9 New Teacher Survival Tips


Because you asked.
I occasionally get emails from followers, readers, and conference audience members asking for advice. It's lovely! And flattering! And OK, a lot of work sometimes. But, I always try to answer and help. Recently, I spent so much time answering, linking to past posts, and giving paragraphs and paragraphs of advice I thought - Hey! This would be a good blog post!

Some of these topics, I've blogged about before. I'm kind of passionate about being a passionate teacher, being positive, and just choosing one NEW thing at a time to try. So, though it's taken me a better part of a week to write this, and I warn you -- it's LONG. It's what they call nowdays a "deep dive" or a "long read" and that's OK! I thought... or hoped, it could be helpful to some new Educators, Admins, Teachers and Teacher Librarians!

My Usual Disclaimer: These are my humble opinions and to quote the great Dalton, played with great gravitas by late Patrick Swayze, from the late 80's cinematic oeuvre, Road House- "Opinions Vary" These are mine. Your opinions may differ and your mileage may vary. And that's all good.

This blog post is broken up into 9 topics -- feel free to skip around with abandon! 

1. Admit You're New
2. Work Smarter, Not Harder
3. Don't Count: Classroom Management
4. Pace Your Decorate
5. Practice Positivity & Passion
6. Fierce & Future Ready
7. Just Say Hello
8. One Thing
9. Respect Your IRL

Bonus Features: 
Great Teacher Advice from the Twittersphere! Super ideas & thoughts from our #TLChat PLN.
 
Just for my fellow Teacher Librarians - a personal letter and a reply.

1. Admit You're New.
If people in your school don't know it already, that this is your first (or second or third) year teaching, tell them. Maybe NOT the kids, but your colleagues. Untenured teachers get a lot of leeway because they're new and learning. USE IT. I remember being so nervous about being a new educator, I didn't always use that pass. I was ashamed of it. That's just silly. Everyone has to start somewhere. But do know, it's not a lifelong pass or a pass on everything, but it is a pass. Use it. Ask for help. Take help with thanks. Lean on a mentor. Guess what? The school Teacher Librarian is a great resource. We've got our eyes on the forest, and not just our own tree.
For the NEW Teacher Librarian.
When you’re new - admit you’re new! As mentioned above, first year classroom teachers get all kinds of support, slack, and patience while sometimes first year Teacher Librarians have to be “on it” from get go. It’s totally OK to remind people it’s your first year and say, “Gee, I don’t know that! This is my first year and I’m learning new stuff every day, but let me research that and get back to you!” Also, in a school situation - an old school clipboard is priceless!

Every new school year I have a clipboard out on our circ desk that has a chart with column headers of: date, teacher name, room#, “How can I help you?” and resolved check.

If I can’t help someone right away, (you get stopped in the hallway with an “I can’t print!”) I smile and say “I can help you with that!” but then ask them to either email you or drop by the library and put their name on the list. “I don’t want to promise to help you here in the hallway but then forget it when I go around the corner and get hit with an LCD emergency, but I’ll be sure to follow up if I have it written down in some way” [add rueful grin] This way, you don’t miss anything that’s important, you can check off as you go along, those you help and you also don’t get constantly sidetracked by the “hallway help flag-down.” Clipboard for the win! Or, as Martha Stewart would say “it’s a good thing.”

Related How To:
Be a Daring Defender, Part 1
Be a Daring Defender, Part 2
How to be a Teacher Librarian Rock Star

Psssst!!! Teacher Librarian friends! Please go all the way to the bottom of this post for more specified advice just for our job, ok!? OK!

Classroom teachers, reading that part is optional. Unless you want to try and get into our heads OR maybe learn how you could possibly support a new Teacher Librarian in your school!In which case, that would be amazing!

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder 
Hard work, a sense of humor, tenacity, and a stubbornly fought for positive mental and professional attitude will get you far. Yes, work hard - but that doesn’t mean being a martyr or staying in the building every night until seven o’clock.

There's great stuff out there already created. I share some of it, so do a lot of other generous, inspiring, and "experienced" (read OLD!) teachers. Before you write up a whole new lesson plan or unit - Google to see if it hasn't been done yet. Google terms like "your subject area, your level, lesson plan, unit, & rubric" you can also later add in search terms like "future ready," "framework," "technology integration," or "printables." See what's been done before, adapt it, always give attribution to the creator, and share it. If you can find the creator (via Twitter, Instagram, or Email), reach out to say thanks, that's even BETTER!

I get such a thrill when I hear that I've helped someone else or saved them time. Also don't be afraid to ask for help or collaborate with another teacher. Teach with and learn from them. That's a win / win. But don't use that as an excuse to let someone do all the work. I saw that kind of partnership before - uneven. Where a teacher suggests collaborating, and just takes, takes, and takes. That's not cool. Give some, too!

Oh and once you're tenured- Then Work HARD! But respect your IRL and make sure there's always balance in your life.

Be reliable.
I’ve worked with a lot of people in my years, in a lot of capacities, and have found the one trait that I really appreciate, value, and admire is.....reliability. That's also one trait that I try to embody.

Some people promise the world, they talk a great game, but then they let you down - I never want to be like that. I won’t say I will do something unless I can do it, and then I try and do it dang well!


3. Don't Count: Classroom Management Tips
Or at least count up, not down. Practical tips for classroom management. Maybe this is just for the secondary level, middle or high school but I've seen teachers counting - crash and burn -- BAD. Maybe this works in Elementary but sometimes people learn this and use it like a crutch - even when they can see it's not working.  If you're counting down from 5 to get the kids attention, and it doesn't
happen? What then? You lose credibility. You lose authority. You lose street cred. And where do you go from there? Also, with middle school kids - it just feels so elementary and childish. Like "criss cross, applesauce, pretzel legs, everyone!" Gah! Why not ask the kids, "what do you want me to do when I need to get your attention. Does counting work? Should I snap my fingers like a beatnik? Let's brainstorm and agree together." I don't know, that might give them a sense of ownership over this, where they have a voice and a choice. Before though you get impatient when kids are being loud, take a second to assess it. Is it on topic? Are they brainstorming or being boisterous about a task? Or are they just goofing around? It's not a bad thing to take a moment to look around and assess the situation quietly. I do this and just me being quiet sometimes gets their attention and they quiet down. I might even add a calm, "I'll wait."

If you MUST count, then count up. Perhaps, prearrange or negotiate with the kids that "when I need to get your attention, going over 5 or 10," means this or that - but where is it going to stop? You get to 5 or 10 and they're still not attending, then what? I feel like it paints you into a corner and can backfire making you look weak. I try not to look weak. After I get to know the kids, showing failure or vulnerability is OK, but weakness is not good. That's why my Mom, a retired English teacher of all levels from elem to higher ed and even board of ed, told me not to smile too much before Thanksgiving. You're not there to make friends. Teachers who try to be friends with the kids, sometimes regret it when they're not respected. It can backfire. Make the kids feel that a rare warm smile and a"well done, good job" is something earned.

My best classroom management tips are just looking deadpan at the class, getting quiet, and saying "Really?" -- then in a different intonation with a touch of incredulity, "Really." I should really just record this as a video sometime but it's about delivery. AND you have to have "the look" down. You know the look, the one your Mom gives you when you slip and curse. It's a surprised and disappointed look. I also have a deadpan, eyebrows raised, frozen look. That works well. All these take practice, in a mirror or with friends. I also say, (and this is a cheap shot because you're making the kids into snitches) "raise your hand if someone is talking next to you" Then tsk, tsk. Really?


NEVER EVER disrespect or embarrass a kid, especially in front of their peers. If you need to call out bad behavior, do it pulled aside and out of earshot of the class. Then I sometimes start with a simple "what's up today?" or "what is going on? You're making some bad choices here that surprise me - you're better than this" and always "How can I help?" Also, "if you've had a bad day today and that's making you not be your best,  let's turn that around right here and right now, let it go. You have the control over your personal happiness. Don't let other people make you have a bad day or get into trouble, they're not worth it - but YOU are!"
Download this handy 2 page PDF for FREE after signing up for FREE info from the @HowRudeBook  or you could download it here without all that from my Slideshare!

Women: Use Your Best Voice. Tough love talk here. If you have a high-pitched baby girlie voice, work on that. You can bring it down an octave or two. Students (and people) don't take high-pitched squeaky girlie voiced women seriously. Unfair? Maybe. This also counts for high-pitched nasal voices or those who like to use the vocal fry. Like that annoying Katie Lee on the TV show The Kitchen.
Also, try not to end every sentence on the upswing?  That indicates uncertainty and it's not good leadership.  Using a voice that's a lower register will also command more respect and attention. Fair? Probably not, but there's studies out there to support it. If you need to, this is worth going to a voice coach or a speech pathologist for a few months to get a handle on it. We can all improve our voices! Oh and guys? If your voice is high, whiny, or quiet and mumbly - work on that, too.

For more: 
What's Up With Upspeak?
Do You Sabotage Yourself by Using Weak Language?
7 Speaking Habits That Make Women Look Weak
More about Vocal Fry
Ready to Learn: Creating a Positive Classroom Culture (warning, the teacher has vocal fry!)

The best classroom management advice is to have a bag of tricks that you can dip into, if one isn't working - try another. Audit other teachers classes, during your planning period, choose those teachers who the kids listen to, respect, and who have GREAT classroom management and see what they do. Just sit quietly at the back or side of the class and take notes. But give yourself a break, it takes time.

Classroom Management Failure Confession
The first month I was teaching, in elementary Library Media, 19 one hour classes a week plus kindergarten and first grade lunch duty, I floundered. I FAILED! I even used this high-pitched sing-songy voice that isn't even mine and smiled WAY too much - and the kids smelled weakness. Like blood in the water, Mrs. Mossman's 4th grade class sharked me but good. After a couple weeks of this I called my mom CRYING saying.."Oh Mom! I went to full time grad school, changed careers, and now I'm failing miserably and I HATE it! Why did I leave PR and Marketing for this!?" Mom was like, "Gwynnie! Stop crying and listen right now. Get a hold of yourself and read the book Miss Nelson is Missing and BE Viola Swamp for as long as it takes. Don't crack. Don't ingratiate. Wait and stay professional, pleasant, but serious. These are your rules and your room and it's up to you to establish authority"

And you know what? It worked. By the end of the year, I had it. And now, 26 years later, I can say - I love it still.  But I'm not going to lie that sometimes it can still get away from me. Control. That some moods or mixes of kids will be off and super challenging. Remember to have a sense of humor. I've sometimes called out a class with such quiet deadly severity that I've had to turn my back for a min to not giggle, put my straight face back on and turn around and say, "OK, well done ...now let's get started...again"


4. Pace Your Decorate
Don't feel pressured you have to decorate your whole School Library or Classroom right away. Don't spend hundreds of dollars of your own money in August to buy posters, bulletin board frames, and decorations all before the first day of school. Pace yourself. You have all year. You have a lifetime.

Ask for help. Also, put out to the staff in an email asking to borrow for the first month, quarter, or year any extra posters or banners that other teachers might have. I know that I have boxes and tubes of laminated posters that I'm not using right now. I try and offer these to new teachers, to borrow, until they build their own design aesthetic and their own collection.

Crowdsource Creativity and Community
Consider planning an early lesson where kids create posters for the classroom with subject, genre, or reading themes.  Tell them that they can help decorate this classroom with their artwork.


Consider crowdsourcing community norms. When doing class orientations and expectations, throw it out to the kids to come up with 5 or 10 behavior guidelines or norms that they can all agree upon. Don't want to leave it all to the kids? Maybe first choose and display 2-3 non-negotiables (you can list these first or guide the conversation to make sure they're covered). Work in small groups. Then, in those small groups, provide white poster or construction paper and crayons or colored pencils, and have kids number & illustrate that particular guideline. 5 posters X 7 classes = lots of decorations. Then hang those posters all together so each class can see what the other classes chose and agreed to.

As a Library Media Specialist or as a Related Arts Teacher, you can do this with all your classes, to reach the 5 or 10 that overlapped with all the classes.  Then have every class create those posters as described above, then YOU choose the best looking top overlapping 5 or 10 to laminate and hang around the teaching area of the Library.  This way, if a class is a little rowdy, remind them of the nom they are disregarding.

By the way, I HATE the word RULES -- I'm oppositional defiant, and much like middle schoolers I teach, the word rules sets me off! LOL Admit that to the kids, if you feel like that, too! 

5. Practice Positivity & Passion
Happiness is a choice! Optimism is, too! Sometimes it's a difficult choice, but a necessary one! Teachers can sometimes get bombarded by the negative when they go into the lunchroom or talk with other teachers. It's important to steer clear of the Negative Nelly's, Debbie or David Downers, and to avoid that toxic downward spiral & strive to stay positive and upbeat. If this means you eat with only a few teachers, by yourself, our go out and drive to the closest neighborhood park at lunch, do it! We have the best job in the world and every new school year and every day is a new adventure!

Don't negatively vent about your profession or trash talk your students - ever, to anyone.  (Except maybe your Mum!) The kiddos we teach are in our trust and just like a doctor or lawyer we protect our kids by not talking about them in any way that could be negative. I'm privileged to have that privilege. Cheering their successes is a whole different thing. We all have frustrations in our jobs but the teachers lounge, a blog, or social media is not where to vent them. Don't shade yourself out of a job.

Choose happy - talk positively about your kids, admin, & school and community... ALWAYS  - unless it's to your Mum. Because if you don't, I guarantee it will come back on you. It also makes you look bad. 

Read more:  A Daringly Easy Recipe For Your Professional Happiness Interested in blogging? Read more here - 11 Reflective Blogging Tips & Ideas and Doug Johnson has a great post about this! BFTP: Blogging and a little common sense.

6. Get in Gear! Be Fierce & Future Ready 
The latest buzzword and bandwagon to join, after Makerspae, that is -- is Future Ready. The best thing about this movement is that you're probably already doing it! Just like I've had a Makerspace in our School Library since 1997, I bet all educators are ready to be, or already, Future Ready! (That's a lot of ready's!) This is also one educational movement I really believe in. It brings together most all the things I feel passionate about being an educational change agent.  New teachers?  Don't worry, you don't have to be an expert your first year, but it would be a good idea to at least be familiar with the framework! 

The 7 Gears of the Future Ready Framework are:

Are You a Future Ready Librarian? | Knowledge Quest


7. Just Say Hello
Say hello to kids in the mornings, in the hallways, when they come to your class, your library, or out and about. If you can't say hello to everyone (and who can?) think about picking one or two kids you know may be shy or unique and smile and say hello to them - consistently. They may not smile back, they may not even acknowledge you at first. It's not a competition. It's reaching out to a kid who may not get a lot of smiles during the day. Here's something from a guy and an admin I truly admire. (hel


8. One Thing
Honestly, the first two or three years at the job I would stick to the basics with only one challenge (PBL, Instagram, Twitter, Makerspace, etc.) to tackle until you get your bearings. Once you master the foundation of the job, then you can start adding the extras. Don’t try and do everything at once - that’s why I recommend to choose 1 Thing, that’s all it takes. Choose that one thing, one challenge, for every month, quarter, or even school year. Whatever pace that makes you feel comfortable and doable. Once you conquer that one thing, choose another. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out, getting discouraged, and feeling overwhelmed.

9. Respect Your IRL
Sure, I said work smarter not harder. I said it at the beginning of this post, but it's really important. You have to really take care of yourself. Respecting your REAL LIFE or RL. Outside of school. Outside of your family. Just you. Allow yourself to be occasionally selfish. Taking care of your SELF.
Without sounding too new-agey, there is something significant about self-care, mindfullness, and wellness. I'm not perfect. I've NEVER been perfect, or even striving towards that unobtainable goal that girls get seduced and programmed by Barbie and the clever Titian haired detective Nancy Drew. But, I can always be better. I can always try harder. I can always choose to take care.

When it comes down to it, I can be pretty lazy. Really! But, I do work some nights and weekends - OK, a several nights and weekends - but that’s my choice and it’s usually from home or at the beach wearing fuzzy socks & PJ’s with Bravo TV on in the background. I try to Tweet, chat, plan, dream, and strategize. I curate, I share, I write a little, blog not as often as I probably should. That darn self-critic inside me gives me more guilt trips than any of you dear readers. I try and shut her the heck up. I don't react well to the words, should, have to, and must.  

But, I didn't do all of these things the first 3 years of teaching. I just did my best creating Library Media Research and literacy book and reading promotion lessons. I always try to put family first and I take time to unwind, detox, pamper myself (mani, pedi, massage, facial, new Kindle books) and I spend as much time at the Cottage as I can.

"You can't pour for others from an empty cup."
Wise words from a dear Australian friend of mine @Hajnalkatl

If you work yourself into a tizzy, staying late every night or a couple times a week, you will not be the best teacher for yourself and for the kids. Self care is important.

Sometimes to be the best we can be, takes a little extra personal time to relax and PD time outside of school. It’s worth it. Let yourself breathe deep and relax. Let yourself know that every year you WILL get better at your teaching practice.

Great Advice from the Twittersphere! 
Thank you for sharing all your great thoughts & ideas. This...is why Twitter Rocks!
And this recommended by my Mom.


Are you a NEW teacher with also a NEW Principal? Then here..How to Train Your (New) Principal

Final thoughts. Do your best, kids first, push the positive, pace yourself, say Hi to the shy and awkward kids, take time for yourself, don't stress too much, and NEVER EVER USE Comic Sans.

Your Turn! 
What advice would you give new teachers? What did I leave out? Please sound off in the comments or on Twitter what you think! I LOVE getting comments and I promise I read them all!


Cheers dears!

Twitter: @GwynethJones  - IG: The Daring Librarian. Future Ready Teacher Librarian & Tech Leader. Mover, Shaker, Blogger, International Ed Tech Keynote Speaker, Blogger, & Google Certified. ISTE Board of Directors  PK-12 Representative 2010-2014  - Creator of Content. Meme & Trope Archivist Geek. Ridiculously Humble. My beach blog: The Coastal Cottage DE


Just for Teacher Librarians - an Excerpt from an email I got from a reader who reached out to me for help and my reply. Posted with permission. Basically, this is what inspired this post.


Good Morning,
I came across a Twitter retweet and it was linked to one of your tweets.  I immediately followed and jumped yo your blog and found it so inspiring!  Thank you for the works of empowerment and encouragement.
I am reaching out in hopes that you can direct me on where to begin my journey in turning an elementary library around to make it Future Ready and "not your mother's library".  I am 20 year classroom teacher that has been asked to take a retiring librarian's place and make over our library and it's curriculum (with little funds, of course) and create a Future Ready Library.  I have been give full access to do whatever I want, again with limited funds from PTA or grants. I am so excited to take on this challenge but I'm not sure where to start. My district sent me to the future Ready Library Leadership Summit and I felt my vision for the library was affirmed and validated. 
But now what?  I just don't know my next move and I am hoping you can give me direction.
I started working on our library website but that doesn't seem to be very important.  I subscribed to all of the FRL Twitter handles and blogs but again, that doesn't seem helpful in where to start. Would you start weeding books? Moving furniture to get the Makerspace in?  Painting walls? Attack the old furniture and see what I can repurpose to make it more flexible seating like? Applying for grants for furniture? Creating a curriculum using the new FRL standards?

I left the FRL and ISTE so inspired and pumped up but without an organized plan. I know you are busy but if you could just offer one piece of advice on where to start, I'd be forever grateful.

Thank you,
Mary Ledford


Hi Mary! 
Thank you for the honor for reaching out to me, I'm flattered and happy to help! First thing, get rid of the COMIC SANS in your email preferences. Comic sans is evil and immediately lowers your credibility and likens every message to a 4 year olds birthday party invitation. 😝

I'm sorry you came away from that Summit without a clear vision of where to start. Did you reach out to Shannon Miller? She was part of that, right? (Don't worry, I'm not fobbing you off, just giving you another person to tap next!) 

Are you a certified Teacher Librarian? Did you go for your Master's Degree in Library school? So this is your first year on the job? 
If so, honestly - I think getting to know how to do the job should be #1 before making ANY changes - I would wait 6 months or a year to give yourself breathing space to learn how to TEACH Library Media lessons - but I'm guessing you're under the microscope so you have to show them something right away. So, here are my ideas

2. Don't stress the first month back, do and learn the job, give out LCD projectors, help teachers with their technology, laminate teacher posters and stuff, teach classes, do the job, take notes of what you want to learn, want to improve, & want to change. Breathe!
3. Choose what pieces of furniture you want to keep & identify for removal ugly, tattered, and old furniture  -- but don't get rid of it until you can replace it. Or if you can prune down to relieve clutter, ok! Don't have a lot of $? Go to Walmart for now and get 4 bean bag chairs in bright colors. Move furniture around to make it more conversational. 
4. Start Weeding ugly & old books. You can judge a book by its cover. This will take all school year, just start a book cart of books you want to weed AS YOU SEE THEM or on a first quick sweep. 
5. Write a Library mission statement for your library - or adopt someone else's and then later write your own. That's what I did! 
6. Update the webpage to include you and your Mission Statement - but you're right it's not #1 but that's what the PTA & Parents might see first so it has to look up to date and clean, not perfect. 
7. Don't recreate the wheel, find a wheel that's already been created and adapt. IE: search for FRL lessons online & try them out (you can adapt & change next time) 
8. Start a small Makerspace in a corner or on a couple study carrels - you can for about $350 - avoid using duct tape. That was a fail for me. 
9. Concentrate on the kiddos - they ALWAYS come first. And if you get overwhelmed, pull back, breathe, & teach the kiddos. 
10. If you don't know something - admit it!  from that Rockstar blog post but very important
Honestly, the first two years at the job I would stick to the basics with only one challenge (Instagram, Twitter, Makerspace, etc.) to tackle until you get your bearings. Once you master the foundation of the job, then you can start adding the sizzle. Don’t try and do everything at once - that’s why I recommend to choose 1 Thing, that’s all it takes. Once you conquer that one thing, choose another. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out, getting discouraged, and feeling overwhelmed.
When you’re new  - admit you’re new! Sometimes I think that first year classroom teachers get all kinds of support, slack, and patience while first year Teacher Librarians have to be “on it” from get go.  It’s totally OK to remind people it’s your first year and say, “Gee, I don’t know that! This is my first year and I’m learning new stuff every day, but let me research that and get back to you!” Also, in a school situation - an old school clipboard is priceless!

Every new school year I have a clipboard out on our circ desk that has a chart with column headers of: date, teacher name, room#, “How can I help you?” and resolved check.

If I can’t help someone right away, (you get stopped in the hallway with an “I can’t print!”) I smile and say “I can help you with that!” but then ask them to either email you or drop by the library and put their name on the list. “I don’t want to promise to help you here in the hallway but then forget it when I go around the corner, but I’ll be sure to follow up if I have it written down in some way” [add rueful grin]  This way, you don’t miss anything that’s important, you can check off as you go along, those you help and you also don’t get constantly sidetracked by the “hallway help flag-down.” Clipboard for the win! Or, as Martha Stewart would say “it’s a good thing.”
Hope that helps! 
And could I perhaps use this email as a foundation for a blog without your name? (unless you want me to) I think it could help other new school librarians.  I'll leave out the Comic Sans teasing. But wait, I think everyone needs to know that! LOL 

Good luck, hon!
~Gwyneth

PS. Yes, I'm busy, yes it's summer -and I'm on vacation - so, if you have follow up questions send me your phone # and we can talk!  Otherwise this will start feeling like homework! LOL  Also, can you find and send me a link to the Tweet you saw, I'm just curious! 

A special thanks to the Flickr Creative Commons Photos of @KAlaexanderson - Because they, and she, are AWESOME!  



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