Top Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Teaching

My Math Education prof last semester showed me an article that I really enjoyed, and also find truly meaningful in the place that I am in my life as  pre-service teacher. This article is called “The Top Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Teaching” by Cynthia Thomas.

For quick view, here they are:

10. Not every student will be interested every minute. No matter how much experience you have or how great you are at teaching, you will encounter times in the classroom when no student is interested! The solution is to change your tone of voice, move around the room, or switch from lecturing to some other activity. Maybe you can even use a manipulative to increase the students’ understanding and, possibly, their level of interest.

9. If a lesson is going badly, stop. Even if you have planned a lesson and have a clear goal in mind, if your approach is not working—for whatever reason—stop! Regroup and start over with a different approach, or abandon your planned lesson entirely and go on to something else. At the end of the day, be honest with yourself as you examine what went wrong and make plans for the next day.

8. Teaching will get easier. Maybe not tomorrow or even next week, but at some point in the year, your job will get easier! Try to remember your first day in the classroom. Were you nervous? Of course; all of us were. See how much better you are as a teacher already? By next year, you will be able to look back on today and be amazed at how much you have learned and how much easier so many aspects of teaching are!

7. You do not have to volunteer for everything. Do not feel that you always have to say yes each time you are asked to participate. Know your limits. Practice saying, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I do not have the time to do a good job with another task right now.” Of course, you must accept your responsibility as a professional and do your fair share, but remember to be realistic about your limits.

6. Not every student or parent will love you. And you will not love every one of them, either! Those feelings are perfectly acceptable. We teachers are not hired to love students and their parents; our job is to teach students and, at times, their parents as well. Students do not need a friend who is your age; they need a facilitator, a guide, a role model for learning.

5. You cannot be creative in every lesson. In your career, you will be creative, but for those subjects that do not inspire you, you can turn to other resources for help. Textbooks, teaching guides, and professional organizations, such as NCTM, are designed to support you in generating well-developed lessons for use in the classroom. When you do feel creative and come up with an effective and enjoyable lesson, be sure to share your ideas with other teachers, both veterans and newcomers to the profession.

4. No one can manage portfolios, projects, journals, creative writing, and student self-assessment all at the same time and stay sane! The task of assessing all these assignments is totally unreasonable to expect of yourself as a beginning teacher. If you want to incorporate these types of exercises into your teaching, pick one for this year and make it a priority in your classroom. Then, next year or even the year after that, when you are comfortable with the one extra assignment you picked, you can incorporate another innovation into your teaching.

3. Some days you will cry, but the good news is, some days you will laugh! Learn to laugh with your students and at yourself!

2. You will make mistakes. You cannot undo your mistakes, but berating yourself for them is counterproductive. If the mistake requires an apology, make it and move on. No one is keeping score.

1. This is the best job on earth! Stand up straight! Hold your head high! Look people in the eye and proudly announce, “I am a teacher!”

Number 7 is one that I can see myself already having problems with. Problems in the sense that I will be the one volunteering for everything! I love getting involved, and have experience in a ton of extra-curricular activities, and I find it hard to say no. Chances are if someone asks for my help of some sort, I am the kind of person who rearranges my whole schedule to help that person out as best as I can. This is going to be hard for me to deal with as a new teacher and even when I intern as I will want to help out and get involved in my school as much as possible. I need to take a step back though, and not over-commit or over-exert myself, as I will have enough on my plate in the classroom, let alone outside of the classroom! I do still want to help coach, and advise different clubs, and help out where I can, and I hope that I can find a good balance in this.

I can also feel myself already struggling with Number 5 as I plan lessons. I want to do something creative all the time! I want students to love what they are doing, and love what they are learning. I feel like I need to do new and exciting things all the time, and when I can’t think of creative lessons, I get frustrated! Once again, I think it is important for me to realize that you can’t be creative in EVERY lesson, and really take a step back here. There are so many other resources online, through other staff members, my PLN, and otherwise that I can draw from when I am struggling to get the creative juices flowing.

Now my question for you seasoned, or even new teachers is–What do you wish you had known before you started teaching? How did you come to learn this?


2 Responses to “Top Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Teaching”

  1. Paul Bogush January 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    #1–I have to change myself, before I change the kids. They will be who I am, not who I want them to be.

    #2–Rules suck. As soon as you make a rule, you have to follow through with it. Set-up class expectations, not rules.

    #3–I can’t control kids. A classroom is a collaborative environment. No relationship equals no collaboration. Establish/create/nurture relationships from the very first second.

    #4–Talk with kids, not to them. Don’t tell them what to do. Bring them into your mind, meta-think out loud with them. Do all your thinking out loud. When something is going wrong with the lesson, think out loud. When there is a behavior problem, think out loud. Bring them into the conversation in your head, and eventually, the conversation will start in their heads first 🙂


  1. Tweets that mention Week 2 « Learning All Ways -- - January 27, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katie Rosenkranz, Katie Rosenkranz. Katie Rosenkranz said: What do you wish you had known before you started teaching? #edchat […]

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