Teacher to Teacher: What I Wish I Would Have Known (Part 2)

Welcome back to Part 2 of the “Teacher to Teacher: What I Wish I Would Have Known” series. Last week’s blog post featured suggestions from veteran educators to new teachers just entering the field of education. This week, we continue our overview of advice from experienced teachers in hopes of offering incoming teachers inspiration and motivation as they begin to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Classroom Management is Vital

“Set your rules at the beginning of the year and stick to them. It’s easier to loosen the reigns on the rules at the end of the year. Be strict at the beginning of the school year, and then you can slowly loosen up as you see fit with your class. Don’t try to be the student’s best friend, be an adult that gives them limits and sets rules. They’ll love you in the end because of it. Kids need and want structure, even if they don’t act like they do.” -Morgan De Leon, Junior High Social Studies

Many teachers, both new and veteran, struggle with the complexities of classroom management. Comparatively, most educators will agree the key to a cohesive learning environment is effective classroom management. The more poorly managed a class is, the less potential there is for learning. It is important to start the year with consistent rules and boundaries. Establishing classroom limits and guidelines early on can lead to mutual respect and understanding between the teacher and students, which will further foster the learning environment.

Mutual respect is essential to a cohesive and comfortable classroom environment. Teachers expect students to respect them and their authority, but respect is not a one-way street. If you do not respect your students, how can you ask them to respect you? Students are more productive for teachers they like and respect.

One way to ensure effective classroom management is to keep your students engaged and on task. Bored students are more likely to be disruptive and violate classroom guidelines. Find unique and innovative ways to keep your students’ attention. Incorporate class or group activities into your lesson plans. Find ways to engage all different types of learning styles and needs in your lessons. While it can be more time consuming to plan and create diversified lesson plans, the more interactive the lesson is, the more your students will be engaged and the more they will appreciate and understand the material.

“The best way to manage a classroom is to keep the students engaged with the material they are already learning. Kids that are interested in what they are doing usually stay on task.” –Becky Easton, College Administration


Teaching Comes First, Competition Comes Later

If you coach any competitive teams, it can be difficult to find a balance between classroom instruction and contest preparation. However, it is important to remember the students’ education comes first. The extracurricular competitions and activities can and should build off the material the students are learning in the classroom, but they should not be your primary focus.

As you begin to develop your competitive teams, don’t overstretch yourself or your students. Focus on areas where you are already strong and build from there. If you push too, hard too fast, you will burn out your teams and yourself.

“Find one or two teams where you can be successful immediately and push those things then build from there. While it is fun to win, we are really all in this for every kid.” –Jeff Klose, High School Agriculture Science

Take Time for You

“MAKE time for you. Plant it and do it. Preserve your mental health. A burned out teacher is not who your kids need.” –Rhonda Cantrell, Elementary Instructional Coach/Reading Intervention

To be the best teacher you can possibly be, it is important to keep yourself healthy, both mentally and physically. It is easy to become run down as the school year goes on, especially in your first few years of teaching. To avoid mental and physical burnout, find ways to manage your stress and exhaustion. Maybe it’s stepping away from lesson planning and grading at least one night a week or maintaining a consistent workout schedule; whatever it is, find what works for you and stick to it. If you are healthy and happy, you will be a better teacher and your students will always benefit from you being at your best.

However, it’s simply not possible to always be operating at 100%. Remember, perfection isn’t a feasible goal, but you can get close. In the moments when you are especially overwhelmed and vulnerable, be patient with yourself. Give yourself the same level of patience and understanding you give your students.

“Learn to give yourself grace.” –Tasha Yarbrough, Middle School English


It's Okay to Say No

Part of taking care of yourself is learning to say no. You are a teacher, not a robot. Learn to say no when you are stretched too thin. Whether it’s telling a student they can’t come in after class so you can catch up on grading or telling your partner teacher you can’t look over new lesson plans right now, learn to prioritize and say no when you have to. If you have too much on your plate, you’re probably not doing anything as well as you could be.

Saying no doesn’t mean you are saying no forever. It means you are prioritizing your responsibilities and managing your time more effectively and efficiently. Be creative and flexible. Instead of meeting with a student after school, suggest they come in during your conference period or during lunch. Tell your partner teacher you can’t look at the lesson plans immediately, but you will review them next week after you are caught up on your other projects. By learning to say no, you can be a model to your students and other teachers and encourage them to manage their responsibilities in a more timely and responsible manner.


“My first year of teaching, I had four preps, SPED students, a child who spoke zero English, and was going to grad school…and then they asked me to be the cheer sponsor.” –Morgan Dixon, Middle School English and Reading


Just Because You're the Teacher Doesn't Mean You Can Stop Learning

“Always keep learning. If you are comfortable, then you are not stretching yourself.” –Sonja Stewart, Middle School Special Education

You will never know everything there is to know about teaching, but if you continue to push yourself and find new and innovative ways to teach and model lesson material, you will be able to develop and master your skills. Even though you are the teacher now, you are never going to stop learning. There will always be new books to read, teaching styles and methods to implement, curriculum to analyze and research to evaluate. If you become complacent in your abilities and materials, you give up the potential for personal and professional growth. The more you learn about your subject, your students and the art of teaching, the better educator you will become.

However, do not become disappointed or upset with yourself when you find you lack knowledge or experience in a particular area, especially at the beginning of your career. When you are confronted with these situations, and they will definitely arise, do not become discouraged or doubt your abilities, instead look at it as an opportunity to increase your knowledge and hone your skills. Just because you have not been exposed to something does not mean you do not have the potential to learn about it. Remember, you are never done learning or growing.

“Don’t confuse lack of exposure to lack of skill at your craft. Don’t doubt yourself when you don’t know something.” –Rhonda Cantrell, Elementary Instructional Coach/Intervention


Be Money Minded

“Teaching is expensive. Do not break the bank to decorate your classroom. There are lots of easy ways online to make your classroom cute and DIY stuff.” –Kylie Foley, Elementary Special Education

While it is nice to have a well-decorated classroom, the cost can quickly add up and become overwhelming. Instead of buying all new decorations and materials for your classroom, opt for a more cost effective route. Thanks to websites like Pinterest, teachers can easily find instructions for DIY decorations and classroom materials. There are also a lot of free resources you can use to decorate your classroom. For example, you can download the Career Cluster Poster Series for free from our website!


At Team iCEV, we aim to provide resources to teachers and students that fulfill our purpose of EDUCATE, SERVE and INSPIRE. We hope the “Teacher to Teacher: What I Wish I Would Have Known” blog series has accomplished this purpose and provided new or incoming teachers with advice that will help them throughout their time in education.

Once again, we would like to thank those who contributed their knowledge and experiences to this blog series. Team iCEV is always proud to work with teachers who are passionate about their roles as educators and mentors. Thank you for all you have given and will continue to give to the next generation of life-long learners.


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