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Volume 4 Number 8
New teacher induction . . . what does that have to do with me, a veteran educator?
It Takes a Community
to Induct a Teacher
When the Teacher Becomes the Student by Joe A. Martin, Ed.D.
Treating All Students With Dignity by Laura Dombrosky
Working with Emotionally Disabled Students by Susan Rismiller
Considering Writer's Workshop by Judy Mazur
Create Language Arts Success at Every Grade Level By Using TEACH Observe Publish by Jacqueline Rhoades
Teacher Resource Book Reviews from the Teachers.Net Community
Creation vs. Evolution - How Do Teachers Respond? from the Science Teachers' Chatboard
Common Mistakes Made by New Teachers from the Teachers.Net Chatboard
Tips for Nervous New Teacher from the Teachers.Net Chatboard
Math & Literacy Learning Centers for Upper Grades from the Teachers.Net Learning Centers Chatboard
Weekly Tests by P R Guruprasad
Editor's epicks for August by Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Journal Writing in Pre-K by Vanessa Levin
Beginning of School Letter from the Teachers.Net Early Childhood Mailring
The Kindergarten Center by Kathleen Carpenter
What to Do About Biters from National Association for the Education of Young Children
Batik - Lesson & Rubric for Grades 10-12 by Carolann Tebbetts
Healthy Living Tips from the Teachers.Net Chatboard
Create the Sounds of a Thunderstorm in the Classroom submitted by Virginia in Idaho
Good Football Fight Music, Cavalcade of Mascots Site, Football Organizations Online from the High School Chatboard
August Columns
August Regular Features
August Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

Teacher Feature...

Common Mistakes Made by New Teachers

Neophyte asks veteran teachers to reflect and advise

Posted by Holly on a Teachers.Net Chatboard

I am a frequent reader on this chatboard. Currently, I am searching for a teaching position. I'm just wondering what are the common mistakes first year teachers make. I'm hoping to be self conscious enough to catch myself before the mistakes happen. I know the road will be a long and challenging one. This chatboard is filled with a plethora of knowledge. Please impart some of your wisdom!

The responses:


Posted by dot2:

  1. Not communicating positively with parents. Within the first 6 weeks, call each home twice with positive reports on the child. When you have to make a less than happy call, the parents will already have seen you in a different light.
  2. Put important things in writing as soon as school starts (policies and such) and have the parents sign that they understand how things like make-up work, consequences, etc. will be handled.
  3. Document, document, document. I kept a notebook with a page for each child. I documented notes sent home, behavior issues and consequences, phone calls or any kind of parental contact. I made sure I had covered my butt for anything that could possibly come up.
  4. You run the show, the kids do not. Listen to them and allow consideration, but make it clear that you are in charge and that is how it will be. My students call me "Your Highness" at times because I have used the analogy of our classroom as a castle and I am the queen. I am a kind queen who loves children, but nonetheless, I am totally in charge. We can have a good time, or not, depending on their cooperation.
  5. Dress in a way that makes your image clear to other staff, parents, and the children. Dress a tiny bit more conservative than your principal is my rule. I would avoid jeans, etc. until you are well entrenched in the system. I never wear jeans for the first 3 years at any position and then only rarely. Make sure your private life doesn't cause you issues either.
  6. Make your room look fantastic before school starts. It sends a message to all who enter about your energy, creativity, love for children, and willingness to work.
  7. Admit your mistakes and apologize when it is called for, but don't add on "I am only a first year teacher." Just say sorry and how you will change things.
  8. Remember that the parents know their child better than you ever will. Listen to them, but stick to your policies.
  9. Good luck!!!!!!!


Posted by Carl:

Mistake: Not planning enough for the kids to do AND trying to be their friend to get them to like you.


Posted by Mrs. B.:

I have a student teacher right now, and his biggest mistake is that he seems to think that speaking it, is teaching it. He lectures information instead of teaching it in a way that makes it accessible to all the students, including the low language skills students. You have to make the material "comprehensible" and do more than just read and talk about it. That doesn't always translate into being able to understand it enough to "write" about it or answer questions about it...

Another thing: work on your organization, your classroom management...don't allow yourself to give too much work that has to be graded by you. I don't know how much of my time every night is spent grading, but it used to be EVERY night and weekend. I hardly had time for myself or my family during the school year. So start collecting tips and ideas NOW. A good source is the Teachers.Net Classroom Management Chatboard

Also, connect with the parents as soon as possible. Parents can be a support or a living hell. (Sorry for the term but it is true.) I try and call each one at the beginning of year with a "positive" call. "Johnny got an "A" on his first quiz," or "Johnny was so helpful to me today." That opens the door, then I ask if they have any questions about school or what to expect. It has really been a help this year...Well, that should get you started...


Posted by wig:

Great advice given already. Have a good management plan to implement on day one and then stick to it. Harry Wong and Fred Jones are two great places to start.


Posted by paula:

Depending upon how old your students will be, these will be more or less important.

  1. Have procedures for EVERYTHING. Once the students know where to turn in their papers, where to find their make-up work, when it's okay to get up for a kleenex or to sharpen a pencil, whether or not they can stand by the doorway at the end of class waiting for the bell to ring, etc., etc., your life will be a lot easier and you will be plagued with fewer questions (and at this time of the year, questions are a plague!).
  2. Be consistent! Be consistent! Be consistent! If you state a rule, follow it/enforce it each and every time or they will never let you forget it and you will be unable to use it without arguments for the rest of the year.
  3. Don't lose their stuff (in other words, be organized!).

    They'll not trust you or respect you if you act unorganized. They translate that into "incompetent" and will tell parents/principals/whomever will listen that you don't know what you're doing, especially if by doing so they are absolving THEMSELVES of being in trouble for something that they can now blame on you.

  4. Don't argue with them. Be a broken record. "Please move to this seat over here." "I wasn't doing anything." "Please move to this seat over here." "Why? Jimmy was talking too!" "Please move to this seat over here." You get the picture.
  5. I teach math. Work any assignments out BEFORE you assign them so you'll know you can answer any questions they might have BEFORE you realize (in front of the entire class) that you're not sure what to do with a certain problem.
  6. Contact parents. Set up a system whereby you very methodically and religiously contact parents. Make it every Monday after school for students who a) are failing; b) didn't turn in homework; c) had to be asked to stop talking five different times, etc. etc. Pick the day, pick the time, pick the reasons, but DO IT.
  7. Find a mentor/buddy teacher and copy what they do. But, pick a teacher that the office staff likes, that the students like, that the counselors like. You don't want to model yourself after the worst teacher in the school just because you didn't realize he/she was the worst teacher in the school.
  8. Good luck!


Posted by Mary/SATX:

You have received good advice for handling a classroom.

Please allow me to offer some about handling the school:

  1. Respect the veteran teachers. Even though they may not have been in college as recently as you, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience that only someone with years of teaching under their belt can have.
  2. Keep an open mind. Watch and learn from everyone around you. The most veteran teachers have tons of experience to offer you. The teachers that are just a year or two older than you have been through the first year recently enough to remember what you are going through. Don't reinvent any wheels you don't have to.
  3. Know and follow school rules and procedures. If you don't know, ask.
  4. Be friendly and polite to everyone. Don't gossip.
  5. Don't volunteer for too much. Learning to be a teacher is hard enough without committee meetings eating up time. Do participate in something to become part of the school community, but don't be in charge!
  6. Be on time to everything.
  7. Don't be the last to arrive and the first to leave, but don't live at the school either. Make sure you have a life outside of school.
  8. Watch and listen to everything; you'll learn the school climate and culture that way. Once you understand the school culture, make sure you adopt the positive aspects of it. Ignore or work around the negative parts.
  9. Be a team player. This job is too hard to do alone.


Posted by linda mci:

  1. Ask questions of staff…write down answers

    It is flattering to have a new teacher ask your advice, it is annoying to have them ask the same question 5 or 6 times.

  2. Admit your mistakes to yourself {relax, we all make them} and make plans for correcting them
  3. Every day write down the best thing you did each day (one sentence to one paragraph) and keep this to look over next year
  4. DO NOT get involved in bitch sessions. Teachers can get caught up in complaining about administration, kids, parents, DO NOT get trapped into this mode.
  5. Don't try to make everything perfect all the time. Stress takes more out of a teacher than anything else.
  6. Plan well, do not worry if you do not get everything done. Better to plan too much than too little.
  7. Learn your strengths.

I hope this helps!


Posted by Tommie:

I just finished my very first year teaching. It was so hard for me to see everyone else doing everything with such ease and seeming to never make mistakes. I thought that I was the only teacher in the building who was ever unsure of herself. After I got to know the other teachers, I realized that this was not true. Everyone struggles at some time. Do the very best that you can, and it will all become much better by the 2nd semester. Good luck! I'm sure you'll do a great job!


Posted by EMA (finishing up my 5th year of teaching):

Good luck Holly! Remember: you cannot do everything...that is impossible. Use the triage System--you know, like they do in the ER--handle things that MUST be handled first...

When angry...take a deep breath, count internally to 5...and then respond. This works especially well with those pesky administrators. LOL!

This is you learning and training year. The kids will be fine. You will make mistakes…don't beat [the kids] or yourself up. Enjoy the children and you will have a fantastic ride...


Posted by Jacey:

Mistake: trying to do TOO much. Translation: not doing one thing well. Your first year you will be thrown into everything all at once with (sorry) little preparation. You go into your first job with all these wonderful ideas that you want to include, then once you get your job you find another group of things that you "must" do. If you try to include everything that you want to do, and everything that you "must" do, then add on top of that the normal things that go along with teaching--parent communication, report cards, paper work, meetings, etc.--you will find yourself overwhelmed.

I got this advice in college, and actually it has served me well. Your first year you learn how to be a teacher. That means take the curriculum they give you and the manuals they give you and use it. Then each year, pick one subject that you want to perfect. Concentrate only on that one subject to make it perfect. Now that doesn't mean don't change things around in the other areas, but pick one and make that "yours." For example, this year I picked writing as my subject area that I was to focus on. Now as I have been doing that, I still have been tweeking math, social studies, etc. But next year I will have one heck of a good writing program. :) And I can pick something else to "make my own"

I found that if you do too much then nothing ever gets to that point of excellence. Rather, decide what areas need the most attention and focus on them. First year teachers usually need to figure out homework policies, classroom management, curriculum, pacing, and those "must dos" from you school. By the end of your first year, these areas will be well under control and you can start looking at other things you want to perfect. I hope this helps :)


Posted by anon:

There is good advice offered here.

I've taught with three "new" teachers in my 16 years . I've noticed how "new" teachers claim to have (or they get) the most behavioral problems and it's the old teachers, like ME in my case, that are blamed. Somehow it was me who set up the classrooms so one room was loaded with all the behavior problems and somehow it was the "new" teacher who got this "set up" classroom of behavior problems.

1) At the kindergarten level, I do not know the kids prior to their coming into the school system and, 2) the class lists are organized by the office staff (secretary and principal) and not by me, and they--the office staff--don't know the personalities of the children either, nor can they or I predict the chemistry of any combination of unknown children placed in one room.

Also, I haven't had a class of my own in 16 years that I would consider free of children with some kind of behavior problems. With experience and knowledge, I have learned to deal with problems as they come. I don't drill about every little behavior frustration that I experience with the group of children that I work with in a day's time. It may appear that since I don't dwell on them and talk about them every waking moment that I "must" not have any behavior challenges, but we "experienced teachers" do have them.

It would be best to NOT place blame on others for one's lack of experience and know-how in dealing with a variety of behavior problems. Ask for help if needed and don't point fingers of blame at others when you aren't successful. Even experienced teachers feel unsuccessful at times.


Posted by the real anon xx:

Make sure you have a teacher's guide or solutions manual and learn with the kids. If they know it's your first year (not day one, but down the road), it's a great time to model how your training prepares you to figure out a new situation.

I've worked physics and chem problems on the board cold, gave the solutions manual to the kids and said find what's wrong, if there is anything. Seeing me make a common error taught them not to make the same error. I think vividly of a weak base problem and a units mistake I made--and the kids never again made those--they learned!

And don't let it get to your confidence. When I made (still make) such errors), I smiled back the frustration and embarrassment, vented to my husband a bit and worked those dang problems out for next year! I see it differently now than I did at the moment, so think about the big picture of your career to come, not the pain of the moment! Good luck and enjoy it.


Posted by Karoleigh:

I think that during my first year, and that includes student teaching, too, I tried too hard to get the kids to like me. I was so afraid that they wouldn't like me. Now I know that it's not my role to be popular with the kids. My students told me at the end of this year that I was strict, but that I was also fair and "nice," so I guess this is really what we should all aim for.


Posted by Jeff Hetzel:

I am not sure what level you teach but this is what I have found at the high school level.

  1. You are not their friend, you are their teacher. Do not try to be their pal/buddy/friend or whatever. They have enough of those and you will look silly to them. You really do not need 14 - 18 year old friends.
  2. Do not try to be a surrogate parent. You are not that either. You are a teacher and you can be a mentor.
  3. Have complete control of the class. This does not mean you must be a martinet but they have to know the limits. It is okay to have fun and laugh with them but they must know that when you say it is back to business, you mean it is back to business. Students tell me that I am one of the toughest, strictest and the most fun teacher they have. I am a taskmaster but they also know that we can joke and enjoy the class too and then get back to work on cue. Never show favoritism. You will have favorites but never show it. You will lose the respect of the class quickly if you let one person get away with something you nailed another person for.
  4. Know your subject inside and out, but never be afraid to say "I do not know that." If you try to BS them they will pick up on it and lose respect for you. Tell them you will find out and let them know or make it an extra credit assignment and let them find the answer.
  5. Do not try to be hip or cool. Do not try to dress as they do. Do not use their slang, even if you are young. You may only be 4 to 8 years older than them if you are just out of school but understand you are not one of them. Dress professionally at school. In other words leave the low risers and belly shirts for outside school hours. We have a young teacher about 25 who is really attractive and has a great figure. I have seen her outside school hours and WOW (I know that is not really a PC thing to say but she is well, WOW) but in school she dresses very conservatively. We also have teachers who try to be cool. Let me tell you there is nothing sillier looking than a 50 year old man with a 45 inch waist trying to wear hip cut pants and a T-shirt that says Motley Crue. I have heard the students talk about him and they think he looks stupid, not cool. I am 45 and teach physics. I wear slacks, shirt, tie and neatly polished shoes. This is how I dressed when I was an engineer. In other words, I dress like an engineer going to work. I try to project a professional image.
  6. Stay out of the teachers' lounge. You can really become cynical fast listening to the burned out teachers that usually dominate the conversation. Seek out the motivated teachers, those who are still excited about teaching and learn from them. They come in all ages. We have a chem teacher who is in his mid sixties and the girls love him. He brings so much into his classroom and never stops learning. I have never heard a cynical word out of his mouth. He loves teaching. He retired from a public school and now teaches part time for my private school. Even though he is part time he still puts in almost as many hours at the school as the full time staff. This is the type of teacher you want to learn from.
  7. Never be afraid to ask questions of your fellow teachers. The good ones can be a valuable source of help and information. I hope this helps you. I am glad you are trying to get this advice before you start. Most young/new teachers try to muddle their way through and wind up making so many mistakes.


Posted by Mike:

Even if you aren't organized, the administration should think you are. Not much chance of becoming a good teacher if your contract is not renewed. Plus, doing required paperwork at the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Good luck!


Posted by Mrs. B.:

Check out

Our school has been having these workshops for years now. I thought it was basically for parents, but the workshop I attended was for teachers and was WONDERFUL. I learned a few basic techniques that helped take some of the load off my shoulders.


Posted by Superteacher:

I think this is an excellent thread. Everyone has given great advice. I want to add two things, however.

Control of the classroom is something you can read about, listen to people go on about, but it's really a perceived thing. This was my major weakness in my first couple years teaching. I didn't BELIEVE that I had the power, and therefore, I didn't. Now I know I do, so when the kids see me, they feel it from me. I have enough perceived power that the other day when a study hall student who is one of the "worst" kids in the school tried to do something he shouldn't have, I looked at him and simply said, "You will not do that," and he immediately gave up and put his head down. Incredibly easy words to say...but you have to BELIEVE you have the power.

I disagree with people who say don't go in the teachers' lounge. I wouldn't have been able to make it my first year in my current school if it weren't for those wonderful people in the 2nd floor lounge. Yes, they cynically complain, but if I didn't get the support they offered to me, I would not be where I am today (which I love). I just keep in mind that many of them tend to be cynical, but I believe that it's just because they care so much and are so frequently ignored by the administration. Frustration and being burned many times of course breeds cynicism!

The faculty room is not the worst gossip den in my school. In my school there are some teachers who hide out in their rooms and in the halls spreading gossip behind everyone's backs. They are the ones to look out for. They used to come to the faculty room, but their words got them in trouble at one point, so now they are too embarrassed to come anymore. Instead, they now go around spreading gossip not knowing the true facts (because they seldom come out of their rooms). They are jealous of the camaraderie we have in the faculty room and lash out. I've seen it happen many times. So really, it's a matter of observing people and finding out who you can trust, not just a blanket statement that faculty room people are evil. I'm sure there are gossips inside AND outside the faculty room of every school.

So, the best advice about the faculty room is yes, GO in. Sit and find out what the teachers think. They have experience and wisdom to share. Just keep your mouth quiet and don't gossip or tell anyone your problems. Instead, find one trustworthy person to confide in.

**Take the good things from the faculty room, leave the rest at the door on your way out.**


Posted by Laura:

While I have joked with the other pre-k teacher about it being her fault because she organized the list, I know and she knows that is not the reason why I had problems this year, my first. That is because I talk to her about what is going on in my class and ask for advice. She was the first to tell me about the so-called "chemistry" in a classroom and that sometimes you get lucky and other times you get, well, not so lucky, with a group of kids. I had some difficult personalities this year, plus one that shows significant signs of ADHD but Mom would not have him tested, as well as one that had witnessed abuse at home and was acting out his anger at school. On top of that, my para was also brand-new, so we were really the blind leading the blind. So I have had serious problems with behavior management because of a lot of contributing factors--my inexperience among them. The veteran teachers on staff have repeatedly told me that they couldn't do any better with my two that display the severe behavioral issues and to just hang in there. I'm just praying that I get lucky next year.


Posted by dot2:

I totally agree that it is crucial to be where the other teachers are, make friends, be part of the team, find a mentor, and not be seen as stand offish.

One other thing that is rarely known by beginning teachers is how much YOU set the tone or the mood of the class. When I am calm and happy they cooperate. If I get annoyed or irritated it is contagious. If the kids are acting up there are a lot of factors, but be sure to look at yourself. If Teacher ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. You have no idea the power your mood has.

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