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Advice: What Works, What Doesn’t

Instructor asked experienced teachers to tell us the advice they remember hearing their first year — the wisest, the savviest, the all-round best, and the absolute worst. It just poured in!

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Best: Teach children not just to read, but to love reading.
Debi Norris, Shoal Creek Elementary School, San Diego, CA

Best: One of the best things I was told early on as a teacher was to remember that "every student can learn, even though they might not learn the same way." When I become frustrated, I try to keep that in mind.
Debbie Gromley, Winter Park Ninth Grade Center, Winter Park, FL

Worst: Never admit you are wrong.
Tracey Morton, Bryant Elementary School, Independence, MO

Best: Focus on what a child can do, and not on what he or she can't.
Marianne Chang, A.L. Shilling School, Newark, CA

Worst: If students misbehave, send them directly to the principal.
Bob Krech, Dutch Neck School, Princeton Junction, NJ

Best: If a bulletin board takes more than an hour to create, ask yourself if it is worthy of your time.
Judy Wetzel, Woodburn School, Falls Church, VA

Best: Make school as invitational as possible. Kids should look forward to coming each and every day.
Bob Krech, Dutch Neck School, Princeton Junction, NJ

Worst: One person said "Spend all your breaks in the teacher's lounge. You'll give the rest of us a bad name by working so hard."
Judy Wetzel, Woodburn School, Falls Church, VA

Best: Take an acting class!
Marlina Teich, Miraloma School, San Francisco, CA

Best: Ask yourself why often: Why did I teach this lesson this way? Why did this child act that way?
Jan Taylor, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Mt. Vernon, OH

Worst: Keep parents in their place.
Judy Meagher, Bozeman Schools, Bozeman, MT

Best: Teach students, not curriculum.
Judy Meagher, Bozeman Schools, Bozeman, MT

Worst: "Staying at school all day and into the night makes one a better teacher." Obviously, to be a good teacher, you need to do a good job preparing, but it's not smart teaching to give up your life to the job.
Marlina Teich, Miraloma School, San Francisco, CA

Best: The kids will be wonderful the first few days, but then things can change dramatically. I learned the hard way that this is true!
Leslie Simon, P.S. 310, Bronx, NY

Best: Don't forget to take care of yourself.
Tracey Morton, Bryant Elementary School, Independence, MO

Best: When I was a student teacher, a principal told us: "When you find yourself in a ticklish situation with a student, parent, or colleague, ask yourself, 'Is this the ditch you want to die in?' In other words, choose your battles very carefully!"
Diane Simmons Tomczak, International School of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

Best: Find other teachers who are growing in the profession. Ask them what they are reading or what workshops they will be attending.
Denise Amos, Crestwood School, Crestwood, KY

Best: Ask lots of questions.
Jeanne Cruz, Cerbat Elementary School, Kingman, AZ

Worst: The worst advice I received was to never smile. How can you work with children and not smile? That is like not smiling when the sun comes out after weeks of rain. Children are wonderful and special and they deserve that smile from you. When I smile at my kids, they light up. They know that they are doing okay.
Leslie Simon, P.S. 310, Bronx, NY

Best: The best advice I received about teaching came from my cooperating teacher at the end of the three months I spent in her first-grade classroom. She said, "Always remember why you are a teacher." As a teacher faced with many challenges every day, I always remind myself why I teach: I teach because I enjoy the look on children's faces when they understand a new concept. I teach because I want to make a difference in the lives of children.
Alexis Nicholas, Romona School, Wilmette, IL

  • Subjects:
    New Teacher Resources, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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