10 Tips for New High School Teachers

They are coming. You are about to put into practice what you learned about instructional strategies, Bloom’s taxonomy, and wait time for questions. Here are a few tips your college instructors might have skipped.

1, PUT OUT YOUR HAND. Introduce yourself to the treasurer, secretary, and custodians on the first day. These folks wield some awesome power, and you want them on your side.

2. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH. At meetings, sit, listen, and take notes. You are going to be tempted to make a name for yourself right off the bat. Resist it. Since you’re 22 and a recent college graduate, you surely know all the latest pedagogical research and the best way to reach teenagers. Tuck away all that brilliance for later.

3. AVOID THE LOUNGE. Cynics and pessimists will see you as a blank canvas to be slimed. Eat lunch in your room. Students will find you, and some of the best relationship building will happen during that little chunk of time.

4. LEAVE WORK AT WORK. Others will tell you this task is impossible, but that’s a lie. Get to work early, work efficiently while there, stay late if you can, and leave the papers on your desk. Your main planning time should be on the weekends. Adapt and tweak as needed during the week, but save your “planning period” for grading. In fact, go hide in a corner of the media center so you won’t be asked to cover a class.

5. PLAN IN CHUNKS. Use the weekend to sketch out a three-week plan. When you walk in the door on Monday morning, have a detailed set of lesson plans for every class. You’ll always know what comes next, thus reducing stress.

6. YOU MAKE THE SEATING CHART. You may think the cool teachers let students sit where they want. This is classroom management suicide. Have a penciled-in seating chart on the first day with students in alphabetical order (for passing out papers and learning names quickly). Watch the interactions and move students as needed. Fill the front row with students who are easily distracted, have vision trouble, or need more monitoring. Taking attendance is a breeze when you’re only looking for empty desks.

7. SLEEP. You’re no good to anyone if you do not have rest. When the bell rings in the morning, you will begin multiple interactions with 100 to 150 hormone-driven, ambitious, ladder-climbing, exhausted, troubled people; and then the students come in. You cannot pour out what you do not have in reserve. Rest.

8. MAKE THE CALLS. Over the course of the first week, call every parent who did not come to Open House. Introduce yourself, offer a reminder of some event, and ask if there are any questions. You could even get a jump on this by calling to remind each parent about Open House. Your relationship with parents is crucial; they have to trust you.

9. KEEP CONTROL. As much as possible, keep your discipline in your room. If you send students out or write them up for not having supplies, using profanity among friends, having gum, or being loud, you’re sending the message that someone else has to handle what happens in your room. Lunch detention is a fabulous thing. They hate it, and it’s a good deterrent. Get creative. Have a cursing jar and collect cash for supplies, require collateral (like a shoe or car keys) for a pencil, etc.

10. TRY ON SHOES. Remember that the teenagers walking in your room are under stress, and they want to trust you and like you. Walk in Karla’s shoes for a minute; her parents are undocumented, and she lives in fear that they will be deported. Walk in Jonathan’s shoes for a minute; he has had three weak English teachers in a row and dreads your class. Walk in Katrina’s shoes for a minute; she had a fight with her mother over breakfast this morning. Walk in Devon’s shoes for a minute; he may be the first person in his family to graduate high school and longs for structure so that he can learn.


I’m a recovering high school English teacher and curriculum specialist with a passion for helping teachers leave school at school. I create engaging, rigorous curriculum resources for secondary ELA professionals, and I facilitate workshops to help those teachers implement the materials effectively.