Tips and Tricks

5 Most Common Mistakes New Teachers Make

Here’s what to watch out for as you finish your first year at the head of the class.

Like any new occupation, it takes a few weeks or months to settle in and learn the ropes as a beginning teacher. And congratulations! You’ve survived the first semester. But now is a good time to take stock of those first few months ­– examine the good, the bad and the ugly – and maybe make some changes that will benefit you and your students.

The following are the most common mistakes new teachers can make:

  1. Failing to develop and maintain discipline
    Kids need to have boundaries and to know what is and isn’t allowed in the classroom. Create a set of classroom rules and the accompanying consequences if rules are broken. Make sure the rules are understood, and then enforce them fairly, consistently, and quietly. “You know what else doesn’t work? The “I’ll stand here and talk louder” strategy,” says Mary Ellen Flannery, writing for the National Education Association. “Try moving around your room instead, stopping to tap a paper here or circle an answer there.”
  2. Not asking for help
    When the bell rings and the door closes, you’re on your own and that can be really frightening to a novice. “I felt like asking for help from other teachers—especially veterans—would annoy them. I didn’t want to be seen as weak or incapable,” writes a teacher for Remember this: It’s always OK to ask for help, even if you have a few years of experience. Every child, every classroom may present something you’re unfamiliar with, and your co-workers can be a font of knowledge.
  3. Working too much
    Your first year of teaching can be the hardest year of your life. Because of that, you need to make sure you work in plenty of time for yourself and your family. “It’s your first real job and you want to do the best possible work. But staying at school till the custodian’s lock-up is not the solution,” advises educator and blogger A.J. Juliani. “Talk to your colleagues. Above all, focus on being efficient, instead of just working hard [as] the latter leads to teacher burnout fast.”
  4. Taking everything too personally
    “If the students disobeyed me, I got angry at them. If they didn’t do their work, I took it as a personal affront,” writes Robyn Jackson, for the Association of Supervisions and Curriculum Development (ASCD). “The moment I realized that it wasn’t about me, I was able to shift my focus from how offended I was to what I needed to do to help my students make better decisions the next time.” Remember that a student’s action may be the result of something going on in his life that has nothing to do with you.
  5. Not dealing correctly with parents
    As a new teacher, it can be intimidating interacting with parents. If you have to make a call, be sure to start off with something positive about the student before launching into any bad news. Regard parents as allies and a best source of information about your student. “As a beginning teacher, I was uncomfortable calling parents,” admits Cristie Watson, writing for “When you call parents, make sure you are calm and able to speak with a positive tone. Describe the strategies you’ve tried in class and ask for suggestions.”


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