Advice for first year teachers

You submitted your teacher resume, received an offer, and your first day on the job has arrived. Congratulations! You are about to start your journey as a first-year teacher. 

To start as a first-year teacher any year can be daunting, nevermind starting during the middle of a pandemic. 

It’s normal to move into your first classroom and feel unequipped to handle all the unexpected challenges. You may even be feeling your own first-day jitters. Understandably – did you know teachers make over 1,500 decisions in a day? Thankfully, every educator remembers how their first-year of teaching was, and there is a community of teachers ready to support you every step of the way. That’s the thing about teachers, we’re a group of natural nurturers! 

We’ve reached out to our community of veteran teachers and asked them for their most candid advice. Here’s what they said… 


Give yourself the same grace you give your students…


“The first year of teaching is always the most challenging, and now you all are about to embark on your first year that is also happening during a pandemic. With that said, give yourself grace by not taking on too many responsibilities; be open, but know that you can say no to the extra curricular activities in order to say yes to your students and yourself.”

– Staci Lamb, English Teacher & Author

Want more candid advice? Check out her newest book Keeping the Wonder

“The first year of teaching is like drinking out of a fire hose – give yourself grace and remember that each new day is an opportunity to try again.”

– Maggie Ritter, former Assistant Principal & Special Education Teacher, Educator Success Manager @ Read to Lead

TIP: Stay honest with yourself. Try to break down your responsibilities into manageable tasks rather than thinking of your day or week as a whole. This can help you feel less overwhelmed and make you less likely to second-guess yourself!


Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care…


“People always wonder how to get kids involved in their learning so that they’re paying attention to the teacher and working together to learn the standards. They think it’s some sort of magic trick but really it’s all about creating relationships and building community.  Every year instead of giving students rules, we create agreements together.  Sometimes that’s enough to get the train moving down the track in a positive direction and sometimes I need to add in a little positive reinforcement. But creating agreements it’s always the fundamental first step.  After that it’s all about nurturing the relationship to build community. By nurturing relationships I mean giving students opportunities to share about themselves in meaningful ways so that each person feels valued and respected.  Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Lisa Spangler, English Language Arts & SPED Teacher

Looking for more middle-school teacher tips? Check out her blog

“It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by everything you have to do to get through the day. First things first. Set aside regular time to connect with each student individually to build trust and let them show you where your focus should be.“

Ali Tepper, Former Elementary School Teacher, Director, Content & Curriculum @ Read to Lead

TIP: Allow students to be a part of your classroom management process. Work to understand your students upfront, allow them to show agency in your classroom’s norms, and to express themselves in your daily routines. 


A.B.L = Always be learning…


“Never get bored with your profession. Never stop wondering. Teaching is a road lined with plenty of questions and challenges. Rather than fear them, embrace them as a lifelong learner. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. We all do! Focus on doing better for your students once you know better. And, of course, snacks. Always have snacks nearby!”

Melissa Kruse, English Language Arts Teacher 

Looking for more meaningful teaching and learning tips? Check out her blog!

TIP: Adapt a growth mind-set early on in your career and understand the power of “yet.” “I don’t know yet.” Rather than, “I don’t know.” Our words are powerful – choose them wisely. And also… stock the snack drawer! 


Lean on your veteran colleagues… 


“That first year of teaching can feel lonely, but often your colleagues are just a classroom away. So, use your new network of support to obtain ideas, lessons and to help manage the stress of year one. You got this!”

Christina Oliver, former Middle School Teacher, Executive Director @ Read to Lead

“Seek out mentors that provide wisdom and positivity, and keep a healthy distance from those that try to bring you or the profession down.”

Madison Kinnard, former Special Education Teacher, Product Development Associate @ Read to Lead

TIP: You attract the energy you give. Go in with a positive attitude, lean on your colleagues, and seek out the good!


We wish you a safe, joyful, and successful start to your school year. We meant when we said last year that we have your back, and that statement still stands. We will continue to remain free for this 2021-2022 school year. Sign up for your free Read to Lead account here!

 If you want 1:1 onboarding training, have questions about how to mobilize the Million Words Read Challenge in your class, or anything in-between – we’re here for you. 


💙 The Read to Lead Team & Community


About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!