Chasing Cheerios

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Notes to a New Teacher

My cousin, Anne, recently wrote and posted "Notes to a New Teacher" on facebook, and I found it very inspiring. Anne teaches 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts and Reading. "Notes to a New Teacher" is a portion of a letter Anne wrote to give to her intern on her last day of student teaching, and she gave me permission to post it on this blog. I hope you will read "Notes to a New Teacher" and will find it as inspiring as I did!

The following is a portion of a letter that I will be giving to my intern tomorrow on her last day of student teaching. She has been phenomenal!

As you know, there is much more to teaching than just writing a good lesson plan and reporting grades to the parents. These are those things that I want to make sure you don’t leave your student teaching without having heard at least once.

1.Tell kids you love them as much as you can. You might be the only one saying it.
2.Teach what you care about. If it doesn’t move you, it’s probably not going to move the students.
3.Parents are sending you their very best so treat their child that way.
4.As teachers we are planters, not harvesters. Just because you don't get to reap the fruit of your efforts doesn't mean that your effort was wasted!
5.You teach children before you teach standards.
6.Different does not mean wrong. This applies to your teaching, your kids’ products, your colleagues’ opinions . . . you get the picture.
7.Don’t get angry with kids who don’t have supplies. Their parents might have had to choose between food or pencils.
8.Always have a back-up plan.
9.Technology fails . . . frequently. Be prepared for that failure, and the technology will work beautifully.
10.Your kids are amazing teachers. Take time to learn from them. They know lots of amazing stuff that they want/need to share.
11.Don't ever let a 12-year old make you cry or intimidate you.
12.Say yes when you can.
13.Giving a middle school student a 0 for a homework grade means nothing compared to losing recess time to complete that homework.
14.Having a good lunch will make your afternoon go better.
15.Arguing with a kid will make you look foolish and usually end badly.
16.Even though a middle school kid’s body is large, there is still a child inside.
17.Your textbook is not the curriculum.
18.It’s okay to have days when you let students answer the questions at the end of the chapter.
19. Master the art of reading aloud and kids will LOVE you.
20. Even if you’re not a “game person,” learn at least one good game that kids will love.
21.Eating in class is not a crime.
22.Keep food in a drawer for that kid who needs something to eat. There will be many of them.
23.Sometimes kneeling next to a child’s desk and having a few quiet words with a child will be your most effective moments of the day.
24.Get to know your colleagues – those down the hall as well as those online. These people are powerful and knowledgeable and will likely become family to you.
25.Lock the door of your classroom if you arrive really early or stay late. It’s just common sense.
26.Always place your teacher desk in a corner where you cannot be seen from the door - so you can have a few quiet moments if needed.
27.Having a good attitude is contagious and will spread to those around you.
28.Never meet with an angry parent without an administrator or counselor with you.
29.Always be nice - especially to the cafeteria ladies, your custodian, the computer repair people, the librarians and to that kid in the hall who’s having a terrible day.
30. Read lots of children’s and young adult lit so you can put good books in the hands of kids quickly.
31.Some things are meant to be said over the phone or face-to-face but never written down in an email.
32.Read emails repeatedly before sending them to parents. The tone you intend might not be conveyed.
33.Kids who are quiet and polite in first period are likely to be loud and obnoxious after lunch.
34.You can get fired easily over handling money and children. Keep your hands away from both as much as possible.
35.Some kids need a hug, so master the art of the one-arm hug – especially with middle school boys.
36.A bug or mouse in your classroom can make a middle school boy cry and ruin your entire teaching for the day.
37.A little humor goes a long way.
38.Don’t let kids get away without saying the pledge in the morning. There are soldiers risking their lives to preserve the right for these kids to say the pledge.
39.Kids need to hear it AND see it AND do it if you really want them to learn it.
40.Let kids move as much as possible.
41.Advance your degree as quickly as possible to get yourself in the highest pay scale quickly.
42.Get your National Board Certification as soon as possible – even if the state is not offering a stipend. It’s worth it. Believe me, I would do it all over again even without the stipend.
43. Open a 401K soon and aggressively save for retirement. You can get a loan for a house, but you can’t get a loan for retirement.
44.Take advantage of your summers. Try not to work and use them as a time to renew yourself.
45.Don’t complain about your job. The community doesn’t want to hear it, and it gives teachers a bad rap. Besides, it’s the greatest job in the world.
46.Make yourself valuable to your principal – especially in difficult economic times.
47.Solve problems that you see happening in your school rather than whining about them.
48.Whether you like it or not, you will be seen as a role model. If you don’t want to live like one, choose another career.
49. Make wise decisions in your private life so that your professional life will run smoothly.
50.As much as you might dread calling a parent, afterwards you always feel better and wonder why you didn't do it sooner.
51.Take pride in your school. If you see a piece of trash in the hall, pick it up.
52.Get to school early to get your thoughts straight before the students come in.
53.If you grade everything your kids write, then they are not writing enough.
54.If you need to confront a boy about an issue, speak side-by-side with him rather than face-to-face.
55.If you need a boy to do something quickly, make it a race and you will be shocked at how quickly it will get done.
56.Kids crave structure and they want to know what to expect from you. Be stricter and more structured than you need to be and it will pay off in the end
57.Whenever you’re weighing an important decision, the answer should ALWAYS be whatever is in the best interest of the child.
58.During the moment of silence, ask God for his Grace, and He will walk you through your day.


  1. Thank you for sharing this! Wise words for us all to live by, teachers or not!

  2. #2 struck a chord with me! I have had lots of teaching responsibilities in our church and adults often comment on how I "teach well" or "know so much" and it's really just that I focus on the one thing that I was passionate about and it always comes across in a meaningful way!

    Also, loved the reminders about how difficult many children's home lives are. There is a great need for unconditional love.

  3. I got my degree in elementary education, but never taught past student teaching because I became a stay at home mom. I don't know how teachers do what they do. Teaching is the hardest job ever. I am sharing this with my sister who is a first year teacher this year and struggling with all that it entails.

  4. love this I need to print this off for my oldest 4th grade teacher she has been such a bully (the teacher that is).

    She told us parents to never email her this year she knows how to do her job.

    She told the kids to stop asking so many questions about their school work and just figure it out.

    but here is the final straw: told the class to shut their flipping (she paused at the f word guess she was wanting to say the real f word) mouths for once.

    UGH I have never disliked a teacher as much as her. only 3 more weeks.

  5. Notes are perfect! Thanks for sharing :-)

    Happy Easter :-)

  6. What perfect timing for this post. I have been off on vacation for two weeks now and tomorrow I head back to my class. What a great reminder of the joys of teaching.

  7. I enjoyed your post as a veteran teacher. I do want to note that you cannot force students to say the pledge at any time. I say this with all respect and as a military wife. My husband fights for people to choose whether or not to say the pledge. Additionally, it would be a violation of the law.

  8. this is great! i hope seth has teachers with this much love and passion as he enters school next year!

  9. It is a great testimony to the teachers out there who give their jobs their all! Its so easy to hear about the bad ones and the kids with a negative expiriance, that sometimes you forget how many of them are out there trying to make things the best they can for their students! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Yes, this was a great letter! The teacher should take note that there are some religions that do not say the pledge, and some who don't for personal reasons. The teacher cannot force the student to say it. I don't want to veer away from the tone of the note, but wanted to mention that because some might not know.

  11. As the author of "Notes to a New Teacher" I do recognize that some students have a reason for not saying the pledge. Maybe I should have worded it to say that students should be respectful of those who are saying the pledge. I find it completely unacceptable to walk into a classroom with kids talking and ignoring the pledge when it is being said. Even if some students are not going to say the pledge, they will not disturb or distract me or those who are saying the pledge. I see it as part of my job as a teacher in America to demonstrate respect for my country and those who have served it.

  12. i love #19 because it is so true! I love read alouds and my prek students love story time as well.

  13. Thanks for sharing this, I love the warmth in which it has been written!