Advice for New Teachers

This week, tens of thousands of new teachers will be begin their careers. I wish them all well and offer some unsolicited advice.

You are an exemplar of what it is to be a learner. It takes courage to learn alongside your students. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to know everything. In fact, if that’s the façade you put on, you will be doing your students a disservice. Never forget that you are the “living curriculum”. How you behave has more of a lasting impact than what you say.

Along the way you’ll meet all kinds of students. There will be shy ones like Kelly who can be crushed by criticism. You’ll meet students like Tim, who are outcasts, suffer greatly at home, and who need someone to believe in them. You’ll meet the Laird Bishops of the world, whose enthusiasm and curiosity can open new worlds for you. You’ll meet students who will put you in a place of honor that you may or may not deserve. Keep your eyes open, keep your mind open, keep you heart open.

Remember, that every student is unique and has a gift to offer. The behaviors, dress, and attitudes of some students can make this difficult to believe. Try to look beyond the exterior. Try to find that gift. When you find it, let them know about it. The teachers in my life that have made the most impact on my life were those that acknowledged my gifts and nurtured my confidence in them, and myself. The interesting thing about this is that it only takes a few moments of authentic individual attention to make a huge difference in the life of a student.

Teaching is about learning. You can teach all you want; but if the students aren’t learning, then look to yourself. What can YOU do differently? That’s not to say that students aren’t accountable for their own learning. They are.; but there’s a strange math that applies in this profession; you are 100% accountable for the success of your students and your students are 100% accountable for their own success.

Finally, reach out to your colleagues. Don’t suffer in isolation. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Teaching is a tough profession. Within five years, more than 50% of those who started teaching with you will have left the profession. Connect to the veterans who have experienced the gauntlet through which every beginning teacher must journey.

We need you. The children need you…

…all of you!

The complete you… body, mind, and soul.

It will take nothing less.

In gratitude and appreciation,


4 thoughts on “Advice for New Teachers

  1. Oh this is good advice. But such a rewarding calling too.
    The children really are the gift in the teachers life – sometimes they just need to hear that too – that they teach you things (oh so many things) and you appreciate it.

  2. What a refreshing post that puts everything in perspective. We are here, first and foremost, for our students!

    Those first few years as a teacher were exhausting, but as someone who just received a letter of thanks from a student who I taught 9 years ago… I wouldn’t trade them for anything!

    I also really like your advice not to suffer in isolation, and I think more than ever we now have the tools to get the support we need, when we need it via web2.0.

    Peace to you!

    ps. I love your math… it adds up to a 100% great teacher:-)

  3. Pete, I bawled like a baby while reading your post. It was great, though. I am not a new teacher but I am certainly no veteran. It made me remember why I do what I do. And reminded me to try harder! Connections with kids are everything. The rest just doesn’t cut it. Thanks for the reminder.

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