive to live by it.
  6. Keep working on your own educational philosophy. How do children learn? What does that mean for how you conduct yourself in the classroom and your routines, policies and practices? Which educational theorists make the most sense? Learning is serious stuff so take it seriously and have fun doing it.
  7. The hardest part about working with children can be keeping your face straight. Laugh with your students and at yourself. Learning is disorderly and messy and is taking place whether it’s what you planned or not.
  8. Think about the forces of change and disruptive innovation. What do they mean now and what might they mean for the world your students will inherit as they move out into the world? What do they need most to be educated citizens and thrive in that world? How can the tools of technology help you collaborate with other learners to do creative good work? How can you be the teacher your students need you to be (rather than merely the teacher you want to be)?
  9. Remember that every child is a learner, deserves a great education and to be respected and cherished and that very few of them are like you. Saving face is the number one priority for most children in school – so work to preserve the sense of self worth and dignity however trying the circumstances.
  10. Seek out colleagues and learn with them and from them. Appreciate the wisdom of veteran teachers. Avoid at all costs those who are cynical about children, have stopping learning and are nodes of negativity about the school. This may means avoiding the faculty room. Seek out colleagues who share your commitment to learning. Hang out with them and do something fun.
  11. If you and the school are not a good match, work to contribute and stay mission consistent and positive but be prepared to change schools. One size does not fit all goes for shoes, lesson planning and finding the school that is a place where you can be a positive contributor to the lives of children.
  12. Take advantage of professional development opportunities
  13. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with students outside the classroom – clubs, teams, school trips.
  14. Learn from failure, learn from practice, learn from collaboration with colleagues, learn from theory. Most of all – stay a learner. (And staying a learner is the number one reason for being active on Twitter.) And here is Cybrary Man’s website of resources for new teachers. He is Jerry Blumengarten and twitters @cybraryman1
  15. Eat well, don’t live and breathe school, wash your hands and get lots of sleep.

Know the name of the bird in the thumbnail? Any idea why I chose it?


  1. bryan maloney:

    Is it a Chukar? If so, it’s a game bird, but I can’t guess why you chose it.

  2. This is a really great list, Josie. I love it, and sent it off immediately to our only new teacher for this coming year; I also encouraged her to share it with her colleagues at the ISACS New Teacher Orientation later this month.

    What would I add? A few ideas:
    1. It is never too soon to become an “expert” in some small field or area of your teaching interest– pick a topic you are passionate and deeply curious about, keep learning about it, share it with students, and infuse your learning of it into all your teaching.

    2. Problems first; invert the normal paradigm where we used to deliver the content, information, and skills first, and then ask the questions. Ask the questions, pose the problems at the outset, and then envision yourself a mountain climbing guide roped in with your students as you facilitate them in climbing up the mountain that is the challenge.

    3. Share excellence, showcase outstanding exemplars, post terrific student work all over your walls, and ask your students to assess and derive what makes this work so excellent with their own eyes, to inspire and influence their own work.

    4. Seek to make your classroom a space where kids can comfortably “hang out,” and if they do, it will become an enormous enhancement to their learning and growth; it can even be humbling how much more they may learn in this informal time when compared to formal instruction.

  3. admin:

    Terrific additions/ extensions Jonathan. Thanks. I like all of them.

    The idea of expertise is interesting. We think of that with fourth graders – who can sometimes come to know more about a passionate interest – lizards or fossils or baseball stats for example – than anyone but a scholar. And it’s never too late to go further with the passion and into expertise – just so long as we always know there are so many people so much smarter (that’s why twitter and online is so great- it’s always so easy to find so many people so much smarter than you are on anything.)

    And establishing that collegial rapport with students so they can brings their best true selves into the classroom – unbeatable, essential.

    And classrooms and hallways and common rooms abuzz and alive with work and activity on display and in use…Yes! Which of course makes me think of facility design. We have the opportunity here to think through the use of a large open space area that is contiguous with a small library and a dining room. It’s going to be one of the community projects for 2010-2011.

    And on another note – we had a NYSAIS professional development planning meeting here yesterday and your name was mentioned as an example of a head doing amazing things!

  4. Excellent, all. I am adding to NYSAIS BTI resources, with your permission.
    I don’t think you added the pic of a chukar because I had a Jack Russell terrier named Chukkar, or becuase it’s the same name as a period in a polo match. But I recall that chukars are loyal and persistent little birds.

  5. Great list, Josie. Thanks for the comment on my blog. I will be sharing your list (and adding to it as you suggest) with the faculty soon. All the best.


  6. Michael:

    Terrific list and timely. One thing I would emphasize is making sure that you model for your students what you believe about learning. Meaning, for example – if you want them to learn team-work show them how you team with people.

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