Helpful Bits of Advice from Veteran Teachers


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  • 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

  • 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

  • Leave your personal problems at the door and 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Read or simply skim and scan Harry Wong's book The First Days of School.

    Donna Allen Krug
    Mann Middle School
    Brandon, FL
    Grade Levels: 6-8

  • Find another staff member to help you understand the unwritten rules of your new school, like who to ask for supplies or cafeteria procedures.

    Chris Kinney
    Rockwell Jr. High School
    Warren, MI
    Grade Levels: 6-8

  • Say something personal and something positive to every child, every day. Kids need to know that you care.

    Lori McLoughlin
    Ellen T. Briggs School
    Lake Hopatcong, NJ
    Grade Levels: 3-5

  • On the first day of school, ask each student to write pertinent personal information on an index card. Then take the cards home and use them to call or write thank-you notes. Have the students list the following information: name, nickname, birthday, phone number, address, birth date, parent name(s), favorite hobbies, best and worst subject, and something I need to know about you. Although home data is usually provided by your school, having these index cards at home is useful all year and in some cases, many years later.

    Kathleen Beardsley
    CNY Teaching Center
    Nedrow, NY
    Grade Levels: All

  • Accept help whenever it is offered and 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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



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