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10 Big Mistakes in the Teaching Profession

Janelle Cox

Whether you’re a new teacher or a seasoned veteran in the teaching profession, you’re human, which means you’re going to make mistakes. The great thing about making mistakes is that you’re able to learn from them. While part of the process of being a new teacher is trial and error, there are a few things that you should know about the teaching profession that can help you avoid making these errors. Here are ten of the biggest mistakes that you don’t want to make in the teaching profession, as well as a few tips on what should you do instead. 

1. Teaching Without Having an Objective in the Teaching Profession

One of the biggest mistakes new teachers tend to make when they get their first classroom is to teach without having an objective. Not only do you need an objective, but your students need a purpose for what they are learning as well. Having a clear objective will not only help you know what you are going to be teaching, but it will also help your students to know what you expect of them. Think about what you want your students to know by the end of the lesson, once you do this then you’ll have your objective.

2. Cold Calling Students

Another common mistake new teacher make is to cold call their students during a lesson. The problem with cold calling students is that it can make the less-extroverted students very uncomfortable. If you’re looking to build a classroom community where all students feel comfortable speaking, then you’re going to want to try another approach. 

Many new teachers like to use “Name sticks” to randomly call upon students to answer their questions. These teachers think they are keeping their students on their toes, but what they are actually doing is putting more pressure on their students and intimidating them. While it’s OK to randomly call on students every once in a while, this should not be your only means to get students to participate. Your introverted students will be sitting in their seats praying that you don’t call on them the entire time you’re teaching instead of listening to the lesson. How do you expect your students to learn when they are scared?

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3. Only Using Textbooks and Worksheets

An easy way to teach when you’re a new teacher is to just follow the textbook and use the worksheets. While this may be easy for you, it’s surely not going to be interesting for the students. Many, if not most, of all students prefer to learn through a hands-on approach, or need to be visually stimulated to help them make a connection to what they are learning. Lecturing and text-driven teaching usually doesn’t serve too well with the students. Try using visuals to give your students a chance to physically see what you are talking about. The more visuals and hands-on activities that you use, the more the students will be engaged in your lesson.

4. Monotony in their Teaching Methods

Many new teachers are monotonous in their teaching, and always teach the same types of lessons because it’s easy. New teachers tend to get nervous to try new things because of the fear of failure.  However, as they say, “Variety is the spice of life.” The more variety you have in your activities, the more likely your students will be engaged. Say goodbye to the boring lessons of having the students read a chapter then complete a worksheet. Get your students up and moving with a hands-on activity or group work.

5. Asks for Student Volunteers

Do you ever say, “I need a volunteer to answer this question?” If so, then you probably already know that every time you ask a question like that, you’re going to get the same people who raise their hand to answer. Most students do not respond well when a teacher asks for volunteers to answer a question. In fact, you’ll probably get a classroom full of students who are avoiding eye contact with you because they do not want to answer your question. Stop asking for volunteers and try using more cooperative learning groups in your lessons to ensure that all students are participating.

6. Makes Students Take Handwritten Notes

If you recall when you were a student, one of the main ways that you learned was to take handwritten notes while the teacher was lecturing. While taking notes is a great hands-on way to keep students involved in what you are teaching them, while you are teaching, it’s not the best way. Notetaking is boring, and you’ll find that your students are not engaged, they are just robots doing what you ask of them. If you feel that notetaking is your preferred way for students to grasp what you want them to learn, then try giving them an outline of the notes that you want them to take so they are actively involved. This way they can fill in the blanks as you speak and get a chance to participate while you are teaching. You can even have students work together in pairs to take the notes which will be a bit more exciting for them.

7. Designs Tests that are Too Long

Assessing your students’ work is an important part of learning. However, the goal is to test your students’ knowledge and skills, not how many questions they can master. One of the biggest mistakes new teachers make is that they give their students tests that have too many of the same types of questions on them. What they fail to realize is that a test with ten questions can be just as effective in determining the mastery of their skills, as a test with 30 questions. Next time you give a test, try and only have a few (2-3) of the same of types of questions on a test. You’ll find that you’ll be able to tell quiet quickly if your students can master the concept.

8. Never Put Students into Groups

Many new teachers don’t put students into groups very often in fear that the classroom will get too loud. It’s OK for your classroom to be noisy just as long as you know students are engaged and working. Try a cooperative learning activity where each group member is accountable in order for their whole group to succeed in their task.

9. Never Earned the Respect of their Students

Respect is earned, especially when you’re a new teacher. Children can sense when a teacher is nervous or scared, so if you’re new to teaching, it’s essential that you gain the respect of your students from the moment that you meet them. Just as you want to be treated with respect, so do your students. It’s important to treat others as you want to be treated if you want your students to enjoy your class.

10. Fail to Activate Students’ Prior Knowledge

During student teaching, part of the learning process is to learn how to activate students’ prior knowledge. However, when new teachers get their own classrooms, many of them fail to add this component into their lessons. This may be due to time constraints, or it may just be a step that the teacher decides to skip. Whatever the reason may be you should not skip this component. Establishing relevance that relates to what students know and see every day will help them connect to what they are learning.

What do you think is the biggest mistake new teachers make in the teaching profession? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com