From The Heart,Management & Organization

5 first year teacher mistakes (and how to avoid them)

I’m not a first year teacher but I’m also not a veteran. I mean, where does 6th year teacher fall? I’ve been teaching first grade for 6 years now, but I’ve been in education since I graduated high school in 2000. Gosh! That almost feels like centuries ago.

Mistakes in classroom management, organization or list of must-haves are inevitable for first year teachers. There are ways to address them and to stay focused. Learn how!

I’ve been a support staff, a sub, a behavioral specialist, a 1:1 teacher, and a volunteer.
The years in education and the different positions have allowed me to see first year teachers make the same mistakes over and over again (myself included). So if you’re a first year teacher, I hope this helps. Now the title of this post said first year teachers but let’s face it…some of us are still making these mistakes.

Mistake #1
Spending days on days on days prepping the classroom and not the content to be taught.

Yes! We love the cutesy stuff. Oh how we love the cutesy stuff. I LOVE the cutesy stuff. Check out my TPT store and you will see-Mrs. Valdez (that’s me) loves herself some cutesy stuff! But here’s the thing, we ALL know very well that even if the year starts and the classroom is not complete with all the cutesy stuff, it can be finished slowly throughout the year. Well maybe not exactly throughout the year, more like by the end of September. The point is that yes, cutesy will make you feel good and it will make for a very welcoming environment, and we want that, but if you start the first day of school and your room looks UH-MA-ZING, but you don’t have one single plan-none of it, I repeat, NONE of it matters. I remember my first year thinking that it was ok to plan all my centers stuff later on in the year. I thought getting the room ready was more important. Silly me! I learned from that mistake quickly. Here we are years later, and I know better but the cutesy calls my name so much that sometimes I get distracted and lose focus. We all know better, but sometimes we get distracted. Don’t get distracted. Make a list and stick to it or if you’re like me you’ll make a list for your lists and check off 5 lists all at once. By the end of this post, you’ll realize that this post is a reminder for myself more than it is advice for you. Haha!

Mistake #2
Not going to the teachers’ room 

Guys! I’m soooooo guilty of this!!!! My first year I was surrounded by SO many negative people and I let it get to me. The thing is, education is always evolving. Things are always being changed and sometimes (all the time) right when we feel comfortable with something, they take it away and reinvent the wheel. Far too often you go into the teachers’ room only to be surrounded by negativity and people complaining about everyone and everything. Sometimes they’re right and they just need to vent, so don’t be quick to judge. Unfortunately, some teachers can easily fall into a cycle of complaining and don’t even realize it. Understand this: teaching is not for everyone. Teaching has to be a passion that is birthed from within. So don’t let that passion die. Go into that teachers’ room despite the negativity and be the positive that changes it all around. Remind teachers of why they went into teaching in the first place. Yes, you may will get haters. But guess what? That’ll happen anywhere you go. Be the difference! Be infectious. Be like mold and grow on people. Bad analogy, I know.

Mistake #3
Going to the teachers’ room.

Yeah, yeah, I know what I said up there is contradictory to this; however, let me explain. If you haven’t learned how to be mold, and instead you’re someone who lets others influence you-just stay away. You have to practice self control here because the truth is you WILL want to complain and vent but there’s a fine line between venting and being completely unprofessional. Our jobs are stressful. They take so much time and mental energy from us day in and day out and some days you may wonder why you do it. When it comes down to it, we are professionals who are responsible for shaping minds-don’t ever take that lightly. Remember why you went into teaching in the first place. Don’t get sucked in and become one of the reasons why people avoid the teachers’ room. Don’t do it. Just. Don’t.

Mistake #4
Not asking for help 

I love that meme, but seriously no one expects you to know it all from the beginning. I understand that not all places offer new teachers the support they need and sometimes that meme represents reality. I was fortunate to have a very supportive mentor teacher my first year, but I know not everyone has that. They just give you a classroom and tell you to teach. No resources, no support, no guidance! So where do you go? Well, you become friends with your colleagues. You don’t alienate them. You become their team mate. You ask for help. Many times, we don’t ask for help because we’re shy or don’t want to be seen as unprepared. We want to show a strong front and come off as knowledgeable but remember we were all first year teachers at some point. Asking for help doesn’t make you look less prepared. In fact, knowing the things you need help with will make you a better teacher. How many teachers think they’re great only to never grow in their profession because they don’t feel they need to change anything? Just like our students grow daily, so do we. Being analytical of your practice is a good thing! That self-analysis will give room for growth and that is definitely something needed in our field. We are surrounded by so many talented teachers who are truly a wealth of knowledge. You will learn more from a teacher you work with (sometimes what not to do) than from a book because, let’s face it-theory and practice are two very different things.

Mistake #5
 Not establishing a classroom management routine

I know we went into this field because we wanted to teach. You may think that managing classroom behavior is the least of your worries, what with all that content you have to teach. Yes, there’s a lot of content and enough common core standards to keep you awake at night, but guess what? None of it matters if you can’t manage your class. I have seen countless times as teachers dive into curriculum on the first week of school and dismiss the routines and procedures that need to be taught. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that they’ll get it as the year progresses. Teaching without routines and procedures is like trying to teach monkeys how to juggle (I’ve seen it at the circus-pretty impressive). Certain behavior expectations have to be set in place in order for learning to happen and learning is exactly what you want happening, so take out the behavior management book and get reading!  Watch how other teachers do it, take notes, ask questions and make it a priority.

I am hopeful that these simple yet very important tips help you on your journey as a teacher.  I was once a first year teacher and even with all my previous experience, I was quite nervous and made MANY mistakes.  At this point in my teaching career I am STILL learning and 20, 30 years down the line, I will STILL be learning.  This is what makes our profession so special-there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t learn something new.


Happy Learning,

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Liana Davis
    October 24, 2015 at 4:58 am

    #1 was totally me!!! That first year was brutal, but I learned so much!

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