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10 Professional Development Rules for New Teachers

Janelle Cox

As a new teacher, the one thing that you don’t have is experience. While you may have worked with children in different capacities in the past, you don’t have professional development experience being a teacher, just yet. Experience comes with time, and you’ll get there. Until then, you’ll have to settle with learning as you go and leaning on the knowledge and professional development experience of veteran teachers. Here are 10 essential professional development rules new teachers must follow in order to survive their first year on the job.

1. Professional Development: Find a Mentor to Follow

The single most important thing that need to do as a first year teacher is to find a mentor to help guide you. Many school districts will do this for you, but unfortunately not all mentors will share the same values, standards, and philosophies as you do. This is why it’s important to find someone that aligns with you. This shouldn’t be hard, since you’ll be surrounded by plenty of great teachers every day. When you do find a mentor, make sure that you ask them if they mind sharing their wisdom with you, and if it’s OK if you come to them when needed. Having a support system your first year is essential if you want to make it to your second year.

2. Read and Do Your Research

Read as much as you can and do your research about everything that has to do with your new teaching position. If you’re a social studies teacher, then subscribe to teacher blogs and rss feeds, follow #socialstudies and #historyteacher hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, and purchase books about your position. The more that you read and learn about your craft, the more you’ll feel comfortable in your new teaching position.

3. Observe Every Teacher

As a new teacher, you need to observe as many teachers as you can. Watch how they handle their students, create their lessons, and manage their classroom. The more you sit back and observe them, the more you’ll learn about yourself. You’ll learn what you like and dislike and what you want to implement in your own classroom and you want to stay away from. By observing others, you are learning more about yourself as a teacher.

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4. Earn the Respect of Your Students

Take the time to get to know each and every one of your students. All you really need is about three minutes a day to take the time to get to know a student. The more that you know about a student, the more they’ll respect you. When you have the respect of your students, there’s a better chance that they’ll be interested and engaged in the lessons that you teach. Remember that respect has to be earned, and that it goes both ways. The best way to get respect from your students is to say what you mean and mean what you say. Your word is golden, so when you say you’re going to do something, do it, and your students will respect you for keeping your word.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

One of the hardest things for new teachers is to fail. However, as you know, we all learn from our mistakes, so just as you tell your students that it’s OK to fail, you, too, need to remember that it’s OK when you make a mistake. Sometimes, you’ll even find that some of your very best lessons will come when you mess up. Remember to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start all over again.

6. Self-Reflect Every Single Day

Self-reflection is a powerful tool that can help you learn more about yourself as a teacher. Experienced teachers take the time to jot down their feelings about and how things are going (both good and bad). It will not only help you feel better in the moment, but it’ll also help ease some of your first-year jitters. Plus, when you look back in a few years, you will most likely smile at your first trials and tribulations as a new teacher.

7. Create Engaging Lessons that Keep Students Interested

It’s a no-brainer that all teachers plan to create engaging lessons that will keep their students interested in what they’re teaching. However, many new teachers are unvaried in their teaching and teach the same types of lessons because it’s easy. While the plan may have been to keep students on their toes and try new things every week, it just doesn’t always go that way. New teachers tend to get nervous to try new things because of the fear of failure. But it’s important to face that fear and say goodbye to boring lessons and hello to hands-on activities and group work. These teaching strategies are just a few of the best ways to keep students engaged and motivated to learn.

8. Communicate with Parents

Another rule new teachers must follow is to keep an open line of communication with students’ parents. New teachers tend to get scared talking to parents, but it’s essential if you want your students to succeed in the classroom. The easiest way to communicate with parents is by having a variety of ways to communicate. Email, text, imessage, a classroom website, weekly newsletter, phone calls, and using an app are all effective tools for keeping the lines of communication open with parents.

9. Do the Work

In order to be an effective teacher you will need to put the time and work in. This means that if you have to go to school early or stay late, then you do it. Once you do that, it will get easier as the years go on. The more time you put into your lessons and your job now, the easier it’ll be for you down the line. Keep every lesson and activity and make photocopies. This way you will have them for years to come and you won’t have to do so much work later on. Your future self will thank you.

10. Laugh and Have Fun!

Try not to take everything so seriously; laugh and have fun! Oftentimes, new teachers are so busy trying to be the “World’s greatest teacher” that they forget to have fun and laugh with their students. Live in the moment, and try and appreciate your job and your students. Think about all of the prospective teachers who would do anything to have your job, this will help you appreciate what you already have.

Do you have any professional development tips for new teachers? Please share your thoughts in comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say about this topic.


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.