Top 15 Pieces of Advice from Veteran Teachers

Enjoy reading the wisdom of experienced teachers on how to become an effective, caring teacher. Our top 15 tips work for all kinds of situations and ages of students. New teachers will find this resource particularly valuable when they're getting ready to take control of one of their first classrooms.
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Boy playing with scissors
Keep a sense of humor!
Stay organized, be flexible, and document everything.

Mariella Brenlla
Ponce de Leon Middle School
Coral Gables, FL
Grade Levels: 6-8
Female teacher sitting on desk
Realize that you will make mistakes, because becoming a teacher did not make you perfect.
  • Don't be afraid to apologize to your students when you have made a mistake.
  • Realize that the lesson plan is just that – a plan. Remember, we make plans every day of our life but rarely do we carry them out 100% of the time.
  • Get a good night's sleep every night.
  • Read, read, read as much about the teaching profession as you can.
  • Join a professional organization.
  • Write your name in permanent ink on the front of everything you own in your classroom. Teachers are notorious for borrowing something of interest and then forgetting where they got it from.
  • Don't let your teaching job become your life! Of all the professions in the world, teachers could easily work themselves to death because so much in this world can be used to teach our students.

Henry Gail McGinnis
V. I. Grissom Elementary
Houston, TX
Grade Levels: 3-5
Girl leaning on lockers
Take the time to get to know your students.
It's amazing just how much you might accomplish when you get to know your students on a personal level. When you stop caring, it's time to move on.

Mylina Stanfield
Boaz Middle School
Boaz, AL
Grade Levels: 6-8
Female adult struggeling
You can't do it all at once.
Be sensitive to your own needs and temper your drive to succeed with moments for milk, cookies, and a good book. Renew your reasons for teaching as often as possible. It will always bring you back to the pleasure of a toothless smile when something difficult has been achieved! Remember the fuel for your day; smile, smile, smile.

Lois Accardi
Glenwood Elementary School
Short Hills, NJ
Grade Levels: K-2
Annoyed teenage girl
There are three things that come to mind....
1. Where the bathrooms were all located.
2. Never tell the kids how old you are.
3. Never, EVER, be SUPER NICE when disciplining a kid.

Female teacher
Buy a large scrapbook.
When a child gives you a school picture, make sure they sign and date it. Then, place it in your scrapbook along with a brief note to yourself to help you remember that student. You will never regret taking the time to keep it updated.

James Gates
West Shore School District
New Cumberland, PA
Grade Levels: 6-8
Woman resting on books
Leave your personal problems at the door.
Show the kids you care.

Michael Uhl
I. E. Evans Intermediate School
Bonham, TX
Grade Levels: 3-5
The first people you befriend in a new school are the secretaries and the janitors.
They can help you enormously! They are the most valuable assets in the school; treat them well.

E. F. Pool
J. C. Burroughs School
Chicago, IL
Grade Levels: All
Young boy in class
Memorize and learn the students' names, first and last, before they arrive!
It is very important to start off your school year with knowledge. Know your students' name, write them on name cards and assign them a seat so you can also memorize them in order.

Doreen Travis
Fairview School
Sylva, NC
Grade Levels: 6-8
Student and teacher working together
Find a mentor!
A veteran teacher that you can go to anytime and ask lots of questions.

Patricia Contreras
Central Elementary School
San Diego, CA
Grade Levels: K-2
Apple on boy's head
Accept help whenever it is offered.
Find as many ways as possible to praise students because that is what they respond to the best.

Wendy DuToit
Blackmon Road Middle School
Columbus, GA
Grade Levels: 6-8
Woman studying
I wish I knew:
that a smile in those first critical few moments when facing the class for the first time would change the pace of the day.
  • that the deep trembling all the way down to my toes would eventually go away before the first period was over.
  • that the kids were more apprehensive about the teacher they were getting than I was about them.

Shaeeza Haniff
Islamic Elementary School
Queens, NY
Grade Levels: K-2
College Girl, Teenage Girl
A simple, kind word or smile means everything to a child.
Take time to listen to your students and give them adequate time to share. Trust your instincts and judgments.

Sue Ritchie
Nathaniel Morton Elementary School
Plymouth, MA
Grade Levels: 3-5
Red apple and pencils
Start the school year the way you want the rest of the year to progress.
If you want quiet, expect it the first day. If you want meaningful interaction throughout the year then make sure you have it on the first day. Give students the respect and guidelines they need. Make sure they know what you expect of them from day one and the rest of the year runs itself.

Diane Shortall
Loma Vista School
Santa Ana, CA
Grade Levels: K-2
Teenagers sitting outside
No matter how hard you try to please the parents, the administration, and the students, never stop trying to please yourself.
Lesley Golkin
UCSF Child Life School Program
San Francisco, CA
Grade Levels: All
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