SOLC 27 of 31: Advice for First Year Teachers

Last night I had the privilege to speak to a seminar of soon to be graduating college students at TCNJ.  They are all just about to complete a 5 year BA/MA Education program. Along with another local elementary school principal, we had the chance to talk to them about being a first year teacher.

Here was some of our advice (starting with the interview process).

1. Dress professionally. Leggings are not pants. If you wear them, be sure you are covered.

2. Use your college e-mail. does not impress.

3. Show your passion, but don’t fake it.  Speak directly to what drives you in an interview.

4. Share you what you know and don’t know. If you aren’t sure about a program or an approach, don’t pretend you do. Ask questions and show your willingness to learn more.

5. Once you get a job, be humble. Yes, you know a lot, but so do we. Be ready to keep learning. 

6. Collaborate with your mentor in a scheduled way. Don’t bombard your mentor daily or period by period with questions.  Keep them together until the next scheduled time to meet.

7. Learn the culture of the school.  What are the expectations? Do them. 

8. Be on time – to school, with deadlines, with submissions. Don’t make me chase you or ask twice.

9. Be positive and proactive with parent communication. Good news phone calls and notes are imperative. They will go a long way. Aim to get at least one of these in for each student before Back to School Night.

10. Don’t over-promise. Commit to what you can deliver, but don’t over promise.  It’s better to do a few things well than a lot of things poorly. 



  1. tsudmeier said,

    March 27, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Great list- many apply to any teacher, not just first year teachers!

  2. Adrienne said,

    March 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Awesome. I would add #11

    Be aware that you are working with children. Be prepared to get sick and please take the days off that you need to get better.

    and this to #1:

    If you must wear jeans and a t-shirt, be sure your stomach and underwear are not visible.

  3. jhaworthoy said,

    March 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Great list. I like the getting to know your school culture. When I first started teaching in a very small school I had culture shock as I had graduated from a very large school. It took time to adjust…but I am so glad I did. I think you should share that list with others to give to their first year teachers as each suggestion is valuable. Jackie

  4. Lisa said,

    March 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    All good, but I specifically like number 5! I was working in a classroom one day with a girl who was student teaching and she was sure that she knew more than me. Awkward!

  5. Barbara Weisbart said,

    March 28, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Very useful list. I would add to pay attention to classroom management, not only discipline, but good practices to make transitions from one lesson to another,effective ways to get the children’s attention so you can give instructions etc. It was many years ago that I taught, but this was an area for which I had no preparation. It took me a while to realize that all my “great” lesson plans would not be successful without this.One’s mentor could probably be a big help with this. Another good tip that I was given was to make friends with the custodians, and this was a good suggestion.

  6. Larkin said,

    March 28, 2014 at 2:08 am

    This is something that every high schooler/ college student/ person seeking a job should read. There are many girls in my school who don’t seem to know the difference between “casual” and “formal” dress–particularly they do not seem to understand that leggings are not pants. The first impression is the most important, so you better look good!

  7. caroline524 said,

    March 31, 2014 at 2:06 am

    LOVED the list! I am sure everyone at the seminar will remember the list. A great way to make the point while keeping a sense of humor.

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