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6 Mistakes New Teachers Make

Learn about the mistakes new teachers make that set them up for a year of challenging classroom management problems and other avoidable issues.

Learn about the mistakes new teachers make that set them up for a year of challenging classroom management problems and other avoidable issues.

It is hard to be a new teacher. Here is a list of 5 new teacher mistakes. Over the past year, I have mentored several new teachers. They are a great wealth of knowledge and really good questions. I thought I would compile my top five pieces of advice for new teachers.

1. Phone Numbers

Never give out your cell phone number or home number to a parent. Parents can reach you on your school board email address (if permitted) or call the school and leave a message for you to call them back. You are a professional and must separate your work information from your personal information. I do not have the home numbers of other professionals in my life (doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant).

2. Raising Your Voice

Unless the classroom is on fire, or someone is dying, it is not appropriate to yell at your students. Find other ways to get their attention, or discipline them for their behaviour. It is much more effective to speak to a disruptive student personally, than centering them out in front of the whole class. I find that using a consistent attention cue works. I use a countdown, but my students also know I use a silent countdown with my hands. This is particularly effective if you happen to lose your voice. Wait teachers never get sick right?

3. Sick Days

A common misconception among new teacher is that the class will not survive without them. This is not true. I promise you that your students will survive and be excited to see you upon your return. It is a lot of work to prepare for time away from the classroom, BUT your physical, mental and emotional health is valuable and you cannot be on your “A game”  for your students if you are ill.

4. Planning

New teachers either ineffectively over-plan or under-plan as they do not have enough experience to know how long activities generally take. Us veteran teachers have an uncanny ability to judge time without looking at a clock. I recently did this at a family get together and really freaked people out at how I could reliably estimate the amount of time that had passed.  Not to worry, you too will soon gain this uncanny ability to tell time.

New teachers should over plan their days to ensure that class time is used to its maximum capacity. Overplanning does not mean staying up until 2:00 am trying to find more information. It means ensuring you have a backup plan – technology will always fail, inevitably while you are being evaluated – and have a few review type activities (making study notes, centers, extra practice sheets, quiz games) that can be pulled out to use up time.

5. Not Getting To Know Your Students

The curriculum is important, but your students will learn more effectively if they feel that you know them and care about their interests, passions, and hobbies. I start and end each class by greeting each class at the door with a good morning, happy [insert holiday, special day, made up day here], have a great night. As students are getting their books, papers, pencils, entrance pass/bell work organized, I walk around the classroom and make a point to speak to different students about something I noticed, or what to find out about them.

6. Seating Plans 

Seating plans are not optional. You are the teacher and must ensure each student has the best possible opportunities to learn. This means using all of the tools available to you. One of the most powerful tools is the seating plan.

I tell my students, “This is not a long-term commitment, it is a seating plan that will change frequently, but it is your job is to be the best person you can be during this arrangement.”

You can use these flexible seating cards to help you make seating plans and group work groups faster.

Click here to see how I set my classroom up for success.

Read about 5 more mistakes new teachers make.

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9 thoughts on “6 Mistakes New Teachers Make”

  1. I love this post Kristy! These are SOOOO true and a great reminder for even the veteran teachers. (I'm thinking about applying # 3 tomorrow since it is like 2 degrees and I've been fighting a cold all week. Good thing I have a SUB TUB ready to go if I really feel terrible and can't go in.)

  2. Great post! Even as a not so new teacher (and yet not really a veteran …about 7 years down) I thought this was an interesting read. It reminded me of my first year teaching when I taught 5th grade and how frantic I always felt. It is so true that you really have no judgement of time during your first year or two.

  3. So true! My first year I hav out my cell phone number like it was candy. BIG MISTAKE! I got a phone call one time at 12:00AM about my classroom seating arrangement. Lol. Wish I would have seen this post 3 years ago. Now I know better! Great advice to new teachers!

  4. remind app for smart phones is awesome!! you can text parents and class reminders without giving your cell number. class dojo on the smart board is my fav. behavior management site. try both..they are amazing

  5. Great question Nicola. You don't target students with educational needs in a seating plan. You look at the dynamics of the entire class and see what groupings of children work best together. Thanks for giving me an idea for a new blog post.

  6. As a trainee teacher this is great advice, in terms of your seating plan suggestion while I agree, I have never yet had to implement one. I recently read Dickins (2014) describe seating plans as being discriminatory, meaning children with educational needs feel targeted, how might you overcome this?Dickins, M. (2014) A-Z of Inclusion in Early Childhood. New York: Open University Press.

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