Advice for first-year teachers from folks who’ve been there

Keep hope

“I tell teachers that when they begin their first year, they will go through phases of disillusionment but should not lose hope. They will experience a sense of “What am I doing teaching?” and, again, I would say, don’t lose hope. Find experienced teachers, buddy up with them and learn from them. Surround yourself with greatness, and you will be great. Go into classrooms, and watch experienced teachers do their thing. Find your groove. Take constructive criticism as positive feedback, and grow from it. Do not take what students say to you or about you personally; they do not know you that well. Find out how that child learns, and plug him or her in with that style of learning. Love what you do, and be good at it.”
Joe Whitehead, Huntsville ATPE

Take time to think

“Don’t make hasty decisions when you have the time to think through the issue. Whenever I’ve encountered a big issue that couldn’t be solved immediately, I’ve always said to myself, ‘This too shall pass!’ Sometimes, a decision wasn’t needed right away, so I just gave it a little time to fully think through all of the implications.”
Robert Quach, Garland ATPE

Find a professional support system

“As a first-year educator, I wish I’d known about education-related laws: student rights, teacher rights, employee relations, etc. Of course, belonging to a professional organization—i.e., ATPE—should also be part of a first-year teacher’s toolbelt.”
Robert Devor, Spring ATPE

Keep learning

“You do not have to know everything and perform on command. Every day opens new avenues, and your professional attitude and experience help you to see the task and respond in an efficient manner. Teaching is an ever-changing role, where every day and every student bring new challenges and rewards. I have become the teacher I am now by learning to be flexible yet determined to meet each challenge with a passion for success. It is a rewarding career when you see learning taking place.”
Rita Long, Mount Vernon ISD

Have confidence

“Don’t be intimidated by your students, and feel confident enough to use your ideas and be creative in your teaching methods.”
Nancy Gaillard, Denton ATPE


“There is no such thing as too much organization. I have all of Monday’s activities in a ‘Monday folder’ and all of Tuesday’s in ‘Tuesday,’ etc. Also, know the campus routines. How long do you have to remain on duty? What is the procedure for eating in the classroom? What are the copier rules? My suggestion: Find a veteran teacher, and latch on!”
Cheryl Buchanan, Ballinger ATPE

Ask for help

“You have a department chair for a reason. I lacked the confidence my first year to ask for help, so I floundered around, trying to figure out how to handle the stress, paperwork and lesson planning, and almost quit after year one. My not asking did not make me a stronger teacher but a weaker one.”
Karen Hames, Lewisville ATPE