5 tips for new teachers from a former teacher

Kendall Vick is an IXL Professional Learning Specialist with six years experience as an elementary classroom teacher.

Whether you’re a recent graduate going into your first year of teaching or a veteran educator joining a new school, stepping into unfamiliar territory can lead to a lot of anxiety. New colleagues, new curriculum, and new students all at once can be overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Read on for five tips to help you have a successful start in your new classroom! 

1. Ask questions and seek support.

As a first year teacher, I never liked to admit that I didn’t have it all figured out right away, but I quickly learned that was okay. Asking questions shows you care about learning, growing, and doing what’s best for your students. We’ve all been new before, and learning from your coworkers’ experiences can help you navigate a smooth transition into your new role. Form a supportive group to learn from each other, or  if you’re more comfortable in one-on-one settings, reach out  to a more experienced teacher for mentorship.

Seeking out opportunities for continuing education or training is another great tool at your disposal. IXL offers a number of professional development opportunities, including live webinars and virtual or on-site training. IXL’s team of Professional Learning Specialists (that’s me!) all have a background teaching in the classroom or working in education.

2. Familiarize yourself with your school or district’s curriculum.

Planning ahead for the new school year can seem like a daunting task, so seeing which resources are already available is a great place to start. Try asking colleagues:

    • Is there a specific textbook or curriculum you use? 
    • Does our grade-level team plan together? 
    • How do you develop your lesson plans? 

When it comes to lesson plans and supporting classroom instruction, IXL has you covered! We offer skill plans for all 50 states, breaking down your math, ELA, science, and social studies standards into targeted skills. IXL skill plans are also aligned to over 80 popular textbooks series and test prep plans to support student success with high-stakes assessments!

3. Get comfortable with data.

Formative assessments, observations, projects, essays, and exams are all fantastic ways to gauge student understanding and advance skill sets faster. (Never underestimate the power of an exit pass!) By having students answer a few questions in IXL every week, you can see real-time reports with both whole-class data and individual student progress to assess proficiency and plan timely interventions— without having to grade a thing.

Take time to get comfortable navigating IXL’s variety of reports that allow teachers to address student needs efficiently and support learners in real time. Teacher favorites, like the Score Grid, Trouble Spots, and Live Classroom reports, can help you identify what students have been working on, where they might be stuck, and which skills require additional attention. 

4. Foster relationships with your students.

Build a classroom community and show your students that learning can be fun! Try to incorporate a range of classroom strategies, like peer discussion, student presentations, technology integration, and project-based learning. Find fun ways to engage learners, like scavenger hunts, task cards, movement activities, or even a bit of friendly competition.

You can practice skills as a class with IXL Group Jam, or use Leaderboards to set up a challenge and have students compete against one another. Coupled with incentives like certificates, small prizes, or candy you can get your students inspired to work hard and have fun learning.

5. Give yourself grace and celebrate successes.

You’re out there on the frontlines changing and educating young lives. Take time to celebrate your and your class’s wins. Recognizing the completion of small goals and accomplishments can maintain long-term motivation. Failure and mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how we choose to learn from them that have the greatest impact. 

Most importantly, take time for self-care and unwind from a long day or week. Go for a walk, spend time with family or friends, or try a new restaurant. Being the best teacher you can be starts with being your best self.