First-Year Teacher Must Haves: A Survival Guide

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin
Elementary school music teacher; M.A.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction
A female teacher stands smiling with her book and pencil in front of her classroom.

As I reflect on my first year as an educator, I clearly remember how nervous and excited I was all simultaneously! I was so overwhelmed with emotion and the desire to put my best foot forward to do the best job possible for my students, but I was also extremely terrified. Sure, my student teaching experience during college had given me plenty of opportunities inside of a real classroom; however, I was finally about to experience a classroom of my own and on my own.

I am positive that this is how all first-year teachers feel when walking into their first classroom. From excitement to questioning if you are actually ready for this, the first year of teaching is one you will never forget! To make the first year as successful and smooth as possible, below are some first-year teacher must haves, ideas, first-year teacher tips, and advice to help you navigate the school year.

First-Year Teacher Must Haves: Things to Know for Your First-Year Teaching

One of the simplest pieces of first-year teaching advice should follow is to stick to the basics! You do not need to completely deck out your classroom with all of the most elaborate things to achieve the look of a Pinterest-worthy classroom. Instead, it may be more beneficial to keep things simple.

Building Your Teacher Toolbox

Of course, you want your classroom to look great, but first-year teachers should not exhaust themselves too much in this area. If you do this, more of your focus can be spent on curriculum and lesson planning! This is an essential foundation you can build during your first year, as those materials, activities, and lessons can be implemented in the classroom for years to come. You will thank yourself down the road for building up your teacher toolbox!

Seek Support and Advice

Another tip that will make the first year teaching a little easier is to connect with fellow educators. Your teammates and other local teachers should be utilized to help you learn and grow. These people are a huge asset and many want to help guide you as you better understand your new role! All educators were beginners at one point or another, so do not hesitate to reach out for support when needed.

It is also helpful to connect with other teachers in your subject area and grade level to plan lessons and units as this makes the job more efficient and effective for everyone! Not to mention, veteran teachers provide a plethora of knowledge you may want to use in your own classroom to better serve your students.

Befriend and Support Other Staff Members

Finally, it is extremely important to befriend all teachers and support staff within your designated school. Not only should you be a pleasant face to see every day, but you also want those around you to be “on your side” so to speak. From teacher assistants to custodians to cafeteria staff, you most certainly want to treat every person you encounter with friendliness and mutual respect.

First-Year Teacher Essentials 

Organization, Organization, Organization

I cannot stress the importance of organization enough! First-year and veteran teachers have enough on their plates, and organization is key to maintain structure in the classroom. This is falls in first-year teacher must haves, but is also a must have for all educators. Teachers will find it beneficial to plan lessons at least a week in advance, make copies the week before, and keep lesson materials stored in an orderly and easily accessible manner for ease of use.

Many teachers find that purchasing rolling carts with drawers, storage baskets, and filing systems help tremendously in keeping classroom materials readily available throughout the day. Whenever classroom supplies are needed, I like to visit my local dollar stores and craft stores such as Dollar Tree and Michaels to for excellent organizational tools at affordable prices. Do not forget to invest in planning and organizational items to fulfill your first-year teacher classroom checklist that you enjoy and are aesthetically pleasing to you as you will be using them daily.

Conquer Classroom Management

All teachers must implement effective classroom management as the school year begins. Ineffective classroom management makes for a tough and miserable school year for any teacher or student. Teachers should provide students with clear and concise rules and consequences. Then, the goal is consistently employing those rules and consequences every day without fail.

It is also extremely helpful to reward students for good behavior and so on. This reinforces positive behavior and gives students a goal to work toward. Another wonderful resource is the book titled The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong and Rosemary Wong. This book gives insights into classroom management and a few other topics that may be valuable to a new teacher.

Find a Mentor or Lead Teacher

More first-year teacher must haves include utilizing a mentor or lead teacher and their help. Many schools assign a mentor teacher to assist you as you learn the school environment. If you are not designated a mentor teacher, it would be beneficial to connect with an experienced teacher in your school. This person should be utilized to answer any and all questions that you may have throughout the school year.

Think Outside the Box

First-year teachers must remember that all students learn differently. Teachers must learn to think creatively in their presentation of curriculum. For instance, first-year teachers will find it helpful to invest in learning manipulatives and supplemental resources to enhance learning in the classroom. This will make learning more enjoyable and successful for all. Plus, these tools can be used year after year!

Remember Your “Why”

Finally, never forget why you became a teacher. Throughout the school year, you may find yourself overwhelmed, stressed, or worried, but always remember that you are there for a reason, and those students have been assigned to you for a reason. Your students rely on you and trust you to give them the knowledge they need to succeed, so even when things are hard, you can and will make a difference.

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